United States Department of State
Assistant Secretary of State for
Near Eastern Affairs
Washington D.C. 20520-6258
May 23, 2001
Ms. Desire L. Sakkal
Mr. Joseph E. Mosseri
The Historical Society of Jews from Egypt
P.O. BOX 230445
Brooklyn, N.Y 11223
Dear Ms. Sakkal and Mr. Mosseri,
I have been asked to respond to your March 20, 2001 letter to President George W. Bush regarding Jewish religious articles and documents in Egypt.
First, permit me to assure you that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is aware of the issue and has addressed it with Egyptian Government officials and members of the Cairo Jewish community. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer is in frequent contact with the leadership of the Jewish community, particularly Mrs. Carmen Weinstein. Mrs. Weinstein has an on going dialogue with senior Egyptian officials regarding the artifacts in question. She and Egyptian officials advise us that the designation of these artifacts as antiquities (which may not be removed from Egypt) accords fully with the wishes of the local Jewish community.
We understand there may be approximately 100 Torah scrolls in Egypt, of which approximately half are stored in less-than ideal conditions. The Embassy has raised with leaders of the local Jewish community the possibility of sending at least some of the scrolls to be archived properly in the the U.S. for the good of the material. Local community leaders do not favor this idea and have expressed the strong preference that the artifacts not leave Egypt.
We greatly appreciate your interest and understand your concern, but do not believe the U.S. Government can intervene in this matter, given the expressed sentiments of the local Jewish community.
Please do not hesitate to contact me again if we may be of assistance on this or any other matter.
Richard A. Roth, Acting