Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Arabs of the Jewish Faith

Arabs of the Jewish Faith: The Civilizing Mission in Colonial Algeria

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Arabs of the Jewish Faith
    Book Description:

    Exploring how Algerian Jews responded to and appropriated France's newly conceived "civilizing mission" in the mid-nineteenth century, Arabs of the Jewish Faith shows that the ideology, while rooted in French Revolutionary ideals of regeneration, enlightenment, and emancipation, actually developed as a strategic response to the challenges of controlling the unruly and highly diverse populations of Algeria's coastal cities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5035-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps, Figures, and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Arabs of the Jewish Faithexplores how Algerian Jews responded to and appropriated the colonial campaign to assimilate them to France during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. It argues that France’s policy of assimilation developed as a strategic response to the challenges of early colonial domination, including governing the demographically and economically important Jewish communities in Algeria’s cities. As we shall see, members of the military administration drew on earlier French Revolutionary and Napoleonic debates about Jewish emancipation and citizenship to structure their policies toward the Jews of Algeria, but the colonial context dramatically transformed these ideas and...

  6. 1 Jews, Commerce, and Community in Early Colonial Algeria
    (pp. 23-55)

    In March 1832, General Pierre Boyer sent a report to the governor general of Algeria describing the commercial life of Oran. The French had occupied this formerly Spanish city the year before, and the officer, nicknamed Pedro the Cruel for his public use of corporal punishment, including group beheadings, was the local French commander.¹ As Boyer put it, Oran’s “commerce was composed of at most forty Jews” who managed to “pool their money together and buy the cargo of a ship of between seventy and one hundred barrels (tonneaux).”² They would then take the merchandise, which was generally shipped from...

  7. 2 Revolution, Republicanism, and Religion: Responses to Civilizing in Oran, 1848
    (pp. 56-85)

    Amran Sénanès was disappointed. During a meeting at the beginning of September 1847, three months after the consistory’s founding, the representative shared his belief that it was “regrettable” that the powers of the consistory were so “restrained.” The consistory, with its current competencies, he thought, was perfectly geared to France, “where the Jewish population is civilized,” but not to a country “as backward as this one.”¹ A particular problem, he felt, was that the local population had been under the impression that the “new administration,” meaning the consistories, would be considerably more powerful than the moqaddem and his council had...

  8. 3 Synagogues, Surveillance, and Civilization
    (pp. 86-113)

    In March 1848, Emmanuel Nahon of Oran’s consistory requested financing from the director of civil affairs to support the construction of a “large and unique” synagogue that could unite the entirety of Oran’s Jews. Nahon framed his request as an urgent response to the social unrest that had recently gripped Oran. The owners of the city’s private synagogues, he explained, were “convinced that the articles of the ordinance of November 9, 1845 … cannot be applied to them due to recent events.”¹ Currently, “a spirit of revolt has surged amongst them” and the consistory was doing its best to suppress...

  9. 4 Teaching Civilization: French Schools and Algerian Midrashim, 1852–1870
    (pp. 114-142)

    It was the beginning of January 1859 and Mr. Fredja ben Sadoun was furious. The Tlemcen Jew had been sending his ten-year-old son to the Jewish school that Oran’s consistory oversaw in his town. One day, his son came home upset about having been punished in school. The boy told his father he had misbehaved in class, but the school supervisor agreed that he had committed only a minor fault. In response to the infraction, an adjunct teacher named Nerson beat the child severely and locked him in a room for some time. Understandably, ben Sadoun complained to the school...

  10. 5 From Napoleonʹs Sanhedrin to the Crémieux Decree: Sex, Marriage, and the Boundaries of Civilization
    (pp. 143-176)

    In the early 1870s, a wealthy Algerian Jew named Sasportès, married for more than thirty years to a certain Kamra Karsenty, entered into a polygamous marriage with Messouda ben Jehou.¹ Sasportès took a second wife hoping to have a child, which his union with Kamra had failed to produce. It had been a lengthy search, a number of his proposals having been rejected by prospective wives or their families. Word soon spread that he had not only remarried, but had also backdated hisketuba(wedding contract) to 1869, the year before Jews were granted citizenship. In so doing, Sasportès planned...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 177-182)

    I late eighteenth-century France, a Portuguese-Jewish merchant from Bordeaux named Samuel Peixotto chose to divorce his wife, Sara Mendes Dacosta. Rather than regulate the affair with a rabbi, he sued for divorce in the Paris royal courts, claiming that he had the right to divorce on the grounds that he was Jewish. Peixotto’s odd move—attempting to get a French court to uphold Jewish law and grant him a divorce—triggered an explosion of legal discussion on the question of the status of Jews in France. The discussion centered on what exactly described their status, whether they enjoyed all rights...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 183-222)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 223-233)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 234-234)