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Jews in Muslim Majority Countries: History and Prospects

International conference (with Interviews, Video and Audio Recordings)

Recent years have seen a growing interest in Jews from Arab or Muslim majority countries of the Middle East and North Africa across a variety of time periods. Scholars working at Western or Israeli universities often focus on aspects of Jewish communal and political life in Muslim majority countries prior to their exodus in the aftermath of the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948, or on their absorption into the margins of Israeli society in subsequent decades and the increasing role of Mizrahi Jews (Jews with Middle Eastern ancestry) in contemporary Israeli politics and culture.

Past event

Map with all buildings that belong to the Jewish Museum Berlin. The W. M. Blumenthal Academy is marked in green


W. M. Blumenthal Academy,
Klaus Mangold Auditorium
Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin (Opposite the Museum)

Growing Research Trend

There is a growing trend in research that reaches beyond nationalist or communalist narratives to conceptualize Jewish communities in Middle Eastern countries as parts of local societies and evolving nation states. Moreover, a tradition of Jewish Studies exists in various Arab and Muslim majority countries that is largely separated from Western scholarship. Some North African and Middle Eastern countries, like Tunisia and Iraq, have seen a renewed interest in the Jewish heritage of the country, and Jewish contributions to national history.

Synagogue La Ghriba in Djerba; photo: Citizen59 (flickr)

Conference Topics

Bringing together established and younger scholars from different continents and academic disciplines, the conference discussed questions of culture, identity and memory of Jewish life in Arab and Muslim majority countries, self-identification and belonging, as well as prospects for ethno-religious diversity and intercommunal relations in the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region.

This conference was a window into an area of scholarship that has hitherto been largely overlooked in Germany. It was jointly convened by the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin and the “Research Network Re- Configurations. History, Remembrance and Political Transformations in the Middle East and North Africa”, located at Philipps-Universität Marburg, in cooperation with the Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg and “Europe in the Middle East - The Middle East in Europe” (EUME), a research program at the Forum Transregionale Studien.

Interview Before the Conference

The Head of our Academy Programs, Yasemin Schooman, and the Scientific Coordinator of the Research Network Re-Configurations, Achim Rohde, in an interview.

To the interview

Conference Recordings

Here you can find a video recording of the opening session as well as audio recordings of the panels.

Video Recording of the Opening Session:

Peter Schäfer
(Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin)

Welcome Speech

Mark Cohen
(Princeton University)

Jews in the Islamic World during the Middle Ages
(from 0:15:00)

Orit Bashkin
(University of Chicago)

The Jew as a metaphor, Jews and the Arab Nahda
(from 1:11:00)

Aomar Boum
(University of California)

Synagogues, Shrines and Cemeteries: Morocco's Jewish Life in Memory
(from 2:08:48)

Chairs: Achim Rohde (Philipps-Universität Marburg) and Yasemin Shooman (Jewish Museum Berlin)

Audio Recordings of the Panels:
Panel 1: Between Dhimmi Status and Convivencia

Chair: Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin (Ben Gurion University of the Negev; EUME, Berlin)

Kerstin Hünefeld
(Freie Universität Berlin)

Juggling Sharia Law – An Analytical Insight into the Pseudo-epigraphic Letters of Protection from Yemen and their Jewish Authors' Strategies of Empowerment

Miriam Frenkel
(Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Jews' Response to their Dhimmi Status

Mikhail Kizilov
(Centre of Russian Folklore, Moscow)

The Karaite and Rabbanite Jews in the Tatar and Ottoman Crimea in the Early Modern Times: The Legal Status and Relations with Muslim Authorities

Panel 2: Majority-Minority Relations: Muslim Perceptions of Jews and Judaism

Chair: Walid Abd El Gawad (W. Michael Blumenthal Fellow)

Liran Yadgar
(Yale University)

Ibn Taymiyya's Views on Judaism

Orly Rahimiyan
(Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Ben-Zvi Institute)

The Images of Jews in the eyes of the Iranians during the 20th Century

Menashe Anzi
(Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

Theosophy and Anti-Theosophy in Basra: Jews, Muslims and Booklets in Arabic

Panel 3: Minority-Minority Relations: Eastern Christian Perceptions of Jews and Judaism

