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Joseph (Yossi) Chetrit

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Joseph (Yossi) Chetrit (born 1941) is an Emeritus Professor of the French language and literature department and the Hebrew language department at the University of Haifa, former head of the Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture in Spain and Muslim Countries[1], and founder of the Tsfon-Maarav Troupe[2].


Joseph Chetrit was born in 1941 in Morocco, where he completed his primary studies in Taroudant, and his secondary and education studies in Casablanca. He immigrated in 1963 to Israel, where he received his university education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, then at the Sorbonne, where he prepared a doctorate in French grammar. From October 1972 until his retirement in October 2009, he taught at the University of Haifa French linguistics (at the Department of French Language and Literature) and socio-pragmatics of Judeo-Arabic and contemporary Hebrew (at the Department of Hebrew language). He also taught Hebrew at the Paris Community Center and Jewish Civilization in North Africa at INALCO University in Paris and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At Haifa University, he served as director of the language and French literature, dean of the Faculty of Humanities, vice-rector and member of the management.[3]

Research activity[edit]

His research focuses on the study of Jewish languages ​​and Jewish culture in North Africa in their various aspects - linguistic, socio-discursive, socio-historical, socio-cultural and literary.[4] He published in these different fields several books and dozens of articles and monographs[5], especially on Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic poetry in North Africa, on traditional and modern Jewish discourse[6], on modernization and Haskalah in communities, on the language of Jewish women in Morocco and their proverbs, on the linguistic and sociolinguistic specificities of Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Berber and on the musical traditions of the Jewish communities of Morocco.[7]

At the University of Haifa, he was the director of the Center for the Study on Jewish Culture in Spain and Islamic countries and the interdisciplinary project “Mediterranean Civilizations and their significance for our time.” He is also the editor of the book series "MIQQEDEM UMIYYAM" which publishes collections of essays on history and cultural heritage of Jewish communities in Islamic countries and in the Sephardic world.[8]


Throughout his career, Chetrit has advocated for the preservation of the oral traditions and languages of North-African Jews. Between 1978-1981, Chetrit initiated and coordinated a research and education workshop, which took place in the town Shlomi. The project was funded by the Center for the Heritage of Jews from Spain and the East in the Ministry of Education and Culture. The workshop included the audio documentation of oral poetry, proverbs, and tales of the Jewish life in the communities from which Shlomi's residents originated.[9]

Research and published work[edit]

Chetrit’s early research work is concerned with the study of French lexicology and syntax. However, his primary research work is related to various fields of North-African Jewry as reflected in his publications as follows:

Jewish languages in North Africa[edit]

Chetrit's research includes the characterization and categorization of Judeo-Arabic dialects from North-Africa. He categorised these dialects into four groups based on phonetic and phonological structure: Eqa:l in Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, Wqal in the Atlantic regions of Morocco, Nkal in northern Morocco, and SEkjal in south eastern Morocco. In addition, he described the Berber that was used among the Jews of Moroccan rural communities, the influence of French on Judeo-Arabic dialects, and the linguistic relationships between Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Spanish in Morocco. Furthermore, he described the Hebrew component of the lexical and structural foundations of Judeo-Arabic, including the Jewish secret languages based on Hebrew lexical elements and formulae.[10] [11].

Hebrew poetry and music in Morocco[edit]

Chetrit's research and publications are also concerned with the Bakashot and Piyutim (liturgic poetry) of Moroccan. He discovered Hebrew  poets in Morocco, as well as unique poems which shed light on events and processes that have little or no other documentation. Thus, he uncovered dozens of Hebrew poets who were unknown in the scientific literature, including the distinguished poets Rabbi Shlomo Haliwa, Rabbi David Elkaim, Rabbi David Bouzaglo[12], Nissim Naqqab, as well as the unique female Hebrew poet Friha bat Rabbi Avraham ben-Adiba[13].

Through his interest in the affinities between liturgic poetry and Andalusi music and the Arabic Qasida poetry in Morocco, he also described the cultural and practical components that led Jews to collaborate with Muslim musicians throughout the generations[14].

