Beyond the Saharan Cloak: Uncovering Jewish Identity from Southern Morocco and throughout the Sahara

Janice Levi
From the end of the medieval period into the early modern era, regional anti-Semitic violence in Northwest Africa forced Jews to convert and/or flee into other lands. A legacy of imposed invisibil-ity, through illegality of Judaism and fear of expressing a Jewish faith identity, was a consequence of intolerance towards Jews. For their own safety, Jewish persons had to conceal their faith identity. In doing so, what appears to be a lack of Jewish presence may simply be a strategic concealment of
more » ... one's interior faith conviction. This paper explores how Western institutional oversight, by organizations and scholars, continually perpetuates the impression of Jewish absence from these spaces. Further, the paper seeks to challenge a visible lack of Jewish presence in West Africa by analyzing the complexity of conversion and investigating seemingly "invis-ible" identities. Lastly, the paper examines how the efforts of Jewish persons to become undetectable have contributed to the historical elisions of Jewish presence in West Africa. "The cemetery of the Jews in Timbuktu is today a simple dune covered in shrubs, without epitaphs. This is the lost domain of some forgotten deaths in history."-Ismael Diadie Haïdara 1