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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Socialism, Socialists, Jewish Role in

(1,457 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
Socialism is a social and economic doctrine that prefers public to private control of property and resources, according to the principle that everyone who contributes to production is entitled to a share in the profits. Socialism is considered to contradict capitalism, wherein private ownership and choices, as well as a free market, determine how goods and services are distributed. Jews were active in socialist movements in Ottoman Greece, North Africa, and Arab countries from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. In Greece, Jewish involvement in socialist movements i…

Societies, Social Organizations (Modern Turkish)

(1,142 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Despite its relatively small (and shrinking) Jewish population of about twenty thousand, there are many Jewish  societies and social organizations in modern Turkey. Jewish societies and organizations first began to appear in many Ottoman localities in the 1880s. Today they are mostly concentrated in …


(1,799 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
Sofia (Ott. Tur. Ṣofya), today the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, lies in the west-central part of the country in the southern part of the Sofia plain at the foot of Mount Vitosha. Jews already lived in Sofia (called Serdica by the Romans, Triadica by the Byzantines, and Sredec by the Slavs) at the end of the first century. In 1376, the city acquired the name Sofia (Gk. Wisdom). In the time of King Simeon in the early tenth century, Byzantine Jews fleeing persecution settled in Bulgaria. Toward the end of the century, they founded a Romaniot synagogue in Sofia  which…

Solal, Martial

(482 words)

Author(s): Samuel Reuben Thomas
Martial Solal, renowned worldwide as a jazz pianist and composer, was born in Algiers on August 23, 1927. His mother was an opera singer, and he began studying piano at age six, but his interests soon developed away from classical music. According to Solal, the period of …

Solidaridad Ovradera

(316 words)

Author(s): Julia Phillips Cohen
La Solidaridad Ovradera (The Workers’ Solidarity) was a socialist newspaper published in Ladino in Salonica  from 1911 to 1912 during the second (Ottoman) constitutional period following the Young Turk Revolution (1908). It was preceded by El Jurnal del Lavorador/Amele Gazetesi (The Worker’s Journal), which was published for a short time in Ladino, Bulgarian, Greek, and Turkish (1909). As the organ of the Socialist Workers’ Federation of the city, La Solidaridad Ovradera championed the rights of all workers, even though it …

Solomon Bel-Ḥensh

(303 words)

Author(s): Oren Kosansky
As is common in Jewish Morocco, the name Solomon Bel-Ḥensh (Shlomo ben l’Ḥensh) refers to both a sainted rabbinic figure ( ṣaddīq) and the shrine that marks his burial place. Nothing is known of the saint’s life beyond the tradition that he arrived in Morocco some five hundred years ago as a rabbinical emissary (Heb. meshullaḥ or shadar) from the Holy Land (a common motif for a saint’s origin). As with many Moroccan Jewish saints, his power is associated with a wild anima…

Solomon ben Judah

(1,197 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Solomon ben Judah al-Fāsī was gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva from September 1025 to April 1051, the longest-serving gaon in Jerusalem. Despite war, famine, and major challenges to his leadership, he defended the jurisdiction of the Palestinian gaonate and kept Egypt under his firm hold throughout his tenure in office. Born to a Maghribī family, Solomon ben Judah was a prolific correspondent in both Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic. Although his letters dwell on his bad health to the point of obsession, when he died he was close to eighty years old. The period in which Solomon ben Judah acced…

Solomon, Isaac ben Abraham

(315 words)

Author(s): Zvi Zohar
Born in Iraq in 1835, Isaac ben Abraham Solomon studied under Rabbi ‘Abd Allāh Somekh. His primary halakhic specialization was in the field of ritual slaughter and kashrut. In 1893, he was appointed acting chief rabbi of Baghdad (Ar. wakīl ḥākhām bāshī), but he apparently lacked the charisma and decisiveness required to navigate the turbulent waters of communal politics, and failed to prevent public monies from coming under the control of dishonest individuals. In 1905, David Papo was appointed ḥākhām bāshī, and Solomon retired. He devoted the rest of his life to  scholarship and the w…

