Nahoum, Ḥaim

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NAHOUM, ḤAIM (1872–1960), chief rabbi of *Istanbul and *Cairo. Born in Manisa, Turkey, Nahoum moved to *Tiberias with his family and received his elementary education there. He then went to Smyrna, Turkey, where he was graduated from government high school, and then to Istanbul, where he studied law. Between 1893 and 1897 he studied at the rabbinical seminary in Paris, where he was ordained, and at the Higher Seminary for Semitic Languages of the Collège de France. When he returned to Istanbul, Nahoum was appointed secretary-general of the community committee and deputy director of the rabbinical seminary founded in 1898 by his father-in-law, R. Abraham *Danon. At the same time, he received a government appointment as history teacher in the Turkish Military Academy. At that time, he became acquainted with the "Young Turks" who were exiled in Paris, and when they seized power in the *Ottoman Empire in 1908 they appointed him chief rabbi of the Empire. In this position, Nahoum successfully intervened in favor of Jews in various localities of the Empire, especially in assuring government protection for them during World War i (it seems that it was due to him that the project of expelling the Jews from Jerusalem was averted). After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the removal of the "Young Turks" from power, Nahoum left Istanbul for Paris in 1920. In 1925 he was elected chief rabbi of Cairo, a post he held until his death. In June 1931 the king of Egypt appointed Nahoum a member of the Egyptian senate, and in 1933 he was appointed a member of the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo. He was also awarded many honors by the governments of Turkey, Egypt, France, Austria-Hungary, and Ethiopia. Proficient in many languages, he engaged in research on the history of Egyptian Jewry. He also published – with a French translation, notes, and a glossary of Turkish terms – a collection of 1,064 firmans (decrees by the sultan) that had been sent to the rulers of Egypt between 1597 and 1904. This work is entitled Recueil de firmans impériaux (1934).


The Muslim World (Hartford, Conn.), 51 (1961), 233–4; M. Fargeon, Les Juifs en Egypte (1938), 202–3; M.D. Gaon, Yehudei ha-Mizraḥ be-Ereẓ Yisrael, 2 (1938), 461, 736; H. Rabbi Abraham, in: Haaretz (Dec. 16, 1960), 12; Nathan, in: jjso, 6:2 (1964), 172, 187; A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 2 (1939), 98. add. bibliography: E. Benbassa, Un Grand Rabbin Sépharade en politique, 1892–1923 (1990).

[Haim J. Cohen]