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Relizane

(310 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Relizane (Ar. Ghalīzān; Berb. Ighil Izan) is a city and province in northwestern Algeria located on the plain of the Mina wadi, on the western side of the Ouarsenis Mountains. It was founded by the French near the site of the old Roman town of Mina following their conquest of Algeria. Jews settled in Relizane in 1857, and as the town was in the department of Oran, they were under the jurisdiction of the Oran Jewish consistory. The Jewish population grew from 25 in 1877 to 280 in 1881, 472 in 189…

Guelma

(400 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Guelma (Ar. Qālima) is a city in northeastern Algeria about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Mediterranean, located at an altitude of 290 meters (952 feet) in the valley of Wadi Seybouse, and surrounded by mountains. Known as Calama under the Romans, the town was probably first established as a Phoenician site. While Jews may have lived in Calama in the Roman period,  the only known community came into existence following the French conquest, when Marshal Bertrand Clauzel established a permanent camp there in 1834 and a settlement was reestablished.  With the development of the area…

Bushʿara (Bouchara) Family

(383 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Bushʿara (Bouchara) family held an important position in international trade in Algiers under Turkish rule in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1712, Abraham Bushʿara (1690-1760) was the head of one of the largest Jewish mercantile firms in Algiers, importing European goods and supplying cereal grains to France. He was also the rabbi and head (Ar. muqaddam) of the Jewish community. Abraham’s son Jacob Raphael Bush‘ara (d. 1768), chartered ships to ports throughout the Mediterranean and the Levant and was involved in the ransoming of Christian …

Darmon, Mordecai

(294 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Mordecai Darmon was the  head of the small Jewish community of Mascara, Algeria (about 450 people). He was a member of the Darmon family, which over the years had become allied to Jewish families that fled to Algeria from Spain or Portugal. In 1783, he was sent to Istanbul and Izmir on a diplomatic mission. He also became treasurer and adviser of Muḥammad al- Kabīr, the bey of Mascara (d. ca. 1798), and accompanied him on his military expeditions across Algeria. Darmon became quite wealthy from his service to the bey but nevertheless always found time to s…

Nédroma

(618 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Nédroma (Ar. Nadrūma) is a city in western Algeria in the Trara mountain range at the base of Mount Filaoussene, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Tlemcen and 17 kilometers (11 miles) from the coast. According to a local Muslim legend, the exiled Joshua son of Nun came to the region of Nédroma; with Berber help he drove out his enemies, and later died there. The tomb of Sidi Youchaa (Joshua), on the coast several kilometers from the town, was an important pilgrimage destination for Muslims and Jews, but the Jews associated the site with the second-century Palestinian tanna, Rabbi Sime…

Allatini Family

(574 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Allatini (Alatini, Alatino) family, of Iberian origin, prospered in Italy and Salonica. The earliest family member on record was Isaac Allatini (Alatin), who was the rabbi of the Lisbon congregation in Salonica around 1512, soon after the expulsions from Spain and Portugal, which began in 1492. The next mentions of the family pertain to the three Alatino brothers Jehiel, Vitale (or Ḥayyim), and Moses Amram, all of whom were physicians in Italy in the sixteenth century. Jehiel settled in Todi, in central Italy. Vitale (d. ca. 1577) lived mostly in ne…

Tiaret (Tahert)

(874 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Tiaret (Tahert; Ar. Tāhart, Tīhart; Ber. Tagdemt) is a city in western Algeria, on the site of ancient Tingartia, located at the southern foot of the Ouarsenis Mountains in a pass of the Jebel Guezoul, at an altitude of 1,375 meters (4,511 feet). It was founded in 778 by the Ibāḍī Rustamid imāmate as its capital. Jews settled in the lower town and the community developed with the rapid growth of Tahert (this name will be used in reference to the premodern town) until the Fatimid conquest in 909.…

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…

Allatini, Moïse

(481 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Moïse Allatini (1809–1882) was a banker from Salonica who studied in Italy. Following a family tradition, he earned his doctorate in medicine from the University of Pisa. However, he never practiced his profession, because he had to take over the family business after the death of his father, Lazare, in 1834, to provide for the material needs of his numerous siblings. In 1837, he founded the firm of Allatini Frères, which later became Allatini and Modiano . The company managed the assets of the Darblay de Corbeil family, bought shares in mills, and was engaged in variou…

Bénichou Family

(462 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Bénichou family, originally from Oran, Algeria, included many members who held leadership positions in the Jewish community. The family name may be of Berber origin: Aït Ishu, from the Izaïn and Aït Sgugu tribes in the area around Meknes in Morocco. It also appears among Muslims of the Atlas and Aurès Mountains in the forms Ishu and U Ishu, but some claim it is of biblical origin (Heb. son of Joshua). The name appears in documents from the Cairo Geniza, where a Tunisian merchant of the early twelfth century is named Abraham ben (ibn) Yijū, but is also called Ben Yishū and Ben Ishū.…

Darmon, Masʿūd

(342 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Masʿūd Darmon (d. 1866), a grandson of Mordechai Darmon (ca. 1740–ca. 1810), was the chief rabbi of Oran, Algeria, and a judge ( dayyan) in the Jewish court. He was also the  author of several religious works, including a collection of his responsa entitled Gur Ari (Young Lion) published in Livorno (Leghorn) in 1845. He exchanged letters on halakhic matters with a leading  rabbinical scholarof Algiers, Ḥayyim David Solomon ben Samuel ben Saʿadya Zorafa (d. 1860). His correspondence with Rabbi Isaac Bengualid (Ben Walīd) of Tetouan was published in   Va-Yomer Yiṣḥaq(vol. 1, no. 53, Li…

