Adopting a transnational perspective, this article investigates the history, mobility and identity of Baghdadi Jews in South, East and Southeast Asia and in Europe between 1850 and 1950. Unlike previous works on the subject, which have focused mainly on the magnates among the Baghdadis of the Asian hubs, this article also includes many references to the middle classes. The first part of the article examines how Baghdadis in the Asian hubs transformed their collective identity by dwelling in and across India, Singapore, Burma (Myanmar) and China and what role did mobility play in this process. Individuals travelled for reasons and work or leisure, they exchanged money and commodities, used different languages (among them Judeo-Arabic and English), and objects circulated too; among them liturgical and religious objects, as well as the Jewish press. The second part analyzes what was the significance of Europe for this group. London represented a point of arrival for many of the most successful traders among them, especially the tycoons. However, in the first half of the twentieth century other capitals (Paris, Madrid, and even New York) acquired a growing relevance in connection to the contemporary contraction of the Sephardic space and expansion of the Ashkenazi one. Sources for this work come from oral history repositories at the National Archives of Singapore, the Hong Kong Oral History Project, the memorial website Jewish Calcutta and from the contemporary Jewish press, and in particular the Shanghai based monthly publication Israel’s Messenger.

issue 22 / n.2 (2022) by Marcella Simoni

Rooted Cosmopolitans

Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century

issue 16 / December 2019 by Marcella Simoni

This paper discusses the history, organization, networks and political outlook of the state of Israel’s first conscientious objectors (COs) in the 1950s, and the consequences they confronted, individually and as a group. Despite it being a very unlikely period for the foundation of such a movement, a small branch of ‘War Resisters’ International’ (WRI, 1921) was established in Israel in 1947. This paper discusses what can the attitudes towards COs tell of the early history of the State of Israel, especially at a time when conscientious objection was not recognized as a right almost anywhere. The history of the first Israeli COs breaks a number of assumptions, albeit contradictory ones: on the one hand it strengthens the image of Israel as a militaristic country; on the other, it shows that institutions were in Israel more tolerant towards COs than other countries; it shows that COs were the supporters of an non ethnically homogenous society and, most of all, that, even in a decade such as the 1950s, a different and deep voice was trying to make itself heard. This paper is based on primary sources from the WRI archives and on the correspondence that Israeli COs entertained with WRI in the 1950s

issue 05 / July 2013 by Marcella Simoni

Reapproaching Borders

New Perspectives on the Study of Israel-Palestine

issue 02 / October 2011 by Marcella Simoni