Someck, Ronny

(413 words)

Author(s): Ori Kritz
Ronny Someck (Somekh), the celebrated Israeli poet, was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1951. Israel became his home in 1953. He studied Hebrew literature and Jewish philosophy at Tel Aviv University and drawing at the Avni Academy of Art. He teaches literature in high school and Hakibbutzim College, and in 2004 joined the editorial staff of Helicon, a quarterly journal of poetry. Since the publication of his first poetry collection, Goleh (Exile), in 1976, Someck has stood in the forefront of Hebrew poetry. He often combines his poetry with music and art. He has, for ex…

Somekh, ʿAbd Allah

(1,114 words)

Author(s): Zvi Zohar
ʿAbd Allāh Somekh was a halakhist, rabbinic educator, and spiritual leader of Iraqi Jews both in his homeland and throughout the Baghdadi mercantile diaspora. The son of Abraham and Khātūn Somekh, he was born in Baghdad in 1813 and died there in 1889. His family traced its lineage back to Nissim Gaon, head of the Nehardea academy in the tenth century. Somekh studied under Jacob ben Joseph ha-Rofeh, and in his twenties divided his time between business and study. Subsequently he decided to devote himself to the renaissance of rabbinic scholarship and leadership in Iraq. With major fu…

Somekh, Samuel

(526 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Antébi
Samuel Somekh was born in 1858 in Baghdad, where his grandfather, who died in 1889, had endowed a great number of Jewish institutions. Somekh was for a time a dealer in pearls and indigo. He began his educational career as an adjunct instructor at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Tunis, and later was an AIU school principal in Aleppo, Istanbul (Hasköy neighborhood), Baghdad, and Damascus. In November 1895, Somekh moved to Cairo with his wife and five children, and founded an AIU school, which opened in February 1896. Egypt was then under British rule. The city’s Jewish communit…

Soncino (Sonsino) Family

(572 words)

Author(s): Rifat Sonsino
After Gutenberg invented the printing press in the late 1440s, the new way of producing books quickly became popular among Jews in several European cities, and Italy soon became the center of Hebrew printing. Among the greatest of all the Jewish printers were the Soncinos. Originally from Speyer (Spires) in the Rhineland, the first members of the family arrived in Soncino, a small town in northern Italy, in 1454, where they engaged in banking and moneylending. When town officials set up a public loan office,  Israel Nathan, a wealthy physician, along with his sons Joshua and Mos…


(260 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Souk-Ahras (Ar.-Berb. Sūq Ahrās), located on the site of ancient Thagaste, is a town in eastern Algeria located at an altitude of 675 meters (2,215 feet) against the southeastern hills of the Aurès Mountains near the Oued Medjerda. The modern town began in the 1850s as a French military post, and by 1856 it had a permanent Jewish settlement. Some of the Jewish inhabitants were Baḥuṣim, semi-nomadic Jews from the surrounding region who adopted a sedentary lifestyle in the new town. Others were Jews of Livornese descent. The Souk-Ahras community came under the jurisdiction of the Constantine…


(2,342 words)

Author(s): Yossef Chetrit
The Sous (Ar. Bilād al-Sūs; Cl. Ar. geography al-Sūs al-Aqṣā, the Farther Sous) is a vast region in southwestern Morocco, located between the Atlantic coast south of Agadir, the Anti-Atlas Mountains, and the edge of the Sahara. The region extends uphill and eastward below the Anti-Atlas, from the Tizi n-Test pass to the bed of the Oued Sous below Lake Tifnout; downhill and westward from the mouth of the river near Agadir and along the Atlantic coast to the Akka and Tata oases on the edge of the …


