MERV (modern Baīram Alī ), ancient city in Turkmenistan. According to a tradition reported by the 12th-century Muslim historian al-Bayhaqī, Ezra the scribe is said to have traveled from Palestine to Merv, building a synagogue which was still in existence in the 11th century. In connection with tax reforms carried out in the time of the caliph Omar ii (717–20), a certain Akiva the Jew, of Merv, is mentioned as being responsible for the collection of taxes from the Jews there. That a Jewish community continued in existence is attested by a disputation held in Merv in 1336 between Christian monks and one of the leaders of the community, and by a *Judeo-Persian dictionary composed there in 1473. Nineteenth-century European travelers (J. *Wolff, E.N. *Adler, etc.) refer to the numbers and occupations of the Jews in Merv. After the forced conversion of the Jewish community in *Meshed (1839), many *jadīd al-Islām converts found refuge in Merv. No recent information is available.
W.J. Fischel, in: Zion, 1 (1935), 49–74; idem, in: hj, 7 (1945), 29–50.
[Walter Joseph Fischel]