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Ṣarfati Family

(1,615 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Ṣarfati (Ṣarfaty, Ṣerfaty, ha-Ṣarfati) family of rabbis, jurists ( dayyanim), and government-appointed civil leaders ( negidim, sing. nagid ) was prominent in Morocco from the sixteenth through the twentieth century. The family traced its genealogy to descendants of the famed  Jacob ben Meʾir Tam(Rabbenu Tam, ca. 1100–ca. 1171) who had migrated to Spain from France (Heb. Ṣarfat; hence the family name). After the Spanish expulsion in 1492, one branch of the family settled in Fez. A complete Ṣarfati family tree may be found in Benṭov’s introduction to Toledot Yiṣḥaq. The first note…

Elbaz Family

(1,756 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Elbaz (or al-Bāz) family of Morocco traced its roots to Iberia. It produced numerous Sephardi intellectuals, rabbinic jurists ( dayyanim), poets, and religious functionaries in Tarundant, Fez, and Sefrou from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. Moses ben Maimon Elbaz (known also as Rambam Elbaz) was an intellectual and commentator in Tarundant during the sixteenth century. He was a Spanish exile who journeyed as far as the Sous province in order to escape persecution by the Spanish Inquisition. He was known primarily for his Hekhal ha-Qodesh (The Holy Sanctuary; Amsterdam…

Bibas, Judah

(564 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Judah Bibas belonged to a small group of mid-nineteenth-century rabbis who urged Jews to resettle the Land of Israel. He was descended from a Sephardi rabbinical family that migrated to Fez following the expulsion of 1492. In 1530, the paterfamilias, Ḥayyim, was invited to Tetouan to become its rabbi and teacher (Heb. marbiṣ Torah). At least eight of his descendants succeeded him as religious leaders in Tetouan and Salé, but in the late eighteenth century the family moved to Gibraltar, where Judah seems to have been born in 1780. Judah Bibas was schooled in G…

Aben Ṣur Family

(874 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Aben Ṣur (Ibn Ṣūr, Ben Ṣur) family of kabbalists, religious scholars, and rabbinic jurists ( dayyanim) in the cities of Salé, Meknès, and Fez was one of the supporting pillars of the  Jewish community of Morocco from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth. The family produced outstanding figures in many different areas of Jewish scholarship, including law, Kabbala, grammar, and Hebrew poetry. There is little clear-cut documentation about the family’s early history.  The rabbinic scholar and historian Jacob Moses Toledano (1880–1960) thought they were descended from…

Abitbol, Saul Jeshua ben Isaac (Rav Shisha)

(673 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Saul Jeshua ben Isaac Abiṭbol (1739–1809), known as Rav Shisha, was a rabbi, rabbinical judge ( dayyan), and leader of the Jewish community of Sefrou, Morocco, in the second half of the eighteenth century. One of the greatest scholars in the history of Sefrou and the first member of his family to serve as a religious leader in that city, Abiṭbol was resolute and forceful, time and again rebuking the notables of the community as “insubordinate and bothersome.” He was also tough with his colleagues; he would decry pious scholars, even attacking Rabbi Petahiah Mordechai ben Jekuthiel Berd…

Ben Qīqī, Reuben and David

(355 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Reuben and David Ben Qīqī were court Jews in early eighteenth-century Morocco under the Alawid sultan Mawlāy Ismāʿīl (r. 1672–1727). Appointed to the rank of nagid, they were, respectively, the secular leaders of the Jewish communities of Meknes and Rabat. Meknès had been a major Jewish business center since the final quarter of the seventeenth century, when Sultan Mawlāy Ismāʿīl made it his capital. Jewish businessmen—traders, customs officials, and entrepreneurs—had great influence at court. The Meknasi scholar Mordecai ben Joseph Berdugo (1715–1762), known by his Hebr…

Delmar, Jacob

(250 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Jacob Delmar(also De La Mar or al-Baḥḥār) was a Jewish official in the New York City customs house during the first half of the nineteenth century. Jacob may have been a member of the noted De La Mar (Delmar, al-Baḥḥār, or Lebḥar) family of Jewish traders from Morocco. He was born in 1793 in Gibraltar, where he lived for the first thirty years of his life, but eventually migrated far from his origins, arriving in New York City in 1827. Two years later he was appointed manager of the customs house in the city, where he worked for sixteen years.Management of customs hous…

