Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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Subject: Jewish Studies

Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online (EJIW) is the first cohesive and discreet reference work which covers the Jews of Muslim lands particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods. The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online is updated with newly commissioned articles, illustrations, multimedia, and primary source material. 

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Philippeville (Skikda)

(292 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Philippeville, today known as Skikda, is a Mediterranean port city in northeastern Algeria, between the Collo Kabylia Mountains to the west and the Wadi Safsaf to the east. The site was inhabited in both Punic and Roman times, when it was known as Rusicade. Following the French conquest, The town was founded in 1837 by Sylvane-Charles Valée (1773–1846) to serve as the port of Constantine. In 1842, a man named Assus, probably a naturalized French citizen, was made the president of the Jewish comm…

Philosophy, medieval

(5,424 words)

Author(s): Daniel J. Lasker
Neither the authors of the Bible nor the rabbis of the talmudic era expressed their ideas in philosophical terms. The Bible assumes the existence of a creative, providential God, without attempting to demonstrate His existence. Major theological questions, such as the existence of evil or God’s foreknowledge and human free will, find multiple, and often contradictory, solutions in the different books of the Bible. Rabbinic literature picks up the theological concerns of the Bible, but there are …
Date: 2015-09-03

Phinehas ha-Levi

(385 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Phinehas ha-Levi, author of secular Hebrew poems, was probably born in Catalonia, but spent some time in Toledo in the second half of the thirteenth century. He has been identified in different ways, but all are difficult to demonstrate, and we cannot be very sure about any detail of his life. He is known because of his relationship with Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia, the courtier of Alfonso the Sage (el Sabio), who apparently hosted him in his home. We learn from Ṭodros’s dīwān that the two poets were friends but competed to win the favor of the illustrious courtier  Don Isaac ben Zadok. …

Picciotto Family

(1,971 words)

Author(s): Abraham Marcus
The Picciottos, a leading Sephardi family in Aleppo, were distinguished for their commercial prominence, their consular representation of numerous countries over more than a century, and their communal philanthropy and patronage. The family’s presence in Aleppo began in the 1730s, when Hillel Picciotto (d. 1773) and his younger brother Daniel settled there to establish a branch of the family’s business, which was based in their native city of Livorno (Leghorn). They joined a number of other merc…
Date: 2015-09-03

Picciotto, Joseph Elie Bey

(404 words)

Author(s): Maurits H. van den Boogert | Adam Guerin
Joseph Elie (bey) de Picciotto (1872–1938) was a civic activist, Jewish community leader, and philanthropist in Alexandria. A much-honored public figure, he received the title of bey from King Fuʾād I in 1920, and a year later was awarded the academic title of Officier de l’Instruction Publique by the French government       Born into an Alexandrian immigrant family originally from Aleppo, Picciotto worked in a trading firm for much of his youth. In 1896, he married Judith Curiel, daughter of the well-known banker Henri Curiel, and  established his own trading business with help …

Pilgrimages and Pilgrimage Rituals, Saints' Tombs in the Modern Period

(2,453 words)

Author(s): Oren Kosansky
Pilgrimages (Ar. ziyārāt, visits) involve a constellation of rituals organized primarily around visitation to the tombs of saints (Heb./Jud.-Ar. addiqim), holy men and women  whose presence and powers are held to remain vital after their earthly death. Controversy over pilgrimage has not entirely threatened these rituals, which are grounded in canonical Jewish practice and continue to have relevance. In the modern period, Jewish pilgrimage to saints’ tombs has been situated at the intersection of two opposing developments. On the one hand, as post-Enl…

Pimienta, Abraham

(411 words)

Author(s): Mitchell Serels
Born in Tangier into a family of rabbis and community leaders, Abraham Pimienta (1860–1924) was the son of Rabbi Moses Pimienta(a candidate for the chief rabbinate in 1855) and Simy Bengio (whose father, Mordecai, became chief rabbi). He attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and was one of the first students to be taught accounting by  Albert Israel. He also attended the AIU teacher-training school in Paris, the École Normale Israélite Orientale, and was an Alliance teacher in Tunis before returning to Tangier, where he was employed by the Landon firm of B…

Pinto, Abraham

(198 words)

Author(s): Mitchell Serels
Abraham Pinto, a son of Jacob Pinto, was born in Tangier in 1863. He and his brother Moses went to Latin America at the end of the nineteenth century, but he later returned to Tangier, where he was a founder and vice-president of the Asociación Hispano-Hebrea. In 1914, he was a member of the delegation that met with King Alfonso XIII in Madrid. The king promised to ameliorate the condition of Spanish Jews in Tangier and throughout Morocco. Pinto was decorated with the Order of Isabela la Católica. When he advocated for the Edict of Expulsion of 1492 to …

Pinto, Bensiyon

(273 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Bensiyon Pinto was born on October 8, 1936 in Istanbul. His father was an employee of a private firm. Pinto graduated from high school in Israel and has a brother living there. Since 1954, he has been worked in various agencies and institutions of the Turkish Jewish community. He helped to found the Yildirim Sports and Youth Club and was one of its directors until 1970. In 1976 he assumed responsibility for the finance division of the Turkish chief rabbinate. From 1979 until 1982 he was vice-president of the advisory council of the chief rabbinate. In 1982 he was elected vice-president of the Tur…

Pinto, Ḥayyim

(297 words)

Author(s): Oren Kosansky
Ḥayyim Pinto ha-Gadol (Heb. the elder; 1794–1845) was the patriarch of one of Morocco’s most famous saintly lineages. Born in Agadir, he is more closely associated with the city of Essaouira (Mogador), where he received his rabbinic education, served on the rabbinic court ( bet din), and was enshrined after his death. His renown as a sage and a miracle-worker represents the conjunction of two key facets of sainthood in Jewish North Africa. His hagiographic biography alludes to his prolific textual output, in the form of judicial decisions and published rabbinic …

