Southern Tunisian Jewry in the early twentieth century

Shlomo Deshen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this chapter focus shifts to Tunisia. Basing himself on data embedded in rabbinical sources such as religious law tracts, Shlomo Deshen traces the outlines of the structure and institutions of Jewish society in Southern Tunisia in the early twentieth century. The author describes a situation different from that of Moroccan Jewry. Southern Tunisian Jewry has a relatively peaceful history, and the last major anti-Jewish hostility occurred in the twelfth century. The general Berber population, particularly of the island of Jerba, developed in the late nineteenth century a pattern of migrant merchants who operated throughout Tunisia, and retired in their old age to their homes. In this context, the Jews entered local commerce and filled local positions. They did not engage in international commerce or in itinerant trade, roles that Jews commonly filled elsewhere. Jerban Jewry is therefore sedentary and lacking in geographic mobility. As a consequence, the local community is relatively powerful over its individual members, particularly in religious matters, because of the high visibility of individuals. Community organs are highly developed in comparison to other Jewish communities in North Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJews among Muslims
Subtitle of host publicationCommunities in the Precolonial Middle East
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781349248636
ISBN (Print)9780333626559
StatePublished - 7 Jan 2016


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