Jews in Muslim Majority Countries: History and Prospects

International conference (video and audio recordings available)

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.

recording available

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.

Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

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.

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

Chair: Sophie Wagenhofer (Verlag Walter De

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

Chair: Gudrun Krämer (Freie Universität

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

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
Interior of a richly decorated synagogue.

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


To the website

The conference marks the closing of the project Between Marrakesh and Mashhad. Jews in Islamic Countries, a one-year series of films and readings by the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin.

Audio Recordings of the Series: Between Marrakesh and Mashhad: Jews in Islamic Countries (2)

Where, when, what?

  • When24 to 26 Oct 2017
  • Where W. M. Blumenthal Academy,
    Klaus Mangold Auditorium
    Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin (Opposite the Museum)
    See location on map

Video Recordings: Watch Past Museum Events (70)

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