Rock the Casbah – Algeria’s Rich Jewish Past

Stand for Israel  |  July 25, 2022

Building in Algeria that once was a synagogue, as well as a church and a mosque
(Photo: wikicommons/Si20u)

Even as God’s children return to their Promised Land, there continue to be thriving Jewish communities around the world. And in places where no Jewish community remains, we can still find inspiration in the rich history of Jewish worshipers from the past. One of these historic communities is in Algeria, where The Times of Israel’s Nathan Alfred takes us:

Like many Jews, I like visiting old synagogues, which may or may not still be home to living communities. Prague is nice, Budapest and Krakow too. Been there, done that – I even lived for 18 months in Hungary. Qirmizi Qesebe – the world’s last remaining Jewish town, outside of Israel? In Azerbaijan, in case you didn’t know. Well, I got that t-shirt too, back in 2013. So how about Algeria? Anyone been there? Probably not.

That’s unfortunate.

Algeria has a long — if troubled — Jewish history. Jews flourished in the 19th century. In 1870, the Cremieux decree awarded Jewish Algerians with French citizenship. While the community suffered in the Second World War under the Vichy regime, it was during the subsequent struggle for independence that Jewish life in the new independent country came to an end. Nationalists saw Algerian Jews as “French” and more than 130,000 left the country by 1962, with most taking residence in France.

Today, no Jewish communities exists in Algeria, and just a handful of Jews are thought to remain. The North African country is not part of the Abraham Accords, and indeed remains hostile to them, in particular to the participation of neighboring Morocco. At a time when Moroccan King Mohammed VI has recognized his country’s Jewish community as “a component of the rich Moroccan culture,” the contrast is stark with Algeria. Don’t expect flights from Tel Aviv to Algiers opening up any time soon…

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