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The Jews of Beirut

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


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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Acknowledgments xi


ii from Aleppo, Syria, to Beirut after WWI, establishing his bank in this commercial hub. He rapidly became a community leader: community council member and one of the major benefactors of the local Jewish community, supporting its various institutions. His son, Edmond J. Safra, a world-renowned banker in his own right, continued his father’s philanthropic tradition. In 1977, with Lily Safra and Nina Weiner, he founded the International Sephardic Education Foundation (ISEF) to help Israeli students from disadvantaged backgrounds attain higher education. My research received financial support that I gratefully acknowledge here. Throughout my graduate studies at Brandeis, I received funding from several institutions; ISEF supported me for five years, and considerably eased my life as a graduate student. Nevertheless, it is not merely funding that ties my project to ISEF. Due to the Lebanese roots of ISEF, I felt an even deeper connection to it. I would like to thank its staff; donors; and, in particular, its president, Nina Weiner, who agreed to support me as an ISEF Graduate Fellow. Additionally, throughout my research, the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, the Ben Tsvi Institute, and the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department at Brandeis University all awarded grants that enabled me to study archives in Israel and France, and I would like to offer them my sincerest thanks for this support. I would also like to thank another donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, for giving me a generous grant that supported the publication of this book. I would...

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