Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

Get access 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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Shar'abi, Hezekiah Isaac Mizraḥi

(219 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Hezekiah Isaac Mizraḥi Sharʿabi (d. 1808), referred to by his acronym Ḥay be-Shemesh (lit. alive in the sun) was the only son of the legendary Yemenite kabbalist Shalom Sharʿabi and served as the fourth head of the Bet El yeshiva in Jerusalem. Although he was clearly an accomplished kabbalist, his main area of distinction was as a rabbinical judge (Heb. dayyan) on the court of Rav Mordechai ha-Levi, author of the Ma’amar Mordekhay (Mordechai's Composition) on the code of Jewish law. He composed the Me'ira Dakhya ("Pure Enlightening"; Constantinople, 1807) and two introductions t…

Sharʿabi, Shalom

(1,014 words)

Author(s): Yosef Tobi
The great kabbalist Shalom Sharʿabi was born in Sharʿab, Yemen, in 1720, was raised in Sanʿa, and died in Jerusalem in 1777. Known by the acronyms Rashash and Hashemesh (Shalom Mizraḥi Sharʿabi), Sharʿabi stands third in the hierarchy of  the Lurianic Kabbala after  Isaac Luria (the Ari) and the latter’s disciple Ḥayyim Vital, and he was thought to be a reincarnation of Luria. He probably acquired his erudition in Jewish scholarship, and especially in Kabbala, while still in Yemen. Although he is well known from authentic documentation, …

Sharḥ (pl. Shurūḥ)

(10 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Bible Translations Norman A. Stillman

Sha‘shū‘a, Salīm

(483 words)

Author(s): Reuven Snir
The Iraqi poet, writer, journalist, and jurist Salīm Murād Sha‘shū‘a was born in 1926 in Baghdad, where he was educated at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school, the Shammash School, and the Law College. He began writing and publishing poetry while practicing law as an attorney. In 1948, he started up   al-Murūj (The Valleys), an Arabic literary and social journal, but managed to publish only one issue. In 1950, he was imprisoned on the charge of spreading Zionist propaganda. The following year he emigrated to Israel. The poetry Sha‘shū‘a wrote in his new home was permeated with Zionist…

Shas Party

(1,115 words)

Author(s): Avi Picard
A political and social movement in Israel, Shas grew from a local party participating in Jerusalem municipal elections in 1983 to a national party running candidates for the Knesset in 1984. Its emergence and success were made possible by the neglect of the Sephardi/Mizraḥi ultra-Orthodox (Heb. ḥaredi) community by the primary ultra-Orthodox party, Agudat Yisrael. The supreme authority of Shas is vested in its religious leadership. At first this was provided by a rabbinical council under the presidency of Ovadia Yosef, but in time he became the sole leader of the movement,…

Shā’ūl, Anwar  

(1,277 words)

Author(s): Reuven Snir
Anwar Shāʾūl(1904–1984) was an Iraqi poet, short story writer, playwright, journalist, lexicographer, and translator. His grandfather on his mother’s side was Hermann Rosenfeld, an Austrian tailor who settled in Baghdad in 1850 and became active in Jewish communal affairs, especially as a forceful advocate of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. On his father’s side, he was related to the distinguished Sassoon family, one member of which, Sheikh Sassoon ben Ṣāliḥ (1750–1830), was the nasi (head) of the Jewish community in Baghdad for almost forty years. Shāʾūl was born in Hilla …

Shaul, Moshe

(283 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Moshe Shaul (b. 1929) is a journalist whose career has been devoted to the preservation and propagation of the Judeo-Spanish cultural heritage. Born in Izmir (Smyrna) in 1929, he immigrated to Israel in 1949, where he joined the Ladino department of Kol Israel(Voice of Israel) broadcasting in 1954. In 1959, he graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with degrees in sociology and political science. From 1977 to 1994, Shaul headed the Ladino department at Kol Israel. In 1979, he founded Aki Yerushalaim: Revista Kulturala Djudeo-Espanyola as a supplement to his broadcast…

Shawwāṭ, Frajī

(480 words)

Author(s): Ephraim Hazan
Frajī (Farajī) Shawwāṭ was born in Fez in the second half of the sixteenth century. Like a number of other Moroccan rabbis, he migrated to Beja in Tunisia. He holds a unique place among the poets of Tunisia and certainly was that country’s finest Hebrew poet. His poetry was loved and distributed widely in Tunisia and throughout North Africa. The great majority of Shawwāṭ’s piyyuṭim (liturgical poems) deal with the theme of exile and redemption, a subject so central to his thought that poems on other topics make up only a sixth part of his oeuvre, and even th…

