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Antébi, Albert

(802 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Antébi
Born in Damascus in September 1873 to a family originally from Ain-Tab (now Gaziantep, Turkey), Abraham-Albert Antébi was a descendant of famous rabbis in Aleppo and Damascus. His grandfather Jacob Antébi was a protagonist in the Damascus Affair. His father was president of the Bet Din (rabbinical court) in Cairo. Through his mother he was related to the Catran and Totah families. Singled out by Isaac Astruc, the head of the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Damascus, Antébi received a Salomon Goldschmidt scholarship to the École de Travail in Paris, a…

Béhar, Nissim

(828 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Antébi
Born in Jerusalem in 1848,  Nissim Béhar moved with his family to Istanbul, where he attended the Camondo School. Adolphe Crémieux took note of him during a visit to the school and arranged for him to go to Paris, where he became a member of the first class to graduate from the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale (ENIO), established by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) in 1867 to train teachers for its school system in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Over the next few years he directed AIU schools in Syria, Bulgaria, and Istanbul. In 1882 Nissim Béhar founded the Torah u-Melakha prima…

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…

Sémach, Oro

(407 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Antébi
Born on September 29, 1874 in Tatar-Bazrdjik (Pazardzik), Bulgaria, Oro Sémach (née Guéron) was one of the first women to attend school in Bulgaria. She was educated at a school opened by the Alliance Israélite Universelle in 1888, and at the age of twenty became principal of the AIU girls’ school in her hometown. In September 1895, she married one of the leaders of the Alliance, Yomtob Sémach (1869–1940), scion of a wealthy family in Edirne (Adrianople), and they had four children. Adventurous in nature, they followed the caravan routes to Damascus and Baghda…