Jews in Muslim-Majority Countries – History and Prospects

International conference

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

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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 in contemporary Israeli politics and culture.

But there is also 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.

Past event
Where

W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Hall

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

Bringing together established and younger scholars from different continents and academic disciplines, the conference discusses 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 region.

This conference is a window into an area of scholarship that has hitherto been largely overlooked in Germany. It is 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.

Program

(Last updated: 12 October 2017)

24 October 2017 – Tuesday Opening Session

3 pm to 4 pm Arrival and Registration
4 pm to 4.15 pm Welcome
4.15 pm to 5.15 pm Mark Cohen (Princeton University):
Jews in the Islamic World during the Middle Ages
5.15 pm to 6.15 pm Orit Bashkin (University of Chicago):
The Jew as a metaphor, Jews and the Arab Nahda
6.30 pm to 7.30 pm Aomar Boum (University of California):
Synagogues, Shrines and Cemeteries: Morocco's Jewish Life in Memory
Chairs: Achim Rohde (Philipps-Universität Marburg) and Yasemin Shooman (Jewish Museum Berlin)

25 October 2017 – Wednesday

9 am to 10.45 am 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

11 am to 12.30 am 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

12.30 am to 2 pm Break
2 pm to 3 pm 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

Carsten Walbiner (Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt):
Attitudes towards Judaism and Jews in Early Modern Christian Arabic Literature (1600-1840)

3 pm to 4 pm Panel 4: Historiography and Identity Politics
Chair: Sophie Wagenhofer (Verlag Walter De Gruyter)

Hakan T. Karatake (University of Chicago):
Jewish Perspectives on the Ottoman Polity: A Methodological Assessment

Ahmad Dallal (Georgetown University in Qatar):
The Jews of Yemen: Intertwined Identities and the Distortions of Contemporary Historiography

4.30 pm to 6 pm 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

26 October 2017 – Thursday

9.15 am to 11 am 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)

Mohammad Ali Tabataba'i & Heidar Eyvazi (Research Institute of the Quran and Hadith, Qom):
A 13th/19th Century Jewish Convert to Islam and His Refutation to Judaism

Dennis Halft (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev):
Twelver Shiite-Jewish Interaction in Early Modern Iran

11.15 am to 12.45 am 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

12.45 am to 2.15 am Break
2.15 pm 3.45 pm 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

4.15 pm to 5.15 pm Panel 9: Contemporary Cultures of Remembrance in Literature and Film, Part 2
Chair: Achim Rohde (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

Ronen Zeidel (Tel Aviv University):
On the Last Jews in Iraq and Iraqi National Identity: A Look at Two Recent Iraqi Novels

Mazin Ali (Baghdad): Yahud Al-Eraq baad 2003:
Sahfiya, Thaqafiya, Akademiya (Arabic with translation)

5.15 pm to 8.45 pm Roundtable Discussion: Jewish Studies in MENA Countries
Panelists: Marc David Baer (London School of Economics and Political Science), Mohamed Hawary (Ain Shams University, Cairo), Mohammed Kenbib (Mohammed V University, Rabat)

Chair: Ella Shohat (New York University)

27 October 2017 – Friday

(open for invited participants only)
9 am to 1 pm Young Scholars Forum

Speakers:
Iskandar Ahmad Abdalla, Brahim El Guabli, Amir Reza Haghighatkhah, Katharine Halls, Ilker Hepkaner, Tamir Karkason, Ariane Sadjed

Tutors:
Orit Bashkin (University of Chicago), Georges Khalil (Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin; EUME, Berlin), Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung, Berlin), Reuven Snir (University of Haifa)

1 pm to 1.30 pm Closing Session

The Research Network Re-Configurations. History, Remembrance and Transformation Processes in the Middle East and North Africa

The Research Network Re-Configurations. History, Remembrance and Transformation Processes in the Middle East and North Africa is 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.

Where

W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Hall

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

More Information

  • When

    Tuesday, 24 October 2017, 3 pm to 7.30 pm,
    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 9 am to 6 pm,
    Thursday, 26 October 2017, 9.30 am to 6.45 pm,
    open for invited participants only: Friday 27 October 2017, 9 am to 3 pm

  • Duration

    4 days

  • Where
    W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Hall

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

  • Entry fee

    Free of charge

  • For journalistsPhone: +49 (0)30 25 993 419
    presse@jmberlin.de

  • Please note

    In cooperation with the Research Network Reconfigurations of the Philipps University Marburg, 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.