De La Mar (al-Baḥḥār) Family

(524 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The De La Mar (also Delmar, diʾl-Mār, del-Amār) family of Jewish  merchants courtiers and political advisers was active in Morocco from the late seventeenth through the eighteenth century. Some members of the family bore the Arabic version of the name, Lebḥar (Ar. al-baḥr = Sp. la mar,the sea) and al-Baḥḥār (Ar. the seaman). The first record of an individual with this name refers to Jacob Lebḥar of Safi, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, in 1650. The patriarch of the family in the following century was Shalom (or Shalem) De La Mar, who was also known as al-Baḥḥār (d. after 1775).…

Marciano, Eliahou Raphael

(543 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Eliahou Raphael ben Meʾir Mordechai Marciano, (born in Debdou, Morocco, in 1944), is a rabbi and scholar, an Israel Defense Forces army chaplain, and an educator at the Torah ve-Ṣiyyon Society, established by Rabbi Paul Roitman (1920–2007) to promote educational and social activities among Israelis of North African and Middle Eastern heritage. As a scholar, Marciano is best known for his Bene Melakhim (The Sons of Kings; 1989), a bibliographical history of Hebrew book printing between 1516 and 1889 in Morocco’s nine largest Jewish communities, including Tangier and …

Ben ʿAṭṭār (or Ibn ʿAṭṭār) Family

(1,495 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Ben ʿAṭṭār (or Ibn ʿAṭṭār) family of court Jews attained great prominence in Fez and Salé during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A number of family members were appointed by the ruler as secular leaders of the Jewish community (Heb. negidim, Ar. shuyūkh), and others were noted rabbinical scholars and jurists ( dayyanim). The family exercised great influence at the court of the nascent Alawid (Alaouite) dynasty starting in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, when the sultans Mawlāy al-Rashīd (r. 1664–1672) and Mawlāy Ismāʿīl (r.1672–1727) turned northw…

De La Mar (al-Baḥḥār), Mordecai

(682 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Mordecai De La Mar(also Delmar or al-Baḥḥār), a member of the influential De La Mar family of Morocco, was a Jewish trader, intermediary, and political adviser in El-Jadida (Mazagan) and Safiduring the eighteenth century. Mordecai was one of the five sons born to Shalom (Shalem) De La Mar (d. after 1775), an adviser of the Alawid sultan Sīdī Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd-Allāh (r. 1757–1790). Mordecai and his brothers were merchant-shippers actively involved in commerce by sea (hence the origin of their name, from Sp. del mar, from the sea, and Ar. baḥḥār, seaman or mariner) and also in banking.…

ʿOvadia, David

(413 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
David ben Yeshuʿa Simeon Ḥayyim ʿOvadia, born in Sefrou in 1912, is a rabbi, communal leader, and researcher. In the years before he left Morocco for Israel he served as Chief Rabbi of the Jewish communities in Sefrou, Fez, and Marrakesh. Since then he has been a member of the Office of the Rabbinate and the Sephardi rabbi of the Bayit ve-Gan neighborhood in Jerusalem. ʿOvadia has always been keenly interested in Moroccan rabbinical literature and he has published several books written by the scholars of Sefrou. He is a resolute leader, particularly with…

Anqāwa (Al-Naqawa), Abraham

(455 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Abraham ben Mordecai Anqāwa (al-Naqāwa), known by his Hebrew acronym as Rabbi Abba, was born in Salé, Morocco, in 1807 and died in Oran, Algeria, in 1891. He was a rabbi, jurist (Heb. dayyan), and editor of manuscripts. Anqāwa began his rabbinical studies at the seminary of Raphael Bibas in Salé, later serving there as a dayyan and making a name for himself as a strict legal decisor (Heb. poseq). In 1850, fearing for his personal safety after he brought a girl who had apostatized to Islam back into the Jewish fold, he moved to Algeria, and two years later he was appointed rabbi of the community o…