Shaykh al-ʿAfrīt (Rosio, Israel)

(290 words)

Author(s): Jacques Taïeb
Shaykh al-ʿAfrīt (Maestro Little Devil) was born in 1897 in Tunis and died on July 26, 1939 in Ariana, near the capital city and was buried in the Borgel Cemetery in Tunis. Born Israël Rosio Issirene to a Moroccan father and a Libyan mother, he was abandoned at a young age by his father, who returned to Morocco. He earned his nickname for his powerful voice and his mischievous wit. He was one of the leading Arabic singers in Tunis in the interwar period; he performed at Aḥmad Bey’s palace (r. 1929–1942) every Tuesday. He is said to have had a repertory of 480 songs. His…

Shayk al-yahud

(8 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Nagid Norman A. Stillman

Sheetrit, Meir

(704 words)

Author(s): Avi Picard
Meir Sheetrit was born in 1948 in the town of Ksar es-Souk (now Errachidia) in Morocco. His family immigrated to Israel in 1957 and was sent to the development town of Netivot adjacent to the Gaza Strip. They later moved to Yavne, another development town, in the Central Coastal Plain, where they lived in a maʿabara (transit camp). Sheetrit went to a public religious school and later studied at a religious youth village, graduating from high school at the age of sixteen. Due to his young age he was able to earn a degree in microbiology from Bar-Ilan…

Shemariah ben Elhanan

(828 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Abū ʾl-Khayr Shemariah ben Elhanan was the leader of the Jews of Fustat from the 990s until his death in December 1011. He first became known to scholarship as one of the four captives in Abraham ibn Daʾud’s Book of Tradition (Heb. Sefer ha-Qabbala), three of whom established new centers of Torah study in Egypt, al-Andalus, and Ifrīqiya. According to Ibn Daʾud’s account, Shemariah was ransomed in Alexandria and later settled in Fustat, but in fact he was born there into a family of leaders of the local Babylonian Jewish community. Ibn Daʾud paints Shemariah as a link binding the Iraqi yeshivot…

Sherira Gaon

(505 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
Sherira Gaon (ca.906–1006) was a jurist descended from an exilarchic family who served as gaon of the Pumbedita yeshiva from 968 to 1004. Directly prior to his appointment, the Pumbedita academy had been substantially weakened by a schism that led to the short-lived founding of a breakaway faction by Nehemiah bar Kohen Ṣedeq. In addition, throughout this period, the Babylonian academies (see Yeshivot in Babylonia/Iraq) were losing much of their influence in the Jewish communities to the west thanks to the rise of houses of study (Heb. batte midrash) there. With the flow of financial …

Shiʽa and the Jews

(2,472 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
1. Historical Overview Jewish-Shīʽī interaction through history is still not well known despite significant advances in researching the subject. Scholars generally note that Shīʽī Muslims have tended to hold more severe attitudes than Sunnīs toward Jews and Judaism, but on closer investigation a considerable area of Judeo-Shīʽī “symbiosis” emerges. It sheds light on Jewish-Shīʽī relations especially during the first two centuries of Islam, the formative period of Shīʽism, supporting the view of tho…

Shikar, Shem Ṭov (Hoca Santo)

(262 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Shem Ṭov Shikar (b. ca. 1840) was perhaps the most famous composer of Jewish liturgical song from Izmir (Smyrna). He was also known as Hoca Santo (Turk. hoca, teacher or master; Jud.-Sp. santo, equivalent to Shem Ṭov), Şikẩr Efendi, Şemtov Şikẩr, and Izmirli (Turk. from Izmir) Hoca Santo.  About 150 compositions in the maqām system of classical Turkish music are attributed to Shikar, but few of these works were published. Apart from an opus transcribed by Isaac Algazi, most of these works existed in oral traditionby the late twentieth century. They were lovingly preserved by Sh…

Shīna, Salmān

(372 words)

Author(s): Orit Bashkin
Salmān Shīna(1899–1978) was an Iraqi lawyer, member of parliament, and journalist. Educated at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Baghdad (established 1864), Shīna served as a translator for the Ottoman forces during World War I. He was captured by the British in 1917 and spent over a year in India as a prisoner of war. Years later, in the independent Iraqi state and in Israel, Shīna, unlike many Arab nationalists of the time, would recall the positive role the Ottoman Empire had played with respect to Middle Eastern Jewry. In Iraq, Shīna became the secretary of a pro-Zion…

