BASSATINE NEWS  the ONLY Jewish newsletter reporting directly from Egypt
A Community Chronicle put out by the Jewish Community Council (JCC) of Cairo since 1995




The JCC sends its best wishes to one and all on the occasion of Roshannah and Yom Kippur 2003

Brandt's Bar Mitzvah in Maadi Temple.

Two back-to-back Bar Mitzvah's were celebrated at the Maadi Synagogue this June... Story


Mlle Politi

Several generations who attended the Lycee Francais in Maadi will remember Mlle Politi, that often scowling yet very familiar face who taught and later supervised at the school since the 1950s. In retirement since the 1980s the veteran Mademoiselle was never entire alone. Many visited her at her modest apartment on the noisier side of Maadi. And when she fell ill during her last years her faithful students dropped by and footed the medical bills. Later when she was hospitalized, Mademoiselle was in the good care of yet another group of former students; today distinguished members of the medical profession. "She was an institution" recalls Abdel Gaffar who remembers Politi as a very fair and dependable 'surveillante' at the Lycee. "She dedicated her life to her profession. There are few like her today."

Odette Isaac Menahem Politi was born on 17 October 1916; and at her request was laid to rest at Bassatine on 2 October 2002 by the JCC.


Recently broadcast by regional satellite channels, the Arabic-language TV series Horseman Without a Horse caught the international media's attention because of its reference to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in some of its episodes. What remains unreported however, is that it's precisely in Egypt that the series received the strongest criticism yet for its misleading content, below standard acting and equally deficient directing.
Critics and viewers alike agree Horseman was among the worse TV shows aired last Ramadan, a month where competing channels launch a copious bouquet of mini-series and sitcoms. Besides becoming the butt of caricatures and the like, the press had a field day tearing the series apart.
If some critics renamed the series "The Horseman Withouth a Pony" or "A Series With No Purpose", a recent article called it "The Horseman Without a Donkey." In an Arabic-language daily, Mohammed Sobhi, the series's director and lead actor, was accused of producing a base, poorly researched and third rate TV series. "It not only only brought nothing of value to the public, but worse still, it earned Egypt the wrath of those who seek to undermine it" exclaimed historian Abdel Azim Ramadan. "Was it at all necessary to bring up an issue that's been refuted by everyone else?" Words echoed in several dailies including the widely read Rosa Al Youssef weekly magazine.
Many in Egypt believe that had it not been for the international outcry, the failed series would have gone the way of so many others-- the Editors' Cut wastebasket.
Various members of the Egyptian and foreign media approached JCC's president for her own thoughts on the series. Although not different from those already expressed by the public at large, her comments were nevertheless published in Al Gomhuria, the state-owned Cairo daily.

For an account of this interview click here.

Societe d'Etudes Historiques Juives d'Egypte

bulletin Among the books and publications at the JCC is a collection of bulletins put out by the Egyptian Historical Society for Jewish Studies EHSJS

The EHSJS was formed in November 1925 and held its first assembly on May 30, 1926. On that day the society comprised 51 members including 5 correspondents outside Egypt. The treasurer reported a balance of LE 10 and 44 piasters. A hefty sum in those days!

Going through the Society's first Bulletin published in 1929 in French and Arabic one learns the following:

One of the Society's first task was to re-organize the 10-year old library recently located at the Ismailia (Adly) Synagogue. The library apparently contained over 850 works gathered from various synagogues located in the "harra" (Haret El Yahud-Jewish ghetto) in Mousky.

Another task was the publication of a periodic bulletin aiming at educating the public at large of Jewish history, life and culture in Egypt and the Middle East across the ages. To that end a sub-committee headed by Grand Rabbi Nahum (1873-1960) and supervised by Joseph Forte would screen over 450 historic manuscripts and indigenous genizas written in Hebrew, Turkish and Arabic. These would undoubtedly shed new light on yet undisclosed elements of day to day life in the middle ages.

The Society would also assist academics wanting to research local Jewish history. In that respect two such researchers were already on hand: Professor Ruben Brainin from New York and Mr. Finkel, a student of archeology at Columbia University. While the latter headed for Upper Egypt, Brainin traveled northwards into the Delta bearing on the town of Mehalla al-Kobra which boasted a Jewish community then-headed by Aslan Abecassis who was also gabbay of the local synagogue "Keniss Al Ostaz".