Chair: Georges Khalil (Forum Transregionale Studien; EUME, Berlin)

Alexandra Cuffel
(Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Jewish-Christian Relations from the Fatimid-Mamluk Period: Recent Findings and Program for Future Research

Panel 4: Historiography and Identity Politics

Chair: Sophie Wagenhofer (Verlag Walter De Gruyter)

Ahmad Dallal
(Georgetown University in Qatar)

The Jews of Yemen: Intertwined Identities and the Distortions of Contemporary Historiography

Hakan T. Karateke
(University of Chicago)

Jewish Perspectives on the Ottoman Polity: A Methodological Assessment

Panel 5: Jewish Spaces in the Ottoman Empire

Chair: Gudrun Krämer (Freie Universität Berlin)

Menachem Klein
(Bar-Ilan University)

Jews and Arabs in the Main Palestine Cities in the Late Ottoman Period

Harvey E. Goldberg
(Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The Symbolic Role of the Jews in the Struggle between State and Society in Late Ottoman Libya

Michelle Campos
(University of Florida)

Rethinking Jewish Spaces and Places in the Modern Middle East

Panel 6: Jews in Pre-Modern Iran

Chair: Tal Ilan(Freie Universität Berlin)

Alberto Tiburcio
(Philipps-Universität Marburg)

A Reconsideration of Sources on Jewish Communities in Iran (1666—1747)

Dennis Halft
(Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

Twelver Shiite-Jewish Interaction in Early Modern Iran

Panel 7: Jewish-Muslim Relations in 20th Century Lebanon and Syria

Chair: Reuven Snir (University of Haifa)

Seth Anziska
(University College London)

Lingering Between Jaffa and Beirut: Jewish Presence and Absence in Postwar Lebanon

Aline Schlaepfer
(American University of Beirut and
Université de Genève)

"Where did the Waqf Money Go?" – Dynamics of Conflicts and Solidarities between the Jewish Communities of Saida and Beirut in the Early Republic of Lebanon.

Faedah M. Totah
(Virginia Commonwealth University)

Jews of the Old City of Damascus

Panel 8: Contemporary Cultures of Remembrance in Literature and Film, Part 1

Chair: Christina von Braun (Zentrum Jüdische Studien Berlin-Brandenburg)

Yuval Evri
(SOAS University of London)

Between Fractions and Continuities: The Arab-Jewish Literary World at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Najat Abdulhaq
(MiCT – Media in Cooperation and Transition, Berlin)

Rethinking Narratives: The Emergence of the "Arab Jew" in Contemporary Arabic Literature

Yaron Shemer
(University of North Carolina)

Rethinking Egyptian Jews' Cosmopolitanism, Belonging, and Nostalgia: Egyptian Cinematic Perspectives

Panel 9: Contemporary Cultures of Remembrance in Literature and Film, Part 2

Chair: Achim Rohde (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

Mazin Ali

ahud Al-Eraq baad 2003: Sahfiya, Thaqafiya, Akademiya
(in Arabic)

Ronen Zeidel
(Tel Aviv University)

On the Last Jews in Iraq and Iraqi National Identity: A Look at Two Recent Iraqi Novels


The conference was jointly developed with the Research Network Re-Configurations. History, Remembrance and Transformation Processes in the Middle East and North Africa, a research unit located at Philipps-Universität Marburg’s Centre for Near and Middle Eastern Studies, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). Re-Configurations provides an institutional framework for an innovative, interdisciplinary, comparative, empirically-founded, and theory-led investigation of the transformation processes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region).

In cooperation with the Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg and Europe in the Middle East - The Middle East in Europe (EUME), a research program at the Forum Transregionale Studien.

Research Network Re-Configurations

To the website

Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg

To the website

Where, when, what?

  • When 24 to 26 October 2017
    open for invited participants only: 27 October 2017
  • Where W. M. Blumenthal Academy,
    Klaus Mangold Auditorium

    Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin
    (Opposite the Museum)

    See location on map

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Video Recordings: Watch Past Museum Events (56)

Watch Past Museum Events

We film select events, such as conferences, panel discussions, book presentations, and our Jewish-Islamic Forum lecture series.