(1,151 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Sousse (Ar. Sūsa) is port city on the central Tunisian coast, located 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of Tunis and 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Qayrawān. One of Tunisia’s most ancient cities—founded by the Phoenicians as Hadrumentum in the eleventh century B.C.E.—Sousse has long been a port of strategic importance.        Although there is evidence in the Cairo Geniza documentsof a Jewish community in Sousse in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the record is limited. It is known that Nissim ben Jacob ibn Shāhīn (d. 1062) lived in Sousse for a while. Some members of the …

Southern Italy and Bari

(889 words)

Author(s): Nadia Zeldes
The earliest evidence for  Jewish settlement in southern Italy dates from the fourth century C.E. Despite occasional episodes of persecution, the communities of Bari, Oria, Taranto, and Otranto flourished under Byzantine rule, which extended from the sixth to the tenth century. Their high level of learning is reflected in the saying of Rabbenu Tam(12th century): “From Bari shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Otranto.” Most of the information on Jews in the pre-Islamic period is gleaned from tomb inscriptions and Byzantine legislation. After the Muslims gained a pe…


(822 words)

Author(s): Brigitte Sion
Although the Inquisition tribunal was abolished in 1808,  and freedom of religion for non-Catholics was established in 1869, Jews were not allowed to live in Spain as individuals until the end of the nineteenth century. In 1877 there were 416 Jews living in Spain, including thirty-one in Madrid, but they could not organize as a community until 1909; a synagogue was opened that year in Seville, and others followed in Madrid in 1917 and Barcelona in 1918. Despite their small numbers, Jews were frequently the subject of parliamentary debates, newspaper articles, and public discussion.  Dr. …

Sports, Jews in (Tunisia)

(506 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Jewish sports activities in Tunisia began during the French Protectorate period (1881–1956). For many Jews, athletic activities and organized sports were an expression of modernity and of assimilating European influence. In the first decades of the twentieth century, Tunisian Jewish athletes were at the pinnacle of achievement. They competed successfully not just in Tunisia, but throughout North Africa and in Europe.       The participation of Tunisian Jews in sports was the result of several influences. Most important, perhaps, the French protectorate regime, though its D…

S (Safi (Asfī, Morocco) - Salonikio, Avraham)

(2,288 words)

Safi (Asfī, Morocco)  center of commerce, Safi (Asfi)  Jewish community in, Safi (Asfi), Ben Zamirro (Zamerro) Family, Mallāḥ   executions, Dahir (ẓahīr) of Mawlāy Muḥammad b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān (1864)   Jewish quarters, Safi (Asfi)   leadership of, Safi (Asfi)   from Livorno, Safi (Asfi)   merchants/businessmen, Pallache Family (Moroccan Branch), Safi (Asfi), Safi (Asfi), De La Mar (al-Baḥḥār), Mordecai   migration to Arzila, Arzila (Aṣīla)   rabbis of, Rute (Rote, Roti) Family   schools of Alliance Israélite Universelle, Safi (Asfi)   Sephardim, Safi (Asfi)  Jewish pilgr…

S (Ṣarfati, Vidal (III) - school textbooks, Arabic, antisemitism in)

(1,981 words)

Ṣarfati, Vidal (III), Ṣarfati Family Ṣarfati, Vidal (IV) (1797–1856), Ṣarfati Family Ṣarfati, Vidal (V) ben Abner Israel (1862–1921), Ṣarfati Family Ṣarfati family, Edirne (Adrianople), Ṣarfati Family Sargon II (king of Assyria), Kurdistan, Mosul, Hamadan Şarhon, Karen Gerşon, Los Pasharos Sefaradis, Şarhon, Karen Gerşon Ṣari Gil‘ad (Balm of Gilead, Elijah Benamozegh), Benamozegh, Elijah b. Abraham Sarjado, Aaron, Nehemiah bar Kohen Ṣedeq Gaon Sarkel (Sharkil) fort (Khazaria), Khazars Sarmad, Muḥammad Sa‘īd (probably Sarmad the Ṣūfī), Mysticism/Sufism (Iran) Sarmad the…
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