Shindukh Family

(858 words)

Author(s): Zvi Zohar
The Shindukh family were communal leaders, rabbinic scholars, and kabbalists in Baghdad from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. The etymology of the family name is unclear; in (rather obscure) literary Arabic, shindakh means “gratuity,” while shundukh/shundakh means either “tall and powerful,” “lion,” or “repast upon completion of a journey or building.” As a Jewish surname, Shindukh first appears in seventeenth-century Baghdad. (There is an Iraqi Arab tribe named al-Shandūkh [pl. al-Shanādikha], and it is not unknown for Je…


(1,417 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Situated at the foot of the Zagros Mountains, Shiraz (Pers. Shīrāz) is the capital of the Iranian province of Fars. References in the Bible and the Apocrypha suggest the possibility that Jews were present in the Achaemenid capitals, Persepolis and Pasargadae, both situated near present-day Shiraz. During the early Islamic period, when Shiraz became a provincial capital, the Jews of Fars were more numerous than any other minority except the Zoroastrians. This may have been because at that time Shiraz was the hub of several important trade routes, and the Jews were engaged in inter…

Shīrvānī, Moses (Mūsā) ben Aaron ben Sheʾerit

(195 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Moses (Mūsā) ben Aaron ben Sheʾerit Shīrvānī compiled a Hebrew/Aramaic–Persian dictionary in 1459 in Shirvan (today in Azerbaijan). Shīrvānī’s dictionary is known as the Agron (Heb. glossary, lexicon), a title undoubtedly derived from Saʿadya Gaon’s (d. 942) famous double-dictionary of the same name. Intended as an aid to Bible study, the Agron includes vocabulary from the Bible and is largely organized according to Hebrew roots and nouns. It is known only from manuscripts, but all of the existing ones are incomplete, covering only the entries from the letter yod (tenth in the Hebr…

Shofet, Yedidya

(585 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Yedidya Shofet (1908–2005), a leading religious authority of Iranian Jewry, hailed from Kashan and was descended from twelve generations of rabbis there. His first teacher of Torah and Jewish religious subjects was his father, Rabbi David Shofet. Later, he studied in the maktab (Ar./Pers. Jewish religious school, equivalent to Heb. ḥeder; see Kuttāb) with Mullāh Matanya, Mullāh Yeḥezqel Nāmrudī, Ḥakham Rofeh, and Ḥakham Shemuel Yerushalmi, the latter two of whom were emissaries (Heb. shadarim) from Jerusalem. Following elementary school, he studied in Mullāh Yeḥezqel’s bet mi…


(6 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
see Solal Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman

Sholal (Solal), Isaac ha-Kohen

(470 words)

Author(s): Abraham David
Isaac ha-Kohen Sholal (d. 1524) was the last Egyptian nagid. Although of Spanish ancestry, his direct forebears lived in Tlemcen from the early fifteenth century and perhaps even earlier. Sholal himself resided in Egypt in the latter half of the fifteenth century, where he engaged in the grain trade and other pursuits. In 1502, he inherited the office of nagid from his uncle/brother-in-law Jonathan (Nathan) Sholal, and he served in this capacity until the Ottoman conquest in 1517, which saw the termination of the nagidate. Various sources indicate that Sholal, during his tenure…

Sholal (Solal), Nathan (Jonathan) ha-Kohen

(304 words)

Author(s): Abraham David
Nathan (Jonathan) ha-Kohen Sholal ben Ḥayyim(1437–1502) was one of the last incumbents of the office of nagid (pl. negidim) in Egypt. Born in Tlemcen into a family of Talmud scholars, Sholal emigrated to Italy and from there to Palestine, settling in Jerusalem before 1471. Heavy taxation and oppression by the high-handed community elders led many Jews to leave Jerusalem. One of them was Nathan Sholal, who went to Egypt sometime around or after 1481. Around 1484 he was appointed nagid of the Jewish community in Egypt, recognized as such by…


(6 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
see Solal Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman

Shumla (Shumen)

(461 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Shumla (Ott. Turk. Shumla and Shumnu; Bulg. Shumen, renamed Kolarovgrad from 1950 to 1965), is an ancient city in northeastern Bulgaria. Conquered by Sultan Murad I (r. ca. 1360–1389) in 1388, Shumla was destroyed completely in 1444 and a new town with the same name was constructed in its present location. Because of its close proximity to Russia, the city was frequently attacked by the Russians and thus had to be fortified. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the Ottomans transformed Shumla into a military center, which created many jobs and attracted migrants from other are…