Shtetl Berlin All-Star Concert

Hanukkah 2020: Candle lighting with Yiddish songs, instrumental music and dance

12 Dec 2020

People touch a large touchscreen wall that displays documents and objects

The Family Album

Peter Schaul recounts the life of his mother, Dora Schaul, whose estate is part of the interactive installation The Family Album
Language: German, no subtitles

9 Nov 2020

The Last Veit Simons from Berlin

One of Berlin’s oldest Jewish families in a transnational story of class, gender, and sexuality
With: Anna Hájková and Maria von der Heydt
Language: German, no subtitles

11 Dec 2019

Blue and white tea bowl, inside with gold rim

About a Tea Bowl

Discussion with brief presentations about interwoven experiences of post-Soviet Jewish migration, in German

27 Nov 2019

Conversation with the Artist Thomas Struth

With Thomas Struth (photographer) and Theresia Ziehe (curator of photography), related to the exhibition This Place, in German

Artist Talk
5 Dec 2019

Ruth Wodak:
Swing to the right?!

Ruth Wodak traces how a new “normality to the right” is establishing itself in many European countries (in German)

17 October 2019

Zvi Aviram: Brushes with Death

16 September 2019
Zvi Aviram was born in January 1927 in Berlin as Heinz Abrahamsohn. From age 14, he had to perform forced labor in the arms industry. During the so-called factory operation on 27 February 1943, his parents were arrested and deported and he himself went into illegality.

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Karl M. von der Heyden: From Berlin to New York

29 August 2019
In his book From Berlin to New York, Karl M. von der Heyden describes his experiences as a child and youth in war-torn Germany and his journey to the USA, where he began studying at Duke University in 1957 and rose to the boardrooms of Pepsi and Dreamworks.

“To Know One Religion Is to Know None”

W. Michael Blumenthal Fellow Walid Abdelgawad talks about reflections on Islam and Judaism in the writings of German-speaking Jewish orientalists between 1833 and 1955 (in German)
Video: in German; no subtitles

28 August 2019

Photography: Portrait of an elderly man

Sally Perel:
Hitlerjunge Salomon

12 June 2019
Sally Perel was born in Peine in April 1925. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union he pretended to be a Volksdeutscher and called himself Josef Perjell.
In 1990, his memoirs were published and were filmed in the same year under the title Hitlerjunge Salomon.

Photography of a totem pole in a foggy landscape with lake

Museums, Religion, and the Work of Reconciliation and Remembrance

Museums are called on to deal critically and transparently with the often invisible colonial history of their collections. The curators Jisgang Nika Collision (Haida Gwaii Museum, Haida Nation & Canada) and Léontine Meijer-van Mensch (Saxonian State Ethnographic Collections) discussed this topic.

9 May 2019

Access Barriers. Critical Perspectives on Racism in Schools and Curatorial Practices

Keynote by Bonita Bennett (District Six Museum, Cape Town) at the conference Access Barriers on museums as places of social change.

20 Mar 2019

The Laskers from Breslau (Wrocław) – A Family Reunion in Music and Words

27 January 2019
Cellist and contemporary witness Anita Lasker Wallfisch shares the stage with three generations of her family for the first time.
Marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp on 27 January 1945, they read letters from the family written between 1942 and 1952 and play works by Beethoven, Schubert, Bloch, and others.

27 Jan 2019

Happy Birthday, Academy Programs!

Welcoming Remarks and Introducing the Academy Programs | Discussion with Performance: Archive of Life. Memory in a Society Shaped by Migration | Panel Discussion: Jewish Fathers – Jewish Children? | Panel Discussion: A Pre-fascist Era? | Reception: 5 Years – 5 Friends – 5 Gifts

2 Dec 2018

Peter Neuhof

Peter Neuhof: A Youth in the Shadow of the Persecution

3 December 2018
Peter Neuhof speaks about his memories and experiences in an interview with Aubrey Pomerance, head of the archive. His parents were active members of the German Communist Party (KPD) and were arrested in 1943. Peter was able to remain in the parental home.

Polish Perspectives on '68: March Protests

22 November 2018
This event for the “'68 Now” series discusses (in German and Polish) the events of 1968 from the Polish perspective. In Poland, the student protests were co-opted by an antisemitic rampage that resulted in 13,000 Jews being forced to leave the country.

