Endowments as a Tool for the Shaping of Community Identity in the Jewish Society of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria

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Talmudic sources recognize the dedication of assets for the benefit of the Temple alone (heqdesh). In Islamic countries, Jews encountered another form of asset endowment - the Islamic waqf- and fully embraced it. This article explores the utilization of waqf from a fresh perspective, focusing on urban communities in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, to examine its role in constructing community members' self-identity The allocation of waq/beneficiaries allowed the endower to delineate the community's boundaries in their mind, reflecting the desired social circles they sought to be part of. Analyzing documents spanning centuries reveals ongoing changes in this realm. Social and demographic shifts periodically led to reductions in the circles of waqf beneficiaries. The strained relations between Rabbanites and Karaites during the Mamluk Period, as well as waves of Jewish immigration from Europe and North Africa to the eastern Mediterranean in the late Mamluk and early Ottoman periods, influenced the norms governing the endowment of houses, land, and money among Jewish property owners. These norms evolved again during the late Ottoman period when the boundaries between different Jewish groups became more blurred.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-43
Number of pages22
JournalEndowment Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

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  • Karaites and Rabbanites - Mizrahi Jews - Ottoman Jews -Jewish law - Judaeo-Arabic- Cairo Geniza


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