There is archaeological evidence of a pre-Roman Jewish presence in Algeria, however the Jewish population was considerably increased when many Jewish families fleeing the Spanish Inquisition settled in the country. These Spanish Jews primarily settled in the coastal towns of Oran, Béjaïa and Algiers, finding jobs as merchants and traders. They were subject to Dhimmi laws, such as punitive taxation and public identification as Jews, imposed on all non-Muslims under the Ottoman Empire.
In 1830 Algeria was colonised by France. By 1845 all of Algeria’s Batei-Din (Jewish law courts) were placed under French jurisdiction. In addition to this, Ashkenazi Rabbi’s from France were appointed as Chief Rabbi’s in every jurisdiction. Algerian Jews were encouraged to shed their Sephardi, Ladino customs and language and adopt a French way of life. In 1870 most of Algeria’s Jews were given French citizenship. In the last two decades of the 19th century antisemitism in Algeria mimicked the growing antisemitism in France and riots were relatively common. The largest of these came as a result of the Dreyfus Affair and resulted in the looting of over one hundred and fifty businesses and the deaths of two Jews.
Fuelled by events in Europe, antisemitic riots in Algeria increased throughout the 1930s. In one particularly bloody riot, in 1934, a mob of Algerian Muslims killed twenty-five Jews. In addition to this, Algerian Jews were subjected to the same Nazi-inspired Vichy policies as French Jews. By 1940, Algerian Jews were stripped of their French citizenship, were barred from certain professions and were stripped of their property. In addition to this, at least 2000 Jews were placed in North African concentration camps. As a result, the majority of the Algerian resistance comprised of young Jewish men, and after the arrival of Charles de Gaulle in 1943, French citizenship was restored to the Jews of Algeria.
In 1962 Algeria gained independence from France. The new Government decreed that citizenship would only be granted to those residents with paternal Muslim heritage. This meant that Algerian Jews were no longer citizens or protected by the law. Along with the Pieds-Noirs (the colonial French community of Algeria), almost all of the 140,000 strong Jewish population of Algeria fled the country. The majority of the community went to France, although some decided to flee to Israel instead. In 1965, Government discrimination against the remaining Jewish population increased with heavy taxes and synagogue seizures. By 1969 only one thousand Jews remained in Algeria. These remaining Jews fled the country in 1994 after threats were made against the community by the Armed Islamic Group and the last remaining synagogue was abandoned.
Today there are no Jews living in Algeria.