Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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Subject: Jewish Studies

Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online (EJIW) is the first cohesive and discreet reference work which covers the Jews of Muslim lands particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods. The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online is updated with newly commissioned articles, illustrations, multimedia, and primary source material. 

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Ülkümen, Selahattin

(285 words)

Author(s): Aksel Vansten
Selahattin Ülkümen(1914–2003) was born in the city of İskenderun (Alexandretta) in 1914. During World War II, while serving as Turkey’s consul-general on the Greek island of Rhodes, he saved many members of the island’s Jewish community after the Germans took over the occupation from the Italians. On  July 19, 1944, the German commanding officer, General Ulrich Kleemann, ordered the Jewish population of the island rounded up, to be shipped to extermination camps. Ülkümen, at great personal risk, intervened on behalf of the Jews, demanding the immediate release of those who were Turkish citizens and their noncitizen first-degree relatives. When Kleemann replied that under German law Jews were classified only as Jews without respect to their countries of citizenship, Ülkümen is quoted as responding: “Under Turkish law all citizens are equal. There is no differentiation among our citizens of different religious origins.” Warning Kleemann that the continued detention of Turkish citizens was a direct violation of international law, Ülkümen obtained the release of more than forty Jewish families, perhaps four hundred people, and in January 1945 they found their way to the Turkish Aegean port of Marmaris. However, this gallant act cost Ülkümen dearly. After the Turkish declaration of war on Germany, his house was bombed by the retreating Germans and his pregnant wife was killed. Years later the Quincentennial Foundation called Ülkümen’s actions to the attention of Yad Vashem in Israel, and in 1989 he…

Ungar, Sara

(343 words)

Author(s): Joy Land
Sara Ungar (1849–1911), an educator of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school network, had the unusual distinction of being born in Bonn, Germany, whereas many of her colleagues hailed from France. She attended the Institut Bischoffsheim, one of the AIU teacher-training schools for women in Paris, where she earned the diploma of brevet supérieur (teaching certification granted after four years at a normal school). In 1882, she founded the AIU School for Girls in Tunis and continued as its principal through 1887. In this capacity she emphasized the teaching of French language and developed workshops in pattern cutting and dressmaking in the hope that sewing would enable the girls to earn a livelihood either at home or in the public realm. As the female principal of a primary school, Ungar had the power to amend the curriculum, hire and fire teachers, and maintain order, discipline, and cleanliness, but lacked authority to manage t…

United Kingdom

(2,603 words)

Author(s): Lucien Gubbay
The first Jews to settle in the British Isles were Ashkenazim from northern France who came in the wake of the Norman conquest of 1066. They were joined by a smaller number from Germany, Spain, and Italy. By the twelfth century, Jews lived in most of the biggest English cities, with the largest community in London. The prosperity and security of English Jewry declined steadily with the accession of Richard the Lionhearted (r. 1189–1199) and the violence attending the Third Crusade. The anti-Jewish legislation of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215…

United States of America

(1,415 words)

Author(s): Marc Angel
The early Jewish communities in North America were all established by Sephardi Jews of the Western Sephardi tradition. The first congregation in North America, Shearith Israel, also now known as the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, was founded in New Amsterdam (New York) in 1654. Four other congregations in what became the United States, all Sephardi, antedated the American Revolution—in Newport, Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah. Almost all the Jewish immigration to the United States through the nineteenth century was composed of Jews of European background. Early in the tw…