Judeo-Arabic poetry[edit]

Chetrit has published an essay in literary studies of the trends and patterns of Judeo-Arabic poetry, in addition to other essays concerned with the interpretation of poems of historical or cultural importance for the study of Jewish life in Morocco.

Proverbs of Jewish women in Morocco[edit]

During the fieldwork at Shlomi between 1978-1981, thousands of Judeo-Arabic proverbs and idioms were recorded and documented for research and education purposes. These proverbs were spoken mostly by older women, and in part by men, and were published along with their linguistic and cultural status in several collections.

Jewish wedding in Morocco[edit]

Chetrit’s book about the traditional Jewish wedding studies the values, practices, rituals and ceremonies as practiced in Morocco. This research also describes the social-discursive networks which operate and guide the traditions of the Jewish wedding.[15].

Rabbinic and folk culture[edit]

Chetrit described the discursive strategies and content of the traditional communal discourse, which was conducted according to the teachings and writings of rabbis. He also described the changes that took place in the discourse in the end of the 19th century, and more specifically, the new linguistic uses in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic, which led to the formation of a new middle Judeo-Arabic in Tunis. In another study, Chetrit characterized the dual culture of Moroccan Jews. This duality included, on the one hand, the learned rabbinic culture and on the other hand, the mixed popular culture. This popular culture includes core values derived from practical Halacha and Jewish tradition and ceremonies, practices, and forms of life that deviated at times from the purely Halachic canon, for example, the beliefs in magic, demons, fortune, evil eye, and so forth. The folk communities that practiced such beliefs did not view them as contradictory to the basic beliefs that define their distinct Jewish identity, but as an existential need that cures their physical and mental ailments, due to the lack of medicine and physicians as they operate today. Chetrit sees this duality between learned rabbinic culture and syncretic folk culture as the core which granted them the mental strength and stable Jewish identity that enabled their survival despite the persecutions under Islam.


Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic enlightenment[edit]

Chetrit has focused his research on additional aspects of the development of Jewish culture in North-Africa and beyond this region. Thus, he studied the Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic enlightenment movements that developed during the second half of the 19th century in North-Africa. These movements were influenced by the Hebrew harmonious enlightenment movement of Eastern Europe that sought to integrate rabbinic tradition and biblical culture with the European values of enlightenment. His studies illuminated the characters of the enlightenment movements' leaders, such as Rabbi Shalom Flaḥ, Rabbi David Elkaim, Isaac ben Yaish Ha-Levy, Rabbi Baruch Mitrani, and more, and described their positions, struggles, and literary and journalistic creation.[17][18].

History of Moroccan Jews[edit]

Another field of research illuminates various issues in the history of Moroccan Jews through special poems written by poets who experienced the historical events and described them through the perspective of their community members. These poems are frequently the primary documentation preserved relating to the matter.[19].

Chetrit examined a document from the middle-ages that described an alleged growth, power, and destruction of the old Jewish community of Darca in south Morocco which had a supposedly powerful army. He showed that the document was written by Muslim scholars at the end of the 13th century, and not by Jews. The erudite authors fabricated this Jewish history in order to retroactively legitimize the extermination of the Jewish community of Darca in 1145 or 1146 by the Almohad Caliphate. Another research is dedicated to Morocco's Jewish communities during WWII.[20]

Another research is dedicated to Morocco's Jewish communities during WWII.[21]

Dissemination of North-African Jewish culture[edit]

Chetrit established an academic unit in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Haifa, dedicated to the legacy of Sephardic and Eastern Jews. As part of this unit, he established new courses in various university departments, with partial funding from the Centre for Sephardic and Eastern Heritage. The academic unit has operated for more than twenty years. In addition, he initiated and organized dozens of seminars, national, and international conferences.

In addition, In 1998, he established in the University of Haifa's Research Authority the Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture in Spain and Muslim Countries and was its head until December 2018.

