Walter Francis Lectures on “Building Memory: Jewish Communal Reconstruction in Postwar Tunisia, 1945-1967”

For twenty-two years after the Allied liberation of North Africa from Nazi occupation, Tunisian Jewish political and religious authorities sought to secure a place for the Jews in Tunisian national and civic life. Contrary to the experience of other Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities, antisemitism in Tunisia generally arose from personal conflict between neighbors, rather than from legal and political discrimination from government authorities. Until the aftermath of the Six Day War, Tunisian Jews were active in the Tunisian independence movement, and worked to weave their community into the daily life of a multicultural Tunisian state. By examining the efforts by the JDC to reform Jewish education in Tunisia, to sustain the network of synagogues and yeshivas, and to build a new Jewish library and museum in Tunis in the aftermath of World War II, this project aims to demonstrate how Tunisian Jewish political, religious and cultural authorities envisioned a Tunisian-Jewish future while commemorating their history in the communal spaces frequented by Tunisian Jews.

Walter Francis, the 2022 recipient of the Ruth and David Musher / JDC Archives Regional Fellowship, is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He completed his B.A. in history and public relations at the American University in Washington D.C. in 2018 and obtained a Master of Arts from the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University in 2020. His research has been supported by fellowships at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and he is currently at work on a dissertation which considers the historical memory of the Tunisian Jewish community of the Nazi Occupation of November 1942–May 1943.

The JDC Archives Fellowships allow scholars engaged in graduate level, post-doctoral, or independent study to conduct research in the JDC Archives, either in New York or Jerusalem. All fellows give a public presentation on their research; watch more of these JDC fellowship lectures here.

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