Friday, 18 November 2011

Report on the Jews in Tunis, 1818

Extract of a Letter from Dr Cleardo Naudi of Malta to the Rev. C. S. Hawtrey, June 20, 1818, printed in the The eleventh report of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews.

He reports that there were around 12,000 Jews in Tunis, divided between the Leghorn [Livorno] Jews and Tunesian (sic) Jews. Tunis had been the main African market for French goods during the Napoleonic Wars, and the Jewish community had done well. There was little interaction between the two communities and (surprise, surprise!) the Livornese looked down on Tunisians.

“The first, or Leghornese, do not exceed the number of seven hundred. They are governed by three Parnassi or Massare, and like those of the Jews of Leghorn, are elective, and have no duties but such as related to their religious ceremonies. Their liturgy is that of the Spanish synagogue; they are for the most part natives of Tunis, and consider themselves the descendants of the exiled families of Spain during the persecutions in that kingdom. They wear the European dress, and those how have not the means of doing so wear the hat for distinction. They have no dealings with the Tunesian Jews, and, during a period of seven ages, they count but four inter-marriages – in an event of this nature taking place, the party is excluded from their synagogues, and considered as one who has degraded himself. – They have also a separate market. Corporal punishments seldom occur, as is daily the case with the Tunesian Jews. Theirs are generally of a pecuniary nature.”

They did not "consider" themselves the descendants of the exiled families of Spain. That is exactly what they were!

I like the idea of the poorer community members in Arab clothes and tricorn hats.

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