To Embrace or to Evade? Jewish Women in Algeria Confronts Modernity

Yossef Charvit


This article is the product of several years of research in Hebrew, rabbinical, and Maskilic archives that may shed light on the history of Algerian Jewry from the beginning of the French occupation (1830) to this day. The purpose of this investigation is to gain familiarity with the narrative that these sources convey and, thereby, enhance the integrity of this community’s historical tableau. Historical-sociological studies depict the Jewish woman as the main force behind the drive for modernity or, indeed, the embodiment of this force. The rabbinical literature, in contrast, portrays the Jewish woman as a victim of modernity, for which reason the Halakhic authorities rushed to protect her. In effect, they reflect the historical reality of women in Algeria in all its complexity: a female identity that seeks a path between the surrounding French society and the Jewish society, with their different focal points of identity. Women maneuvered amid the delicate tension of a personal drive for modernity in a society that remained traditional.

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