The Cohen-Tanoudji family, a historical itinerary through North African Jewry
The Historiography of North African jewry is far to be as developed as the ones about other jewish communities. This gap lies in the rabbinical mindset. As the American historian Hayim Yosef Yerushalmi has described it, the generations of rabbis did not consider the post-biblical history as a priority in the transmission of the Jewish tradition. This lack is particularly pronounced within the Sefaradi communities which used to live in the Muslim world, later exposed to Western modernity. Jewish historiography was indeed developed at the crossroad of Judaism and the Enlightment. Yet, the historians who elaborated the history of the Jewish people have drawn their sources within the rabbinical literature. The work of Denis Cohen-Tannoudji has been also written to reduce this gap. His family history has never been transmitted by his ancestors. However, he found among them, at each generation, some rabbis and community leaders who have left some numerous written sources, the ones which enable the author to write his essay. This book is therefore innovative as it values a heritage of rabbinical literature by contextualizing it in a wider historical perspective. It gives life to Sefaradi history, which is too often disembodied. Because of the longevity of the patronymic tracer over more than five centuries, this essay gives historical depth. Thus, from the systematic collection of written sources from his family, Denis Cohen-Tannoudji presents a historical overview of North African Jewry, from the Middle Age to today, giving a new light on the spatio-temporal unity of the Sefaradi world : from the Almohades persecution of the Jews (in 1147) to the trauma of the decolonization (in 1962), from the expulsion of Isabel-the-Catholic (in 1492) to the shock of the colonization (starting in 1830). In the context of a multicultural France, partly sick of its Vichy and colonial past, with the growing anxiety of the French Jews since the years 2000, the analysis of the Sefaradi history appears more necessary. This essay could contribute to the debate.