Living with Islamophobia

The international conference “Living with Islamophobia” considered how cultural and religious affiliations are constructed and invited experts to enter into discussion.

11–12 Oct 2018

Michael Sfard:
The Jerusalem Dispute. The Fight for Human Rights in Israeli Courts

6 September 2018
Lecture by Michael Sfard, one of Israel’s leading human rights lawyers

Imported Antisemitism?

Is Antisemitism increasing with the number of refugees from Arab countries? We discuss with political, academic, and practical experts which manifestations of antisemitism among Arab migrants and Muslims in Germany exist (in German).

30 Aug 2018

Portrait photo of Seyla Benhabib

Seyla Benhabib: The Global Refugee Crisis and the Challenge to Liberal Democracies

26 June 2018
Seyla Benhabib (Yale University) discusses the challenges migration poses to liberal democracies.

Portrait of Hanni Levy

Hanni Levy: Surviving in Berlin

Born in 1924, survived the Nazi era in hiding in Berlin with the help of friends, in German

Eyewitness Talks
25 Jun 2018

Stolen Judaica
Provenance Research in Israel and Germany

In this symposium, research that explores the origins of Jewish ceremonial objects exclusively in Israel and Germany, took center stage for the first time.

18/19 Jun 2018

Ongoing Struggles. Anti-Discrimination Work during the Rise of the Far Right

Opening Session of the academic conference
Including Imani Perry's keynote »What Lies Underneath: Difficult Histories and the Resurgence of The Far Right«

7 Jun 2018

Anita Lasker Wallfisch: Auschwitz Never Left Me

28 May 2018
Born in Breslau in 1925, Anita Lasker Wallfisch studied cello in Berlin from 1938. In 1942, Anita’s parents were deported to Izbica and murdered, and in 1943 Anita and her sister Renate were deported to Ausschwitz.

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Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem

8 May 2018
Author Menachem Klein in Conversation with Cilly Kugelmann

Portrait of Margot Friedländer

Margot Friedländer: Try to Make Your Life

9 April 2018
Margot Friedländer was born in 1921 in Berlin and has had close ties with the museum for many years. She reads from her memoir, which takes its title from her mother’s last message to her: Try to Make Your Life.

What is the Relationship Between Antisemitism and Islamophobia?

Lectures by David Feldman and Stefanie Schüler-Springorum

20 Mar 2018

Porträt Joshua Cohen

The Book of Numbers

12 February 2018
Reading and Talk with the Author Joshua Cohen and Literary Scholar Jan Wilm

Walter Frankenstein: Not with Us

31 January 2018
Born in 1924 in West Prussia, Walter Frankenstein lived in Berlin from 1936. When deportation threatened, he went into hiding with his wife and their five-week-old son. The family managed to survive with the help of friends.

“And the day will come ...”

11 January 2018
Eyewitness Horst Selbiger in Conversation with Léontine Meijer-van Mensch

Kurt Roberg

Kurt Roberg: A Visa Or Your Life

Born 1924 in Celle, emigration at the end of 1938 via the Netherlands, return to Berlin in March 1941 and re-emigration in May 1941 via Lisbon to the USA, in German

Eyewitness Talks
4 Dec 2017

Kunstwerk von Moran Sanderovich

New Judaism – Alliances in Postmigrant Society

Discussion on concepts of being Jewish within the third generation of Jews in Germany (in German and English)

16 Nov 2017

Jews in Muslim Majority Countries

24 to 27 October 2017
International conference for scholars from different continents and academic disciplines, who discuss questions of culture, identity and memory of Jewish life in Arab and Muslim majority countries.

Henry Wuga

Henry Wuga: A Nuremberger from Glasgow

23 October 2017
Henry Wuga was born to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father in Nuremberg in 1924. In 1938, his parents were able to send him to Scotland with a children’s transport and later in 1947, he could bring his mother, who had survived in hiding, to his home in Glasgow.
Language: German

Future Memories

Discussion on the Importance of Minority Perspectives for European Societies’ Commemorative Cultures (in German and English)

26 Sep 2017

Cranach-Gemälde Luther und Foto von Franz Rosenzweig als Collage

Luther, Rosenzweig, and the Script

18 September 2017
Book Presentation and Discussion (in German)

Between the Lines

9 September 2017
An Evening with Israeli and German Poets (in Hebrew and German)

Religion. Fashion. Empowerment.

