Religiously mixed families in the Mediterranean society of the Cairo Geniza

Moshe Yagur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Documents of various genres from the Cairo Geniza from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, as well as contemporary legal queries to rabbinic figures, attest to the phenomenon of mixed-faith families among the Jewish communities of the Islamic Mediterranean. In most of these cases known to us, the husbands were Jewish apostates, probably converts to Islam, while their wives remained loyal to Judaism. This social reality was enabled by the legal feasibility of such marriages in both Jewish and Islamic law, as well as the general tendency in the Jewish communities under Islam to maintain social, professional, and familial contacts with apostates from Judaism. This laxity eased the social effects of conversion, and even left the door open for a possible later return of the apostate into the Jewish fold. The existence of religiously mixed families also meant that children of such families found themselves in a unique liminal position, torn between two religions. These children were encouraged by family and community members to embrace Jewish identity despite the conversion of one of their parents; the same was true even of children of couples who had both converted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-42
Number of pages16
JournalMediterranean Historical Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Egypt
  • Geniza
  • Jewish history
  • conversion
  • family
  • migration
  • relapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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