Jewish Communities in North Africa and the Middle East

Reuben Ahroni

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195137989
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Jewish Communities in North Africa and the Middle East

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  • Interfaith Relations
  • Judaism and Jewish Studies



The Jewish world is generally lumped into two broad categories, Ashkenazim and Sefaradim, despite the marked differences that exist among the diverse Jewish communities around the world in terms of traditions, culture, language, customs, synagogue service, pronunciation of Hebrew, and the like. Although “Ashkenaz” is the Hebrew word for Germany, its connotation has been broadened to denote all Jews of European descent possessing a particular Jewish cultural complex including a Germanic dialect known as Yiddish. In contrast to “Ashkenaz,” “Sefarad” is the Hebrew word for Spain. Before the establishment of Israel, Jewish communities were to be found in almost all the Middle Eastern and North African countries. With the establishment of Israel in 1948, Jews emigrated from the Arab and Muslim countries in continuous waves, mainly to Israel. This article provides an overview of the Jewish Middle Eastern and African communities, focusing primarily on the Jews of Yemen and Ethiopia, and also explores the history of Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa, including Yemen, Aden, and Ethiopia.

Keywords: Jews; Ashkenazim; Sefaradim; Germany; Israel; Middle East; North Africa; Yemen; Spain; Aden; Ethiopia

Article.  5427 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; Judaism and Jewish Studies

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