Ben Nāʾīm Family

(1,567 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Ben Nāʾīm (Ibn Nāʾīm) family of rabbis and rabbinical jurists ( dayyanim) thrived in Algiers and Fez from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Jacob Ḥayyim ben Isaac Ben Nāʾīm (d. 1803) was a noted rabbi and jurist in the second half of the eighteenth century. In his youth, Jacob studied with Ephraim ben Abraham Monsonego (1710–1780), a rabbi and kabbalist in Fez and Tetouan; he traveled to Palestine around 1760, but was delayed in Mascara, Algeria, and finally returned to Algiers in 1764, where he served as hea…

Toledano Family (Moroccan Branch)

(2,254 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Toledano family, whose ancestors hailed from Toledo in Spain, produced a long line of important figures in Salonica, Palestine, and Morocco. The Moroccan Toledanos were considered one of the great Jewish families of the country and included notables, court Jews, scholars, and businessmen. Residing primarily in Meknes, the family reached its apogee of influence from the late seventeenth to the twentieth century and stood at the center of the city’s Jewish social and cultural life. 1.  Notables and Courtiers The rise of the Toledanos began with the reign of the second ʿAlawi sultan, M…

Ben Wayyish (or Ben Wāʿish), Abraham

(603 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Abraham Ben Wayyish (or Ben Wāʿish) was a court Jew and leader ( nagid ) of the Jewish community of Marrakesh during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. He traced his genealogy to the Naḥman, Buzaglo, and Azulay families and some of the most respected patriarchs of southern Morocco. Ben Wayyish was active at the end of the reign of one of the most significant rulers of the Saʿdi (Saadian) dynasty, Mawlāy Aḥmad al-Manṣūr al-Dhahabī (r. 1578– 1603), who defeated the Portuguese at the beginning of his reign and united the autonomous provinces of Morocc…


(834 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Debdou (Dubdū) is a town in northeastern Morocco, near the Algerian border, in the Oued Debdou Valley at the base of the right flank of a straight cliff rising 80 meters (263 feet) above the valley. The town is situated on the route from the Sahara to Taza, and was famous for its Jewish community, which in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries constituted three-fourths of its inhabitants, making it one of the few towns where Jews actually outnumbered Muslims. From its early years, the rulers of Fez demonstrated an interest in controlling Debdou, and it was part of the terri…

Aben Ṣur, Jacob

(1,446 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Jacob ben Reuben Aben Ṣur, known by the Hebrew acronym Yaʿbeṣ (1673–1752), was a distinguished rabbi and jurist ( dayyan) descended from the noted Aben Ṣur (Ibn Ṣūr, Ben Ṣur) family of Spanish exiles (Heb. megorashim) in Meknes. Around the beginning of the eighteenth century he moved to Fez and served as its spiritual leader until the day of his death, save for one decade in which he was exiled to the city of his birth as a result of a row with the nagid Saʿadya Lahboz. Due to wars and famine in Fez, Aben Ṣur sojourned in Tetouan in the mid-1730s; it was only during the last dec…

De La Mar (al-Baḥḥār), Masʿūd

(492 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Masʿūd De La Mar (also Delmar or al-Baḥḥār), like his fellow member of the De La Mar family of Jewish traders in eighteenth-century Morocco, was close to the Alawid sultans Sīdī Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd-Allāh (r. 1757–1790). Masʿūd served as the sultan’s representative in Holland and England, and he  settled in Amsterdam in 1775, periodically visiting London, where he had his own agent. The Jewish merchant elite of Morocco, with the De La Mars in the forefront, were part of a cosmopolitan network of international Jewish traders and  merchants who were active in Europe and throughout the Medit…

Abitbol, Amor ben Solomon

(410 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
ʿAmor Joseph ben Solomon Abiṭbol (1780–1853) was a rabbinical judge ( dayyan) and liturgical poet in the  Jewish community of Sefrou, Morocco, in the first half of the nineteenth century. He was the son of Solomon Abiṭbol (d. 1818) and a contemporary of Isaac Bengualid Ben Walīd (1797–1870) of Tetouan and Joseph ben Judah Berdugo (1802–1854) of Meknes. He earned high praise from Rabbi Abner Israel ben Vidal (IV) Ṣarfati of Fez (known as Ish, 1827–1884), and also from the kabbalist Jacob Abuḥaṣera (Sīdnā al-Ḥakham, 1808–1880) of the Tafilalet.  Like many other rabbis of the time, Abi…