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About the Project

Jews lived in Libya from before the third century B.C.E., under Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Italian, British, and Arab rule; many, including my family, were descendants of Spanish Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. This unique community lost its roots following the expulsion of the remaining Jews from Libya in 1969. The last generation of Jews who lived as adults in Libya is now growing old, and there is little time left to establish a record of their unique daily customs and culture, as recounted through oral testimony and photographic archives.

Most Jews from Libya now live in Israel, although some are in Italy, France, England, and the USA. From August, 1998 through January, 1999 I conducted twenty-eight interviews with Libyan Jews, all but one of whom currently reside in Israel; the testimonies are mostly in Arabic and Italian, the two daily languages of the Libyan Jews. Copies of the tapes have been deposited with the Oral History Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and with the Library of Congress. I am grateful to the Librarians Association of the University of California (LAUC) for the research grant that enabled me to initiate this project.

The incentive for this project came from my mother, Liza Tammam Roumani (may she rest in peace).

Liza (Elyse) Tammam Roumani
After her death, my brother Maurice and I found a hand-written manuscript among her things: my mother had started to write about her life in Libya. We were touched that she would leave us such a precious gift. I knew then that one day I would do something with the manuscript to thank her, and to continue the work she had started. I hope to conduct more interviews, and to continue building this Web site to disseminate the information and to invite more participation from the Jewish Libyan community. The introduction to the planned book containing the testimonies has already been written by my mother, Z"L.

Vivienne Roumani-Denn

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