Sidi Bel Abbès

(646 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Sidi Bel-Abbès (Ar. Sīdī Bil-ʿAbbās), located at an altitude of 470 meters (1,542 feet), is a city in northwestern Algeria, on the Mekerra River, in the center of the vast plain between Jebel Tessala in the north and the Daya Mountains in the south. Initially the site of a French military outpost during the conquest of Algeria, the town of Sidi Bel-Abbès was established in 1849 and remained an important base for the Foreign Legion. Jews from Oran, Tlemcen, and Mascara began to settle there in 1851. There was also a sizable migration of Jews from Morocco, especially fro…

Sidi Rahhal

(9 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Atlas Mountains Norman A. Stillman


(1,062 words)

Author(s): Kirsten Schulze
The Jews of the Lebanese town of Sidon (Ar. Ṣaydā) believed that their community dated back to the first arrival of Israelites in the area in 1000 B.C.E. and their synagogue to the period of the Second Temple. By the beginning of the common era there were many Jews living in Sidon, and the city had been beautified by Herod (Josephus, Jewish Wars 1:422; see also Acts 12:20). Their numbers were so considerable that the local pagans were afraid to attack them in 66, when the Jews in other Greco-Syrian towns were massacred ( Jewish Wars 2:479). Although there is little information in the source…

Sifre Miṣvot

(4,810 words)

Author(s): Judith Olszowy-Schlanger | Y. Zvi Stampfer
1.  Rabbanite Sifre Miṣvot Works in the genre known as books of precepts (Heb. sifre miṣvot) in medieval Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic literature enumerate the precepts of the Torah and sort them according to various methods and diverse categories. Jewish poets in Palestine in late Antiquity began to develop this genre for liturgical purposes. During the Islamic period, it developed further in the parallel channels of liturgy and monograph. Medieval precept books were monographs that dealt with juridical questions b…


(579 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
Sijilmasa (Ar. Sijilmāsa) was a town in the Mahgreb near the present-day Moroccan town of Rissani in the Tafilalet oasis, approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles) southeast of Fez, along the chain of North African Jewish settlements in the border region between the settled country and the Sahara. The chain of settlements lay along a caravan route which probably dated to antiquity, and medieval sources such as the geographer al-Bakrī report that Sijilmasa was founded by Berbers in the mid-eighth …

Silistre (Silistria)

(480 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Silistre (Silistra, Silistria) is an ancient border town in northeastern Bulgaria. After the Ottoman conquest of the region in 1396, Silistre was transformed into a military and trade center. Due to its proximity to the Russian border, it regularly suffered attacks from this direction, particularly in the eighteenth century and afterward. In 1829 Silistre was briefly occupied by the Russians. During the Crimean War (1853–1856), the town was again besieged by the Russians in 1854. The Turkish defense of Silistre was one of the war’s famous events; the excep…

Silva, Hezekiah da

(382 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Hezekiah ben David da Silva was a noted rabbi and scholar in the second half of the seventeenth century. Born in Livorno (Leghorn) in 1656, da Silva migrated to Palestine at the age of twenty (1676). According to Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulay (Ḥida, 1724–1806), da Silva was the pupil of Judah Sharaf and Moses ben Jonathan Galante the Younger (1620–1689). He studied at the Bet Yaʿaqov Yeshiva in Jerusalem and was one of its most important scholars. In 1688, he went to Western Europe as a rabbinical emissary ( shadar or meshullaḥ). It was during his stay in Amsterdam (1690) that the well-k…

Siman-Tov, Mullah Jacob

(176 words)

Author(s): Ben Zion Yehoshua-Raz
Mullah Jacob Siman-Ṭov, a member of one of the more distinguished Jewish families of Mashhad in Afghanistan, was born in Herat in 1850 and in his maturity became its chief rabbi. As the community’s spiritual leader and teacher, he advocated love of Zion and abandoning the bitter life of exile in favor of returning to the Land of Israel. In 1922, at the age of seventy-two, he left Herat by donkey for Palestine and settled in Jerusalem. He died there six years later, aged seventy-eight, and was buried on the Mount of Olives. His example persuaded many other Afghan Jews to follow, and the Jer…

