Afro-Jewish Encounters: From Timbuktu to the Indian Ocean and Beyond

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“[Miles’ book] is compelling. It examines the Jewish presence in Africa and the history of interaction between Jews and Africans … it is also a wise rumination on the nature of cultural exchange and religious tolerance. ” — Foreign Affairs Journal (May/June 2014)

A Muslim curator and archivist who preserves in his native Timbuktu the memory of its rabbi. An evangelical Kenyan who is amazed to meet a living “Israelite.” Indian Ocean islanders who maintain the Jewish cemetery of escapees from Nazi Germany.  These are just a few of the encounters the author shares from his sojourns and fieldwork spanning 35 years in sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian Ocean, the West Indies, and the Holy Land.  In this collection of new and revised essays, with a foreword by Professor Ali A. Mazrui, William Miles vividly illustrates how Africa, Israel, and their diasporas constitute an extraordinary crucible for African Jews, wandering Jews, and the unforgettable Afro-Jewish encounters that ensue.

Combining the rigors of academic research with a “you are there” delivery, this book is suitable for introductory courses on Africa, ethnography, Jewish studies, and religious studies, as well as for the reading pleasure of the ecumenical-minded traveler.


William F. Miles, author, has also written Jews of NigeriaZion in the Desert, and My African Horse Problem. He is the former Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies at Northeastern University, where he teaches in the Department of Political Science within the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Ali A. Mazrui, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities of SUNY Binghamton, is the author of the foreword to Afro-Jewish Encounters.  In addition to his academic appointments, Mazrui has served as President of the African Studies Association and on the board of the American Muslim Council. In 2005, he was selected as one of top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine and Foreign Policy.