Jews of Algeria - History and Cultural Relations

The presence of Jews in Algeria spans from the pre-Roman period to the early 1960s, when Algeria became independent. Before the Roman Empire took over these remote coasts of northern Africa, descendants of Jews who had fled Palestine after the destruction of the first and second temples of Jerusalem had settled among the Berber tribes of central Maghreb, some of whom had converted to Judaism over several centuries. Jews spoke the Berber language, especially in the eastern part of Algeria, in Kabyle lands, and even prayed in Berber, as evidenced in certain Berber versions of liturgical documents such as the Passover Haggadah. During the Arab conquest of Africa in the seventh century, Berbers and Jews fought together against the invaders, an episode recounted at length by the Muslim medieval historian Ibn-Khaldun. According to this author, a Jewish Berber "queen," named Kahina ("the Priestess"), at the end of the seventh century led the autochthonous armies that fiercely resisted the Arabization of the Maghreb. Most Berbers were converted to Islam a few decades later, and the Jews of Algeria started their cultural and linguistic assimilation into the Arab world. They rapidly began developing familiarity with Arabic literature, grammar, and science; in some areas, Jewish communities spoke Judeo-Arabic as their daily language. Despite this deep penetration of the Arabic culture into Jewish habits, the Jews of Algeria remained committed to their religious tradition, and some of their rabbis became widely noted for their Talmudic commentaries and the contacts they had with Palestinian and Babylonian sages. In eastern Algeria, the Karaite dogma (a Jewish sect recognizing only the Bible as their religious canon) had also developed, and had prospered until the early twentieth century. The other major breakthrough in Algerian Jewish history occurred after 1391 when refugees fleeing Catholic Spain arrived en masse into the North African haven. They brought their theological knowledge, their sages, and a more Europeanized Jewish tradition. They were rapidly integrated into the local Jewish leadership. Finally, more European Jews immigrated to Algeria in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, coming from Italy. The languages spoken by the Jews in Algeria at that time were—and still are—Berber, Arabic, Spanish (or Ladino, a Judeo-Spanish language), Italian, and Hebrew. Most of these communities were subject to the status of dhimmi imposed by the Turks in the sixteenth century on all non-Muslim groups living under Muslim rule. As for the Jews, this status included such restrictions as residential segregation, compulsory clothing stigmas, and posture prohibitions: Jews could not mount horses, carry arms, or be in a posture physically superior to Muslims. The colonization of Algeria by the French, which began in 1830, put an end to this position of inferiority. When, in 1870, Jews were given French citizenship, they began their progressive integration into French language, culture, and social values, principally by their entry into the French school system. This process was completed when most Algerian Jews, not finding their place in the newly independent Algerian nation, left for France, beginning in 1961. A small number among them went to Israel, and to North and South America. Around 150,000 Algerian Jews arrived in France in the early 1960s. This wave of immigration brought significant changes to the French Jewish community.

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Aug 4, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
Where can I find information about Jewish Algerian locals living with Muslim population during the period 1830 1860

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