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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Algeria 07: Jews in Constantine

Arabs - Turks - French occupation - independence and exodus

from: Constantine; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 5

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)



<CONSTANTINE (ancient Cirta),

Algerian town. Constantine was named after Emperor Constantine in 313. Latin inscriptions give evidence of a Jewish colony there; its surroundings seem to have been inhabited by Judaized Berbers.

The Arab conquest brought little change to Constantine. The Jews maintained their identity; their "elder" (zaken) led his followers to war like an Arab or Berber sheikh. According to the 15th-century rabbis of Algeria, Constantine was one of the most important Jewish communities in Muslim countries. Local scholars in the 15th century included: Maimun Najjar, author of Kunteres Minhagot; Joseph b. Minir, called Hasid, whose tomb is venerated by Jews and Muslims to the present day and whose works, now lost, were quoted by Joseph *Caro; Joseph b. David; Isaac Kagig (also Kaçiç and Casčs); and Samuel Atrani;

in the 16th century, the poet Joseph Zimron and Moses Allouche; and in the 18th century, Mas'ud Zerbib, author of Zera Emet (Leghorn [[Livorno]], 1715).

[1818: Turks attack Constantine]

In the 18th century the community built its quarter. In 1818 the Turks from Algiers attacked Constantine; they pillaged, massacred, and carried off 17 young Jewish girls whom they brought to their commander. The girls were subsequently released. There were then 5,000 Jews in Constantine.

After its capture by the French in 1837, many Jews left the city, and two years later the community numbered only 3,436.

[1934 Muslim pogroms]

By 1934 the community grew to 12,000. In that same year on August 3-5, the Muslim population, provoked by the propaganda of the French anti-Semites, assaulted them. Twenty-five were killed and dozens wounded. When the Jewish resistance was organized, the massacres stopped; but French forces had not intervened, despite the appeals of Muslim leaders.

The Vichy government severely persecuted this community in (col. 915)

1940 despite its large number of heroes in the two world wars.


[1950s and 1960s: Civil war for independence and exodus of the Jews]

During the Algerian F.L.N. (Front de libération nationale) terrorist attacks in the late 1950s grenades were often thrown into the Jewish quarter. In 1962, when Algeria received independence, there was a massive exodus of the Jewish community, which then numbered 15,000-20,000 - mostly to France and Israel [[because the Jews did not want to be Algerians and because of the anti-Jewish boycott movement under Boumédienne since 1965]]. The local talmud torah with its 800 students closed down in July of that year. The synagogues were turned into the general headquarters of the F.L.N. By the end of the 1960s only a few Jewish families remained in Constantine.



-- A. Chouraqui: Between East and West (1968), index
-- E. Mercier: Histoire de Constantine (1903)
-- M. Eisenbeth: Judaisme nord-africain ... Constantine (1931)
-- R. Brunschwig: Berbérie orientale sous les Hafsides, 1 (1940), 384 ff., 406 ff., 418-9, 421 ff.
-- M. Ansky: Juifs d'Algérie (1960), 67-70
-- A. Hershman: R. Isaac bar Sheshet Perfet and his Times (1943)
-- Hirschberg, Afrikah, index
-- L'Arche, no. 66 (1962), 11> (col. 916)

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Constantine,
                        vol. 5, col. 915-916
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Constantine, vol. 5, col. 915-916