Pinto, Jacques

(286 words)

Author(s): Mohammed Kenbib
Jacques Pinto, also called “Jack,” was born in 1896 into one of the wealthiest Sephardi families in Tangier. His father, Moses Pinto, had made a substantial fortune in South America together with his paternal uncles Samuel and Ḥayyim, and had returned to Tangier just two years before his birth. Jacques followed the same path, growing the family’s business by adding finance and real estate to its import/export activities, which extended to Spain, France, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States (where his brother Abraham was his commercial representative). In addition to acting a…

Pinto, Josiah ben Joseph

(309 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
  Josiah ben Joseph Pinto (known as Rif) was born in Damascus in 1565. As a youth, he studied in the academy of Rabbi Jacob Abulafia. He also studied Kabbala under Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital. Vital’s son, Samuel, was Pinto’s student and later became his son-in-law. Pinto was one of the foremost scholars of Damascus. In 1625, he moved with his family to Jerusalem and then to Safed. After the death of his son Joseph, he returned to Damascus and was recognized as chief rabbi. He passed away in Adar of 1648. Pinto wrote a number of books, most of which have the word kesef (silver) in their titles. Some of th…

Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer

(1,233 words)

Author(s): Moshe Lavee
A late semi-midrashic work dating from the eighth and ninth centuries, Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer (Heb. The Chapters of R. Eliezer) is distinguished from the majority of midrashic compilations by its coherent style, structure, and content. It retells the biblical narrative from the story of the creation (Gen. 1) to Miriam’s leprosy (Num. 12), with expansive digressions on related themes (e.g., repentance, marriage, the calendar) or to associatively connected biblical texts (e.g., Jonah, Esther). In contrast to classical midrash, Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer does not offer anthologica…

Pirqoy ben Baboy

(638 words)

Author(s): Robert Brody
Pirqoy ben Baboy is known only as the author of a fairly short polemical treatise (Heb. iggeret, epistle), much of which has been preserved in a number of fragmentary manuscripts discovered in the Cairo Geniza, while other portions appear to be irretrievably lost. Pirqoy introduces himself at the beginning of this work as “the student of Rava, and Rava [was] the student of Rav Yehuday Gaon,” so that his floruit was approximately two generations later than that of the famous gaon Yehuday ben Naḥman, who died in 760 according to the Epistle of Sherira Gaon. We may …

Pisces Affair

(458 words)

Author(s): Mohammed Hatimi
The sinking of the Pisces was undoubtedly the most tragic episode in the history of the clandestine mass emigration of Jews from Morocco to Israel organized by the Jewish Agency and the Mossad. The incident took place on the night of January 10–11, 1961. The Pisces, an old boat renamed the Egoz, with its crew and forty-three Jewish passengers of all ages aboard, sank not far from the small Mediterranean coastal town of El Hoceima in the Rif. Forty-five people perished; twenty-two bodies were recovered and buried in a square plot in the Christian cemetery of El Hoceima.        Despite the dan…

Piyyuṭ (Liturgical Poetry)

(3,135 words)

Author(s): Ephraim Hazan
1.  The Term Piyyuṭ Piyyuṭ (pl. piyyuṭim; from Gk. poietes, poet) is a genre of liturgical or sacred poetry that is combined with public prayer in the synagogue. The midrash ( Vayiqra Rabba [Margoliot] 30 Chronicles [A]) said of Rabbi Eleazer ben Simeon: “ deava qariʾi u-tenay qerov u-poytas” (he was an expert on Scripture and Talmud, drew near to the ark [i.e., was a cantor], and was a poet). The notion of “closeness” ( q-r-v) came to be associated with prayer, piyyuṭ, and the cantor who draws near to the ark and leads the prayers of the congregation. The functional definition of piyyuṭ as poetr…

Pizmon (-im), Pizmonim books

(903 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
The poetic texts known as   pizmonim (sing. pizmon) are a category of piyyuṭim, the genre of poetic Hebrew liturgical texts that embellish religious concepts. Piyyuṭim have been composed ever since the first century, and by the end of the first millennium some piyyuṭim were accepted and incorporated into the standard siddur (prayerbook). The earliest piyyuṭim did not rhyme, but poets such as Eliezer ben Kallir in sixth-century Byzantine Palestine occasionally used rhyme, and the technique was later perfected with the addition of meter by Andalusi poets such as Solomon ibn Gabiro…

Pleven (Plevna)

(281 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Pleven (Plevna) is an ancient city in northern Bulgaria. Historical accounts suggest that a Jewish community existed in the city in the Byzantine period. The town accommodated Jewish refugees expelled from Hungary in 1376. In the fifteenth century, Ottoman-ruled Pleven became a popular destination for Jewish refugees from Wallachia, Bavaria, and Spain. In addition, following the Ottoman conquest of Hungary in 1526, many Hungarian Jews flocked to Pleven. The 1579 census listed 209 Jewish households (out of a total of 991 households), mainly Ashkenazi, Hungarian, and Sephardi Jews,…

Plovdiv (Filibe)

(2,134 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
Plovdiv, today the second-largest city in Bulgaria, is located on the banks of the Maritsa River, approximately 152 kilometers (94 miles) southeast of Sofia. Called Philippi in Roman times and Filibe under the Ottomans, it may already have had a Jewish community in the time of the New Testament (see Philippians 1:28). In the Byzantine period, the Jews resided in a special quarter of the city. Sometime before the fall of Constantinople in 1204 and the founding of the Latin Empire of the West, Ric…