Discussion with Reina Lewis and Meriem Lebdiri (in German and English)

29 Jun 2017

Jews in North Africa During the Second World War

Theme day with lectures by Michel Abitbol, Eric Salerno, Patrick Bernhard, Haim Saadoun, and panel discussion
Language: German, English, and French

26 Jan 2017

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"Nothing can Hurt Those who Already Died Once" - Discussion with Contemporary Witness Marko Feingold

Event on 10 November 2016
With: Marko Feingold, Peter Schäfer, Uwe Neumärker
Language: German, no subtitles

Sites of Memory: Lost and Entangled Narratives

With: Dr. Rosa Fava, Juliane Jurewicz, Prof. Dr. Iman Attia, Olga Gerstenberger, Ozan Keskinkiliç, Anita Awosusi, Ilona Lagrene, Prof. Dr. Michael Rothberg, and Serpil Polat
Language: German and English, no subtitles

16 Sep 2016


With: Dan Diner, Adam Michnik, Dietmar Herz, Étienne François, and Hans Kundnani
Language: German, no subtitles

7 Sep 2016

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Antisemitism in the Arabic World – Facts and Myths

With: Michael Kiefer and Omar Kamil
Language: German, no subtitles

26 Apr 2016

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"Mich hat Auschwitz nie verlassen" (Auschwitz has never left me)

With: Renate Lasker-Harpprecht and Anita Lasker Wallfisch
Language: German, no subtitles

Eyewitness Talks
1 Mar 2016

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Post-migrant Society?!

International conference from 12 to 14 November 2015
Recording of the opening event
Language: German and English, no subtitles

12–14 Nov 2015

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On Life – Working with People Traumatized by the Shoah

Panel discussion on 1 October 2015
With: Giselle Cycowicz, Martin Auerbach and David Becker and Volker Beck
Language: German, no subtitles

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Kill Me a Son!

Recording of the opening event
With: Prof. Dr. Peter Schäfer and Prof. Dr. Angelika Neuwirth
Language: German, no subtitles

3–4 Sep 2015

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A Shared View of Europe – Jewish and Muslim Experiences as Reflected in Public Controversies

Panel discussion
With: Prof. Nilüfer Göle, Shai Lavi and Gökçe Yurdakul
Language: German, no subtitles

19 Jan 2015

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Contemporary Jewish life in a global modernity

International conference
Recording of the presentation "Future of European Jewry"
With: Dr. Karen Körber and Dr. Diana Pinto
Language: English, no subtitles

11–12 Dec 2014

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Snip it?!

Presentation of a study followed by a discussion
With: Professor Kerem Öktem, Mounir Azzaoui, Dr. des. Alexander Hasgall, and Dr. des. Hannah C. Tzuberi.

4 Dec 2014

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Concepts of Citizenship and Participation in European Comparison

Recording of the keynote by Prof. Dr. Rainer Bauböck and the followed panel discussion
With: Prof. Dr. Rainer Bauböck, Dr. Manuela Bojadžijev, Josip Juratovic and Dr. Monika Lüke
Language: German, no subtitles

7–8 Apr 2014

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Art and Culture in the Terezín Ghetto

Symposium on 2 March 2014
In four lectures, the symposium explores the history of Theresienstadt, the “ghetto of exceptions,” from four different angles.
With: Wolfgang Benz, Anna Hájková and Hanno Loewy
Language: German, no subtitles

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The Connected Audience

Conference from 27 February 2014 to 28 February 2014
With: John H. Falk
Language: English, no subtitles

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Is Higher Education a Safeguard Against Racism and Antisemitism?

Presentation of a study followed by panel discussion on 20 February 2014
With: Wassilis Kassis, Charlotte Schallié, Iman Attia, Stefanie Schüler-Springorum and Andreas Zick
Language: German, no subtitles

20 February 2014

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“What do we mean when we say 'antisemitism'?”

Keynote lecture, opening the conference Antisemitism in Europe Today: the Phenomena, the Conflicts
With: Brian Klug
Language: English

8 Nov 2013

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Circumcision: Identity Politics and / or Health Issue?

With: Sander L. Gilman, in Englisch

8 May 2013