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HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF JEWS FROM EGYPT

 
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HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF JEWS FROM EGYPT

 
 
search HSJE site or the web
 

 

Egyptian Jewish community fights to keep its treasures

By: GREER FAY CASHMAN
Date: Monday, June 2, 1997
Jerusalem Post

A protracted battle is raging between the 100-member Jewish community of Egypt and expatriate Egyptian Jewish communities abroad.

At the heart of the conflict are Torah scrolls and other artifacts and ritual objects which the expatriate communities are seeking to take out of Egypt against the wishes of the resident community.

The scattered remnants of Egyptian Jewry were lambasted in an open letter signed by Esther Weinstein, president of the Jewish Community of Cairo, who criticized them for trying to take everything Jewish out of Egypt, instead of sending funds for maintenance and restoration of synagogues, cemeteries, and holy objects.

Weinstein singled out Nessim Gaon, president of the World Federation of Sephardi Jews, and philanthropist Phyllis Lambert for providing funds for the renovation of the Sha'ar Hashamayim synagogue and the restoration of the 1800-year-old Ben Ezra synagogue, but they are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Leading figures in Cairo's dwindling Jewish community are currently working to saving the Bassatine Jewish Cemetery and the remaining 12 synagogues in Egypt and are eager to build a museum to permanently house Egypt's Jewish heritage.

The Brooklyn-based Historical Society of Jews from Egypt plans to build a museum of its own in New York and hopes to bring remaining Jewish relics from Egypt to the US.

The society is meeting with strong resistance from Cairo, where the general feeling among the Jewish population is that what was created, donated, and dedicated in Egypt should remain in Egypt. Furthermore, since nearly all the artifacts are more than 100 years old, to take them out of Egypt would violate the Egyptian antiquities law.

 

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