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Jews in Islamic Countries: Algeria

Jewish Population
1948: 140,000    |    2019: <2001

Jewish settlement in present-day Algeria can be traced back to the first centuries of the Common Era. In the 14th century, with the deterioration of conditions in Spain, many Spanish Jews moved to Algeria. Among them were a number of outstanding scholars, including Rav Yitzchak ben Sheshet Perfet (the Ribash) and Rav Shimon ben Zemah Duran (the Rashbatz). After the French occupation of the country in 1830, Jews gradually adopted French culture and were granted French citizenship by the Crémieux Decree on October 24, 1870.2

On the eve of WWII, there were about 120,000 Jews in Algeria. In 1934, Muslims, incited by events in Nazi Germany, rampaged in Constantine, killing 25 Jews and injuring many more. Starting in 1940, under Vichy rule, Algerian Jews were persecuted socially and economically. On October 7, 1940, French citizenship was withdrawn from all Jews by the Vichy government.

The Jews averted total destruction through their initiative and participation in the resistance. Their resistance activities helped neutralize Algiers while the Allies landed on the beaches during Operation Torch. Following the Allied capture of Algeria, President Roosevelt intervened to reactivate the Crémieux Decree on October 20, 1943

In February 2018, the German government agreed to recognize Algerian Jews as Holocaust survivors and offered them compensation.

In 1955, there were 140,000 Jews in Algeria. After being granted independence in 1962, the Algerian government harassed the Jewish community and deprived Jews of their economic rights. As a result, almost 130,000 Algerian Jews immigrated to France. Since 1948, 25,681 Algerian Jews have immigrated to Israel.

Most of the remaining Jews live in Algiers, but there are individual Jews in Oran and Blida. Jews practice their religion freely, and Jewish community leaders are included in ceremonial state functions. There is no resident rabbi.3

In 1994, the terrorist Armed Islamic Group - GIA declared its intention to eliminate Jews from Algeria; thus far, no attacks have been reported against the Algerian Jewish community.4 Following the announcement, many Jews left Algeria and the single remaining synagogue was abandoned.5 All other synagogues had previously been taken over for use as mosques.

Marking a possible final end for the once vibrant Algerian Jewish community Algerian authorities moved forward with a project to demolish a  Jewish cemetery in Oran in November 2015.6


Sources:
1“2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: Algeria,” U.S. State Department, (June 10, 2020).
2World Jewish Congress, Jewish Communities of the World.
3Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1991, (DC: Department of State, 1992), p. 1339.
4U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997.
5 U.S. Department of State, 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Washington, DC, September 5, 2000.
6 Lev, Chaim. “Algeria Begins Plans to Uproot Jewish Cemetery,” Israel National News (October 1, 2015).