Burying Jewish Algeria, 1962–70

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 11:10 AM
Room 401 (Colorado Convention Center)
Jessica Hammerman, Central Oregon Community College
When France and Algeria divorced in the summer of 1962, the former Algerian population definitively divided. Revolutionaries waved an Algerian flag over the new nation for the first time while “colonizers” mostly evacuated. For those caught up in the relentless machinations of decolonization, summer 1962 wasn’t the end of a political era, but the beginning of a personal farrago of dislocation and ambivalence. This was especially the case for Jewish Algerians. 

Many Jews fled the chaos, journeying to a France they had never seen before. Some considered Algerian independence tomark the extinction of the community. By that time, only two rabbis remained in the entire country. It was the moment Jewish Algerians dissipated into the greater mass of French pieds noirs

Memoirists have chronicled their own traumatic voyages from Algerian to French soil. But what about those who stayed after independence? Or those who yearned to return someday?  This paper traces the impressions of Jews who still believed in the possibilities that Algeria could offer; activists for independence resolved to help build the new Algeria. Some made the reverse-trip from France back home for sentimental reasons. And many others didn’t have the means to immigrate in 1962.

While it’s easy to conclude the story of Jewish Algeria in 1962, it doesn’t end there. This article examines how people framed their experiences in Algeria, and where they perceived their home to be.  These individual ideas personalize the ambivalences of decolonization, describing firsthand how Jewish Algerians navigated their identities as the possibilities of living in Algeria ended. As Algerian leaders prioritized Arabization and many inhabitants identified increasingly with Islam, a Jewish presence in Algeria was anachronism.   By 1970, nearly all Algerian Jews had left their homeland. This particular experience can shed light on other Jewish populations in Islamic lands.

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