Chetrit initiated and edited the monograph Miqqedem U-Miyyam (Hebrew), which its nine volumes were all dedicated to the study of various aspects in the history and cultural heritage of Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa.[22]

Tsfon-Ma'arav Ensemble[edit]

Chetrit established the Tsfon Ma'arav ensemble in 1979, and he manages and guides it to this day. The ensemble aims to raise the Israeli audience's awareness to the various musical traditions and poetic creation of North-African Jewry in general and Moroccan Jewry in particular, in the two original languages of the various communities - Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic. The ensemble's material originates in Chetrit's research about the literary creation and linguistic and musical traditions of North-African Jews. The concerts include presentations of the Jewish life in Morocco in sayings, sounds, acting, dancing, singing, and music, as well as sets of liturgical poems and Andalusi music and poetry[23].

The band is the only one in Israel and abroad to integrate women in the performance of the liturgic poetry of Moroccan Jews[24].

The ensemble has recorded so far four sets of tapes, CDs and DVDs. The King of Morocco sent Chetrit a letter of appreciation, thanking him for this work of cultivation and distribution of the musical and cultural tradition shared by Jews and Muslims in Morocco[25].

Awards and honors[edit]

  • In 2011, a two-volume festschrift was published in his honour, edited by Yosef Tobi and Dennis Kurzon.[26]
  • The 2019 Prime Minister’s Award for the encouragement and empowerment of the study of Jewish communities in Arab countries,[27]
  • The Nissim Gaon award for the study of North-African Jewish heritage, the Golden Prize of Ashdod municipality for the dissimination of the heritage of Jewish communities,[28]
  • The Haim Zafrani award for the study of Moroccan Jewry awarded by the Jewish Studies institute in Paris.[29]
  • The Paris municipality medal and the Palmes Académiques decoration from the French government with the officer rank.



  1. Syntaxe de la phrase complexe à subordonnée temporelle. Paris: Editions Klincksieck, 1976. 226 p.
  2. The Piyyutim and Baqqashot of the Moroccan Jews. Tel-Aviv: Moreshet Dorot Press, 1991 (Hebrew)
  3. The Written Judeo-Arabic Poetry in North Africa: Poetic, Linguistic and Cultural Studies. Jerusalem: Misgav Yerushalayim Press, 1994  (Hebrew)
  4. Hebrew Poetry in Morocco: Studies on Poems and Poets. Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1999 (Hebrew)
  5. Traditional Jewish Wedding in Morocco: Interpretive and Ethnographic Studies(main author). Miqqedem Umiyyam VIII, Haifa 2003 (Hebrew)
  6. Diglossie, Hybridation et Diversité intra-linguistique. Etudes socio-pragmatiques sur les langues juives, le judéo-arabe et le judéo-berbère. Paris-Louvain: Peeters 2007
  7. Linguistic Treasures and Textures. Socio-Pragmatic Studies on Judeo-Arabic in North Africa and its Hebrew Component: Articles, Poems, Tales and Proverbs. Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2009 (Hebrew)
  8. Paroles exquises. Proverbes judéo-marocains sur la vie et la famille, en transcription phonético-phonologique, arabe et judéo-arabe et en traduction francaise et hébraïque. Collection Matanel. Waterloo : Avant-Propos, 2014
  9. Paroles affables. Proverbes judéo-marocains sur l’hospitalité et l’amitié. Collection Matanel. Waterloo: Avant-Propos, 2015

