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The Jews of Beirut

The Rise of a Levantine Community, 1860s-1930s

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Tomer Levi

The Jews of Beirut: The Rise of a Levantine Community, 1860s-1930s is the first study to investigate the emergence of an organized and vibrant Jewish community in Beirut in the late Ottoman and French period. Viewed in the context of port city revival, the author explores how and why the Jewish community changed during this time in its social cohesion, organizational structure, and ideological affiliations. Tomer Levi defines the Jewish community as a «Levantine» creation of late-nineteenth-century port city revival, characterized by cultural and social diversity, centralized administration, efficient organization, and a merchant class engaged in commerce and philanthropy. In addition, the author shows how the position of the Jewish community in the unique multi-community structure of Lebanese society affected internal developments within the Jewish community.

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List of Tables .......................................................................................... ix Acknowledgments ................................................................................ xi Introduction ............................................................................................ 1 1 Jewish Communities in Levantine Port Cities ...................... 23 Commercial Expansion ......................................................................25 Migration ............................................................................................28 Diversity and Heterogeneity .............................................................33 Social and Cultural Exchange ...........................................................40 The Jewish Communities of Izmir, Alexandria, and Beirut ........... 44 Jewish Philanthropy.......................................................................... 58 Conclusion ..........................................................................................61 2 The Rise of Beirut’s Jewish Community................................. 71 The Late Ottoman Period ..................................................................74 Formal Organization, 1908–1920.......................................................92 The French Mandate, 1920–1939 .....................................................101 Conclusion ........................................................................................110 3 Competing Ideologies ................................................................ 123 The Alliance Israélite Universelle ...................................................126 B’nai B’rith ........................................................................................127 Jewish Nationalism ..........................................................................132 Conclusion ........................................................................................141 The Jews of Beirut viii 4 Who Controls Jewish Education? ........................................... 149 The Quest for Educational Reforms ......................................... 150 Challenging the Alliance School ............................................... 156 The ‘Civilizing Mission’ vs. the ‘Anglo-Saxon Spirit’ .......... 159 Conclusion ..................................................................................... 163 5 The Culture of Giving................................................................ 167 Personal Giving before WWI ..........................................................171 Organized Giving.............................................................................173 The Colonial Factor ..........................................................................194 Conclusion ........................................................................................195 Conclusion .............................................................................................203 Bibliography ...........................................................................................211 Index .......................................................................................................219

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