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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…

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…

Gozlan, Élie

(417 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Élie Gozlan was born on December 10, 1876, in Constantine, where his mother was a teacher of French in the French school. He graduated from the Ecole Normale in Constantine with a teaching degree in Arabic, and also taught French language and history. He left teaching for journalism after the Constantine riots in 1934. That same year he joined with some Christian and Muslim political and religious colleagues to found the Union of Monotheistic Believers in Algiers. Gozlan spent the next thirty years fighting racism, abuse, and injusticein Algiers, where he defended victims of p…

Honaine (also Honein)

(512 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The city of Honaine (Ar. Hunayn) is located on the coast of Algeria, near the Moroccan border and about 45 kilometers (28 miles) northwest of Tlemcen. It does not appear in descriptions of the region by tenth-century Muslim geographers, but is mentioned by the eleventh-century geographer Abū ʿUbayd al-Bakrī. He called it Ḥiṣn Hunayn (Hunayn Fortress) and notes that the townspeople were Kūmiyya Berbers. A century later, the geographer al-Idrīsī describes Honaine as an attractive and prosperous city surrounded by sturdy ramparts and thriving bazaars. There is no me…

Altaras, Jacques Isaac

(387 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Jacques Altaras was born Jacomo Bartolomeo in Aleppo on December 8, 1786.  He was descended from a family of Spanish rabbis that had settled in Venice in the seventeenth century and then in Aleppo in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, where they joined the Francos community. In 1805 the family moved to Marseilles, where Jacques Altaras became a wealthy merchant and shipbuilder. An important communal leader, he was elected vice-president of the Jewish community of Marseilles in 1835, and president in 1849. He was associated with the reorga…

Algiers

(2,755 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Algiers (Ar. al-Jazā’ir), the capital of Algeria and a thriving port city, is located midway along the Algerian coast of the Mediterranean Sea. South of the low hills of the Sahel that ring the city on the south lies the fertile Mitidja plain. The Phoenicians established a commercial outpost called Ikosim on the little islands off the northwestern shore of the Bay of Algiers. By Roman times it had become a small town and was called Icosium. 1. Medieval Period According to the medieval geographer al-Bakrī (ed. de Slane, pp. 65-66 [Ar.]), the site of Algiers was in ruins until the…

Miliana

(853 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
An agricultural and market town inhabited mainly by Berbers, Miliana (Ar. Milyānā) is located at an altitude of 740 meters (2,428 feet) and is 160 kilometers (99 miles) southwest of Algiers, on the southern flank of Mount Zakkār Gharbī. Miliana developed in the tenth century on the site of the ancient Roman town of Zucchabar. The origins of its Jewish community date from at least the fourteenth century, when it became a destination for Jewish refugees from Spain. Some Jews from Miliana later settled in Oran when the Algerians recaptured the town from the Spanish in 1792. Before …

Aïn-Beida

(262 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Aïn-Beida (Ar. ʿAyn Bayḍā', the white spring) is an Algerian town located at an altitude of 1,008 meters (3,307 feet) on Constantine’s high plateau, and owes its name to the abundant source that gushes forth. The community was founded by Jews from Constantine who settled there after the establishment of a garrison to contain the Harakta tribe, which ruled the border region of Souk-Ahras to Tebessa. The town fell under the authority of the Jewish consistory of Constantine. In the nineteenth century, a majority of its Jews were jewelers; especially well known was the Allouche family. In 19…

Aïn Témouchent

(494 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Algerian town of Aïn Témouchent, built on the site of the Roman Albulae and the Arab Qaṣr ibn Sinān, is located in northwestern Algeria, 70 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Oran, and 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Tlemcen. Some traces of a Jewish community date back to the end of the fourteenth century, and to the seventeenth century, after the expulsion of Jews from Oran. The modern Jewish community of Aïn Témouchent dates from the period of the French conquest. The French army built a redoubt on the site in 1839, and colonization began in 1845. According to local…

Aboulker (Abū  ʾl-Khayr) Family

(516 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Aboulker family of Algiers originated in Spain. The name appears for the first time in the twelfth century as Ibn Pulguer in Toledo. In Arabic, Abū  ʾl-Khayr is a kunya (nickname) meaning a good or fortunate man. In Portuguese, it could have morphed into Abulquerque. In French, it became Aboulker.       Over the centuries the family included numerous scholars, rabbis, merchants, and physicians.  In the first half of the fourteenth century,  Isaac ibn Pulguer (also Pollegar, Pulgar, Policar) translated into Hebrew Book Three of the great Muslim theologian al-Ghaz…

Kanouï, Simon

(566 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Simon Kanouï, an influential banker and leader in the Jewish community of Algeria, was born into a wealthy and prominent family in Oran in 1842. Many of his relatives occupied positions of communal leadership. In 1863, he married Esther Lasry, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Oran. On March 31, 1865, Kanouï became a lay leader of the Jewish Consistory of Oran, and on December 12, 1872, a member of the Oran Consistorial Committee. After serving as acting president of the consistory between 1870 and 1873, he became its president on July 20, 1876—a post he held …

Orléansville (El Asnam, Ech-Chelif, Ar. al-Shalif)

(261 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Orléansville (which became El Asnam and present Ech-Chelif) is a city in western Algeria, located about 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of Algiers at an altitude of 140 meters (459 feet), at the convergence of the Chelif and Tsirhaout rivers. The modern city was founded in 1843 by Marshal Thomas Robert Bugeaud(1784–1849) on the ruins of the Roman settlement of Castelum Tingitanum, and it was he who named it Orléansville. About half of its Jewish settlers came from Miliana, roughly 70 kilometers (44 miles) upriver. Jews played a major part…

Souk-Ahras

(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…
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