EHSJS members attending the first general assembly were as follows:

HE Haim Nahum Effendi honorary - president
HE Youssef Cattaui Pasha - Executive President

Executive Committee:

Hector Cattaui
Salomon Cicurel
Abramino Menashe
Isaac E. Nacamuli
J. H. Perez
Robert Simon Rolo
Leon Suares

Correspondents abroad:
George H. Cattaui (London)
Meir Laniado
Abrahma Almaleh
M. D. de Picciotto

Abramino Ascher, Sami Acher, René Adda, Benoit Anzarout, Charles Anzarout, Clement M. Attié, Samuel Avigdor (treasurer), Leon Babani, H. Braunstein, Henri Cattaui, René Cattaui, Moise Cherezli, Israel Cohen, Israel Cohanoi, Dr. Hilel Farhi, Mourad Bey Farag (secretary), Albert Forté, Joseph Forté (Vice Pesident), Ralph Harari, Jacues Hoefler (secretary), Boris Kahanof, Theophile Levym, Guido Levy, Alberto Luzena, Joseph Leibovitch, Joseph Massouda, Dr. Max Meyerhoff, Dr. S. Michaeloff, Dr. Albert Mosseri, Leon Mehrez, Georges Meyer, Mrs. Albert Mosseri, Henri Molho, Daniel Saporta, Moise I. Sanoua, Lucien Sciuto, Michel Sednaoui, Israel Wolfenson, Joseph Elie Jabes, Alfred Yallouze, Victor Zagdoun.

Joseph Cattaui Pasha with Rabbi Haim Nahoum Effendi

Rabbi Haim Nahoum's funeral at Shaar Hashamayim in 1960 (photos from JCC archives)


JCC congratulates "Counselor" Aaron Kiviat in New York City for graduating from Law School and wishes him best of luck for his Bar Exams next February-March, 2003. One day if you're in these parts Aaron, come by and visit. See for yourself how the trees have grown at Bassatine where you spent long hours under the August sun mapping it out for us.


Better late than never, the Rabbinate in Abbassia is undergoing some rejuvenation starting with the pantry and restrooms. Funds permitting, a plan to give the entire premises a good whitewash is in the offing.

Grand Rabinat Abbassia
main corridor at Grand Rabinate, Abbassia
(photo Samir Raafat)


The JCC Cairo would like to extend its condolences to Dr. Max Salama, famous Alexandria dentist and president of the JCCA, for the death in New York, USA on 10 June 2003 of his sister Renee Courtney (nee Salama)


Danish Bishops in Cairo
(photo Samir Raafat)

Danish bishops Niels Henrik Arendt and Erik Norman Svendsen visited Cairo in May 2003 Their tour included a whistle stop at Adly Synagogue with Ms. Carmen Weinstein there to meet them.


Once a major cotton-gathering center in Egypt's Delta, Mahalla al-Kobra boasted a thriving Jewish community that in the 19th century already numbered 300 families with an aggregate Jewish population of around 1,500.

The town's Synagogue "Keniss al-Ostaz" was a venue for many a celebration and religious occasion. Visitors arrived from all over the country to celebrate what had became a folkloric 'moulid.' Meat was distributed to the poor, and song and dance took place inside the temple's courtyard glorifying the memory of Al Ostaz after whom the Synagogue was named 'Keniss Al Ostaz.'

The actual temple was built circa 1884-5 on a site of another centuries-old Synagogue.

During the first quarter of the 20th century Keniss Al Ostaz was at Western perimeter of the town of Mehalla Al Kobra, close to the cemeteries. But as the city grew and expanded in all directions, the temple found itself well inside the city boundaries. In time, buildings and apartment houses replaced the neighboring homes of local Jews and a former Jewish school that had taught Hebrew to about 400 students.

Describing the temple in 1929 Alfred Yallouz relates how "The Synagogue's interior had the usual high ceiling supported by marble columns imported from Europe. In the 'Hekal' was an old bible wrapped in silk material. A careful examination of the bible's tarnished silver covering evidenced that it had been dedicated to the Doctor of Law (Al Ostaz) Haim Al Amchati, his two brothers and the members of his family. An inscribed date suggests the bible could be 7 centuries old."

Legend has it that Rabbi Al Amchati's (a.k.a. Al Ostaz) tomb lies below the Synagogue. It is therein that the bible was discovered several centuries ago, which prompted the construction of the original temple. Amchati's anniversary was celebrated the 1st of Iyar each year.



1958-59 celebrations at Mahalla Al Kobra Synagogue "Keniss Al Ostaz"

Needless to day, Keniss Al Ostaz is in dire need of restoration today.


Which Egyptian actress was King Farouk's favorite and died in TWA's Flight 904 plane crash near Wadi Al Natrun on August 31, 1950?


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Jewish Community Council (JCC) of Cairo
# 13 Sabil El Khazindar Street
Midan al-Geish, Abbassia, Cairo

tel: +20 2 2482-4613 - tel/fax +20 2 2736-9639
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from outside Egypt call
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