Tébessa

(212 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Tébessa (Ar. Tabīsa; ancient Theveste) is a town located about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the Algerian-Tunisian border in the Aurès Mountains, 960 meters (3,150 feet) above sea level in the northern foothills of Jebel Doukkane. Jews lived in Tébessa or its vicinity in ancient times, and during the Ottoman period they were involved in exporting iron and lead. In 1851, when Tébessa was occupied by the French, there were only a handful of Jews. A decade later, a community was formed and it fel…

Cherchell (Sharshāl)

(466 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Algerian city of Cherchell(Ar. Sharshāl) is situated on the Mediterranean coast about 95 kilometers (153 miles) west of Algiers. There was a Phoenician trading post called Iol on the site in the fifth century B.C.E. Iol was subsequently controlled by the Carthaginians. The Berber Massyli tribal confederation annexed the area after the Roman defeat of Carthage in the Second Punic War and made Iol the capital of the kings of Mauritania. When the last Mauritanian king, Juba II, was placed on the…

Bacri, Joseph Cohen

(451 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Joseph Cohen Bacri (1740–1817), one of the five sons of Michel Cohen Bacri, was a merchant-banker and the muqaddam (government-appointed president) of the Jewish community of Algiers from 1811 to 1816. Along with three of his brothers, Jacob  Bacri, Mardochée, and Salomon, he founded a trading company named Salomon Cohen Bacri and Brothers in 1782 . The company was spearheaded by Joseph in Algiers and Salomon in Livorno (Leghorn). The Algiers branch shipped raw materials (feathers, wax, coral, leather, wool) as well as great quantities of gold and silver to …

Bacri, Jacob Cohen

(406 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Jacob Cohen Bacri (1763–1836), a businessman from Algiers, was a partner in Salmon Cohen Bacri and Brothers, a family firm established in 1782 (renamed Bacri and Busnach in 1797). After a short stay in Livorno (Leghorn) from 1785 to 1789, Jacob was sent to Marseilles by his older brother Joseph Cohen Bacri, and there he was in charge of the firm’s dealings with Genoa and the Levant. Jacob had a very close relationship with Dey Ḥasan, acting as his agent, and doing business and traveling under his protection. Acting both for the company and the dey, Jacob Bacri loaned the French government 10…

Darmon, Amram

(399 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Amram Darmon (1815–1878), a military interpreter first class in the French army, was born in Oran, Algeria, to Elijah Darmon and Dinah Bacri, a family long in good standing with the beys of Oran. In 1834, at the age of nineteen, he joined the French army, serving with the Algerian artillery.On June 19, 1836, he participated in the Tlemcen expedition under Captain Cavaignac. In 1837 he was posted to Misserghin; and in September of that year he accompanied Captain Daumas, the French consul, to meet with ʿAbd al-Qādir in Mascara. Darmon w…

Bacri, David Cohen

(454 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
David Cohen Bacri (1770–1811) was an influential Algerian merchant who played a significant role in the relationship between the Regency of Algiers and France at the turn of the nineteenth century. He was the son of Joseph Cohen Bacri, who founded, with his three brothers, the Salomon Cohen Bacri and Brothers trading company in 1782. The firm became much larger and changed its name to Bacri and Busnach in 1797, when Naphtali ben Moïse Busnach became a partner. That same year, David married Naphtali’s sister Aziza, further solidifying the already close relationship …

Khenchela

(283 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Khenchela (Ar. Khanshala) is a town in northeastern Algeria in the Aurès Mountains,  situated 1,200 meters (394 feet) above sea level. The majority of the population are Chaoui Berbers. When the French occupied the town and established a military administration in 1850, Jews began arriving in Khenchela, including baḥuṣim (Heb. outsiders), semi-nomadic Jews from the region, who settled in the town in 1874, creating a stable community that fell under the jurisdiction of the Constantine Consistory. Most of the town’s jewelers were Jewish, most notably the Touitou family. T…

Busnach (Būjanāḥ) Family

(557 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Busnach family was one of the three major families of shipowners and merchants in Algeria between 1730 and the French conquest in 1830 (the other two were the Bushʿaras and the Bacris). The Busnachs (the family name is also spelled Bouchnach, Bouznach, Bosnach, Busnak, and Bujanah; from Maghr. Ar. bū janāḥ, father or possessor of a wing) originated in Oran but moved to Livorno in the seventeenth century in search of business opportunities. They returned in the eighteenth century when their ventures in Italy failed. Abraham Busnach settled in Algiers in 1724 and began exportin…

Béjaïa (Bougie, Bijāya)

(549 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Béjaïa (Fr. Bougie; Cl. Ar. Bijāya) is a town on the Algerian coast about 175 kilometers (109 miles) east of Algiers and west of Greater Kabylia. It became an important city and port when the Ḥammādid dynasty (1015–1152) moved its capital there in 1067. Jews from Qal‘at Banī Ḥammād, the former Ḥammādid capital, likely followed, as evidenced by a reference to a Jewish community in Béjaïa that was persecuted during the Almohad conquest of the city in 1152. The town is also mentioned in a number of documents from the Cairo Geniza, but always in a general context without specific referen…
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