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)

“I’ve always thought of Africa, which I have studied and traveled in, as ultimately unknowable in its vastness and diversity. Through a Jewish lens, Miles manages to reveal its Semitic skeleton, old and new, providing a fresh way of seeing the continent’s historical, sociological, and political permutations.” —Nadine Epstein, editor and publisher, Moment Magazine

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 thirty-five 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, is among other books author of Jews of Nigeria of Zion 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 College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Department of Political Science.

Ali A. Mazrui, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, at SUNY Binghamton wrote the preface.  In addition to his academic appointments, Mazuri has served as President of the African Studies Association and on the board of the American Muslim Council. In 2005 Ali A.Mazuri was selected as one of top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine and Foreign Policy.