Selected articles[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. "יוסף שיטרית". הספרנים (in עברית). Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  2. "Joseph Chetrit | Institut Universitaire Elie Wiesel". Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  3. "Joseph Chetrit". Akadem: Le campus numerique juif. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. "La Fondation Attijariwafa bank décrypte les spécificités de la culture juive marocaine". (in français). Retrieved 2021-05-21. External link in |website= (help)
  5. Chetrit's full List of Publications, 2016 (PDF). Search this book on
  6. Idrissi, Khaoula (2021-01-02). "Attijariwafa Bank Foundation Deciphers the Specificities of the Judeo-Moroccan Culture". Maroc Local et Nouvelles du Monde | Nouvelles juives du Maroc, dernières nouvelles | מרוקו ג׳וייש טיימס, חדשות מרוקו והעולם | Morocco News | أخبار المغرب. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  7. "יוסף שטרית על ר' דוד בוזגלו". העברים (in עברית). Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  8. "Joseph Chetrit | Institut Universitaire Elie Wiesel". Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  9. "אודות ועדת ביטון - דו"ח המלצות הוועדה". (in עברית). Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  10. Joseph Chetrit, "Configurations morpho-phonétiques dans le parler judéo-arabe de Meknès. Prolégomènes à une description du parler", in J. Lentin and A. Lonnet (eds.), Mélanges David Cohen, Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 2003, pp. 159-172.
  11. Idem, “The Judeo-Arabic of Northern Moroccan Jewish Communities Speaking Judeo-Spanish according to Hebrew Manuscripts of XIXth Century”, Ben ˤEver le-ˤArav 10-11 (2019), pp. 209-263 (Hebrew).
  12. Chetrit, Joseph. "Joseph Chetrit: On Rabbi David Bouzaglo". Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  13. Joseph Chetrit, Hebrew Poetry in Morocco: Studies on Poems and Poets. Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1999 (Hebrew).
  14. Joseph Chetrit, "Music and Poetry as a Shared Cultural Space for Muslims and Jews in Morocco", in M. Bar-Asher and S. D. Fraade (eds.), Studies on  North African Jews, Jerusalem - New Haven, 2011, pp. 65-103.
  15. Joseph Chetrit (main author), Traditional Jewish Wedding in Morocco: Interpretive and Ethnographic Studies. Miqqedem Umiyyam VIII, Haifa 2003 (Hebrew).
  16. Joseph Chetrit, “The Hierarchy of Jewish Festivals in Traditional Jewish Communities: Poetic and Linguistic Structures in a Dispute Poem between Pesaḥ and Sukkot in Moroccan Judeo-Arabic of XVIIIth Century”, in M. Muchnik et Z. Sadan (eds.), Mehkarim ba-cIvrit ha-Ḥadasha u-vi-Lshonot ha-Yehudim Mugashim le-Ora (Rodrigue) Schwarzwald, Jerusalem: Carmel Editions, 2012, pp. 558-579 (Hebrew). Idem, "Délices et fastes sabbatiques. Édition et analyse d'une Qaṣi:da judéo-arabe d'Essaouira/Mogador sur le repas festif du sabbat", in J. Den Heijer, P. La Spisa et L. Tuerlinckx (eds.), Autour de la langue arabe. Etudes présentées à Jacques Grand'Henry à l'occasion de son 70e anniversaire, Louvain-La-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste, 2012. pp. 87-117. 2012, pp. 558-579
  17. Joseph Chetrit,  “A New Awareness of Anomaly and Language: The Beginnings of a Haskalah Movement in Morocco at the End of XIXth Century”, Miqqedem Umiyyam II (1986), pp. 129-168 (Hebrew). Idem, "National Hebrew Modernity Against French Modernity in North Africa at the End of XIXth Century”, Miqqedem Umiyyam III (1990), pp. 11-76 (Hebrew). Idem,  "La Haskala hébraïque dans le monde sepharade", in Sh. Trigano (ed.), Le monde sépharade, vol. I Histoire, Paris: Editions du Seuil 2006, pp. 745-809 ; Idem, "Le monde sépharade en quête de normalité. Réception et perception des nouveaux modèles culturels dans les communautés juives de l'Empire Ottoman et d'Afrique du Nord dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle", in Sh. Trigano (ed.), La civilisation du judaïsme, Paris: Editions de l’Eclat, 2012, pp. 335-376.