Sionit, Mojdeh

(255 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1975, Mojdeh Sionit received her primary and secondary education in that city. In 1996 she earned a B.A. in English Translation from Āzād University (The Free University of Tehran). From 1994 to 1998 she also attended the National Language Institute of Iran, where she received a Certificate in French Language and Literature. Her first book, a collection of short stories in Persian, Qahrimān-i Sīyāh (The Black Hero),was published in 1994.  From 1990 to 2001 Sionit wrote a column entitled “ Dramas in Real Life” in ‘Ittila‘āt, one of Iran’s two major daily newsp…


(8 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Philippeville (Skikda) Norman A. Stillman

Skopje (Üsküb)

(978 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
Skopje (Turk. Üsküb), today the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, is a city on the banks of the Vardar River at a major Balkan crossroads of the north-south route between Athens and Belgrade. Its Jewish community may have originated in Roman times, when the city was known as Scupi. The community consisted of Romaniot Greek-speaking Jews during the Byzantine period (up to 1282) and afterwards under Serbian rule (ca. 1282–1392). The Bet Aharon synagogue was built in 1366. Skopje became Ottoman in 1392 and over the next two centuries developed into one of the most importan…

Slama, Béatrice

(530 words)

Author(s): Habib Kazdaghli
Béatrice Slama (née Saada) was born in Tunis in 1923 to a wealthy Livornese family from the southern Tunisian town of Gabès. After earning her high school diploma from Lycée Armand Fallières in Tunis in 1941, she joined the Communist Party to fight Nazism and the German occupation of Tunisia. After the war, she was one of the founders of the Union of Young Women in Tunisia, a feminist organization with ties to the Communist Party. She led the Union of Young Women from 1944 to 1948. In an article entitled “ La Déchirure,” she proudly described her experiences as a Communist during the w…

Slama, Ivan

(695 words)

Author(s): Habib Kazdaghli
Ivan Slama was born in Tunis on April 17, 1913. He studied medicine in Paris in the 1930s before and during the period of the Popular Front. A member of the Communist youth in Tunis, he participated in the student Communist movement in Paris. During the Spanish Civil War, he joined a convoy of food and medical supplies chartered by the newspaper Ce Soir.  Upon his return to Tunis as a doctor in late 1940, Slama joined the Tunisian Communist Party. During the Vichy period (1940–1942), a house in Khereddine, a northern suburb of Tunis, was rented in his name as a hideout for Velio Spanio, a Communis…

Slavery, Slave Trade

(2,658 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman | Onur Yildirim
1. Medieval Period Gaonic responsa and Cairo Geniza documents alike allude to the fact that Jews living in Islamic lands in the medieval period owned slaves and engaged in the slave trade. Male and female slaves were identified by different terms— ṣabī or ghulām (Ar. boy) for males, and jāriya or waṣīfa (Ar. maid) for females—and were generally assigned different functions in the household economy. The concentration of Jewish economic life in crafts and trade rather than agricultural production meant that male slaves were often entrusted with du…

Slouschz, Nahum

(842 words)

Author(s): Daniel Schroeter
Nahum Slouschz(ca.1872-1966), Hebraicist and explorer, was the first to write in-depth studies on the history, ethnography and archeology of the Jewish communities of North Africa. He was born near Vilna, grew up in Odessa, and became actively involved in Zionism and the Hebrew renaissance movement on which he wrote extensively. He spent time in Palestine in the 1890s, returned to Russia, and then went to study classical and French literature in Geneva.  He continued his studies in Semitics and …

Smadja, Juliette

(876 words)

Author(s): Joy Land
Juliette Smadja (Smaja) was born in Tunis in 1890 to Elise and Mardochée Smadja and became the first woman lawyer and the first Jewish female lawyer in Tunisia. Her great-grandfather, also Mardochée Smadja, served as chief rabbi of the community and her father was named in his honor, following Sephardi/Mizraḥi custom. Juliette grew up in a four-generation household, dominated by the senior Mardochée who conducted bi-weekly proceedings of the rabbinical court at home, observed first hand by Juliette. Both of Juliette’s parents briefly attended Alliance Israélite Universell…

Smadja, Mardochée

(424 words)

Author(s): Habib Kazdaghli
Mardochée Smadja (Mardoché Smaja)was born into a traditional Jewish family in Tunis in 1864 and was named for his grandfather, who was chief rabbi of Tunisia from 1898 to 1900. After taking an accelerated course at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Tunis when he was fifteen, Smadja subsequently continued his education on his own. Attracted by French culture and the ideals of the French Revolution, Smadja concluded that assimilation to French institutions and ways was the path to Jewish social and political emancipation. He became a leading advocate of …
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