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Jews of the Islamic World: Past, Present, and Future
Jews of the Islamic World: Past, Present, and Future

Wed, Sep 11



Jews of the Islamic World: Past, Present, and Future

Did you know that the vast majority of the world’s Jews—up to 90%—lived in the Islamic world prior to the modern period? This three-part course will cover the historical trajectory of these fascinating communities, stretching from Morocco in the west through Iran, Turkey, and beyond.

Time & Location

Sep 11, 2024, 4:00 PM – 5:15 PM



This course will take place in three parts:

September 11th

Part 1 will cover Jews’ initial encounter with Islam, including the relationship that developed between Muhammad and the local Jews of Arabia in the seventh century. How did the new Muslims understand their Jewish forebears and neighbors, and how did Jews in turn react to the new form of monotheism that was emerging before their eyes? How did Jews live under Islamic rule as it spread?

September 18th

Part 2 will take a long view of some of the most compelling Jewish communities in the Islamic world: the Sephardim of al-Andalus, Ottoman Jewry, and the so-called mizrahim of the Arab lands, including Iraq, Egypt, and Morocco. What makes for a Jewish “golden age” in certain times and places, how do they come about and why do they end? How did Judaism itself develop alongside, and in conversation with, Islam? In this section we will also cover the bizarre and fascinating story of Shabbatai Tsvi, the “false messiah” of the seventeenth century, and how his apostacy fundamentally changed the direction of Jewish life thereafter.

September 25th

Part 3 will trace the unravelling of the Jewish communities of the Islamic world in the modern era, beginning with the impact of European colonialism on these regions, followed by what happened when colonies were replaced by independent nation states. Did the twentieth century with its competing forms of nationalism spell the end of the Jewish-Muslim relationship? How does each respective community remember the other today? Is the memory sweet or bitter? Last but not least, why are many Muslim majority countries working to revive their Jewish heritage in the contemporary period?

Each of these sessions will provide plenty of reading suggestions and time for questions and discussion.

Dr. Emily Gottreich is an Adjunct Professor in Global Studies and Political Economy and Faculty Affiliate in the departments of History and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at University of California, Berkely. Between 2009-2013 she was the President of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS).  She is also Founding Director (along with Aomar Baum, UCLA and Susan Miller, UC Davis) of the MENA-J (MENA Jewry) Program, a UC-systemwide initiative to study, document, and preserve Jewish history in the Middle East and North Africa. Dr. Gottreich received a Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University in 1999, an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University in 1992, and a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley in 1989. Her research focuses on Moroccan Jewish history and Muslim-Jewish relations in broader Arab-Islamic contexts.


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