  18. Joseph Chetrit, "Mutations in Discourse and Judeo-Arabic of North African Jews at the End of XIXth Century”, Pecamim 53 (1993), pp. 90-123 (Hebrew). Idem, “Tradition du discours et discours de la tradition dans les communautés juives du Maroc”, in S. Menashe (ed.), Communication in the Jewish Diaspora. The Pre-Modern World,  Leiden - New York - Köln: Brill, 1996, pp. 339-407. Idem, "Discours et modernité en Afrique du Nord à la fin du XIXe siècle", in E. Benbassa (ed.), Transmision et Passages en monde  juif , Paris: Publisud, 1997, pp. 379-400.
  19. Joseph Chetrit, "The Secret of David Hareubeni According to a Moroccan Piyyut”, Tarbiz 60/2 (1991), pp. 237-263 (Hebrew). Idem, "L'histoire mouvementée des juifs de Fès", in Fès, l’âme du Maroc. Douze siècles d’histoire, vol. III. Grenade: Editorial Almed, 2017, pp. 1197-1211. English version: “The Eventful History of the Jews of Fes”, in Fes, The Soul of Morocco. Twelve Centuries of History, Grenade: Editorial Almed, 2017, pp. 264-277. Idem, "The Conversion to Islam of Isaac Elharrar in 1932 in Mogador: Documents and Their Interpretation. The Enforcement of a Rabbinical Decision and Its Difficulties Under the Colonial Rule”, in Homage to Moshe Ammar, edited by M. Bar-Asher et al. Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2018, pp. 411-450.
  20. Joseph Chetrit, “Une communauté au passé légendaire, Oufrane”, in M. Mezzine, A. Sasson et A. Gomel (eds.), Communautés juives au sud de l’Anti-Atlas, Casablanca: La Croisée des Chemins, 2015, pp. 93-105. Idem, “Religious Polemics and Invention of Jewish History - A Study of a Chronicle on a Legendary Jewish Kingdom In Darca Valley (Morocco)”, Pecamim 146-147, pp. 9-75 (Hebrew).
  21. Joseph Chetrit, "Les juifs de Mogador (Essaouira) pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale: la terreur de Vichy et sa gestion communautaire", in Dan Mechman et Haim. Saadoun (ed.), Les Juifs d'Afrique du Nord face à l’Allemagne nazie”, Paris: Perrin, 2018, pp. 149-175.
  22. "מקדם ומים - רשימת הכרכים". Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  23. Coffret Tsfon-Macarav contenant une cassette vidéo de près de 2h20, qui comprend la comédie musicale “le marriage juif au Maroc” et des séquences de musique andalouse, des piyyutim et des chansons populaires, accompagnée de 2 CD, de 2 cassettes audio et d’une brochure des textes joués et chantés – Université de Haifa, 1999, and “Un jardin enchanté” – 4 DVD, avec des dizaines de séquences musicales de la tradition andalouse et de piyyutim, ainsi que deux comédies musicales, “le mariage juif au Maroc” et “l’hospitalité” – Université de Haifa, 2012.
  24. “Souffles judéo-andalous” – 4 CD, deux de musique andalouse dans la tradition marocaine et la tradition algérienne et deux de piyyutim en hébreu et de chants en judéo-arabe, avec une brochure luxueuse des textes judéo-arabes et hébraïques. – Université de Haifa, 2007, and “Souffles judéo-andalous II” – 2 CD avec des séquences de musique andalouse, des séquences bilingues (hébreu et judéo-arabe), des piyyutim de fêtes et des chansons populaires – Université de Haifa, 2012.
  25. "Performances by the Tsfon-Macarav Ensemble". Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  26. "חקרי מערב ומזרח : לשונות, ספרויות ופרקי תולדה מוגשים ליוסף שיטרית / בעריכת יוסף טובי ודניס קורזון | שטרית, יוסף | הספרייה הלאומית". (in עברית). Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  27. "הפקולטה למדעי הרוח I אוניברסיטת חיפה - ברכות לפרופ' יוסף שיטרית - 02.08.2020". Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  28. "פרס תור הזהב 2016". Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  29. "Le Prix Haïm Zafrani". (in français). Retrieved 2021-05-21.

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