A Newly Published List of Surnames Reveals the Diversity of Alexandria’s Vanished Jewish Community

June 24 2021

The Egyptian city of Alexandria was until the 20th century home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Diaspora—and for a long time one of the most important. Jews first settled there not long after it was founded by the Greeks under Alexander the Great in 332 BCE; by the beginning of the Common Era Jews comprised over a third of its population, making it likely the largest concentration of Jews anywhere. During the early medieval period Alexandrian Jewry experienced another efflorescence. Jacob Rosen, who once served as Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, has compiled a comprehensive list of Jewish surnames from the city. Benjamin Weinthal writes:

The former ambassador, who is fluent in Arabic, wrote: “The community in Alexandria grew from only a few thousand souls at the end of the 19th century to a vibrant community of approximately 40,000 members by the time it peaked in 1948.”

Some of the more famous Jews born in Alexandria include Haim Saban, the Israeli-American businessman; André Aciman, the professor of literature and novelist; and the Egyptian-French singer-songwriter Georges Moustaki (born Giuseppe Mustacchi).

A key source of information was the “ledger of circumcisions,” which contained more than 3,000 names. [It was kept by] the mohel, Maatuk Dabby [and] “details the name of the father, the maiden name of the mother, and the name of her father,” [wrote Rosen]. “Although he was not the only mohel in the city, he left a mine of vital data.”

Rosen’s list of over 1,000 surnames testifies to the diversity of Alexandrian Jewry, and includes typical North African and Levantine names like Abadi, Ben-Dahan, and Habib; those of probable European Sephardi origin like Gallico; Italian names like Ottolenghi; and Ashkenazi names like Abramovitch, Eisenberg, and Zimmerman.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Egypt, Jewish history, Mizrahim

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy