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





Elie Nahum Highly recommended book by Elie Nahum of Milano recounting his first 35 years in his birth country, Egypt. Nahum takes you through everyday life typical of a certain segment of Egypt's population that included its Jews, Greeks, Italians and Syrians. Where they lived in Cairo, shopped, ate and leisured; which schools they went to, where they vacationed, played sports; its clubs, cinemas and restaurants etc... A delicious kaleidoscope of Cairo seen through the eager eyes of a child, teenager, adolescent and young man, who's memory later stood by him when, in his late 70s, he decided to transpose his vivid memory onto paper.

Published March 2011 by Nahar Misraim ASPCJE 8 rue des Tanneries, 75013 Paris; email:

Rosh Hashana 1953
Mr Daniel Bivas, president of the jewish community of Egypt, and Haiim Nahoum Effendi, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community of Egypt, welcoming the first president of Egypt, General Mohamad Naguib, at Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue in Cairo during the Jewish New Year 1953 (photo courtesy Albert I. Bivas)


passover 2011

passover 2011

The JCC celebrated Passover 2011 at Shaar Hashamayim with a reduced attendance. Students, who used to attend Pesach with the JCC, left after the revolution. Ditto for some diplomats who joined their families back home. Among this year's attendees were the Austrian ambassador and senior members of the US embassy. The Hagada was read by Israeli Consul Jack Beja who decided to forego another seder in order to celebrate with us.


The JCC Cairo extends its condolences to the family in France of Egyptian-born Max N. Karkegi (September 1931-August 2011) who spent the better part of his adult years safeguarding the memory of Khedivial Egypt. His postcard collection is second to none and his website is one of the most successful in its league. His passing affects the Aboulafia, Mezes, Algazi, Harari, Eliakim and Cattaui families.


On 20 March 2011, the JCC celebrated Purim envers et contre tout; despite recent events. Attendance at Maadi's Meir Biton Temple reached approximately 50 persons. Noticeably absent this year were the children in their various disguise, and the ladies of the Israeli and other embassies. Most were out of town. For those of us who were present, the Megilla of Queen Esther was read in turn by Ambassador Levanon and members of the audience. Weather being mild this time of the year, we had a garden buffet-dinner amid spring flowers and colored lamps. The traditional ozoun aman, a typical Purim dessert, arrived just in time to crown this joyous event.

A small reminder of what we were celebrating: According to the Book of Esther, Haman, the royal vizier to King Ahasuerus in Ancient Persia, planned to kill the Jews, but his plans were foiled by Mordechai and Queen Esther. Henceforth, this day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.

Can anyone discern a contemporary parallel?


Like you, we in Cairo have been anxiously following recent events live on our television sets. In this respect I wish to reassure all concerned that the JCC members are safe and sound. God be thankful that since Friday, 28 January we have only had one instance of vandalism when hoodlums broke into Shaar Hashamayim's courtyard and reception room stealing foodstuff and breaking some chairs in the process. Fortunately, and before any further damage could take place, nearby doormen and local vigilantes chased the intruders out. As of Friday, 4 February 2011, all of our Synagogues were once again under formal protection but since there are no tourists in Cairo at this time, the JCC decided to close them until situation returns to normal. I seize this opportunity to thank our many friends here and abroad who are continuously inquiring about us.

To one and all may God bless you and protect our Egypt.

Carmen Weinstein, JCC Cairo - Thursday, 10 February 2011


Hitchcock's movie Summer 2010. Overblown media speculation regarding an in absentia Cairo Court ruling against JCC President Carmen Weinstein over a real estate scam set off a plethora of local and overseas rumors of her alleged arrest. These were followed by unverified reports of her "disappearance."

Shortly thereafter began the simultaneous sightings: "Weinstein glimpsed in the Big Plains of North America" or "Carmen and her sister seen climbing the Swiss Alps". Better still, "JCC President found meditating in an ashram in the Far East." !!!

The fact remains JCC President Carmen Weinstein was neither apprehended nor was she planning to leave Egypt this summer. Instead, she continued with business as usual leaving matters in the hands of legal counsel and the competent authorities. Eventually the related evidence -- or lack of, came to light and the Court which had accused Weinstein of real estate misdealing, absolved her of all accusations brought against her by plaintiff whose only purpose it seems was to make a quick buck and a few headlines.

"This exhausting episode reminded me of Hitchcock's 1938 thriller 'The Lady Vanishes'," commented Carmen Weinstein when asked how she felt regarding the above polemic.

click on ELAF - first online daily from London since 2001 Cairo Court Absolves Weinstein


AUC students

AUC students
AUC Sociology sudents and Professor Saiid Sadek visit Shaar Hashamayim on Saturday, 13 November 2010

SIMHA TORAH - 30 September; HANNUKA 8 December 2010

carmen weinstein Simha Torah in my opinion is the most mystical of our High Holidays. It commemorates the descent of Moses from Egypt's Mount Sinai carrying two stone tablets on which he had engraved the 10 Commandments--one of the cornerstones of our Jewish Religion.

This year at Shaar Hashamayim a significant crowd attended surpassing the required ten-strong minyan--all of them sturdy men who marched up to the Ekhal carrying with them the Sefer Torahs, going round and round amid the "Zagharits" of the women expressing their joy.

Rabbi Mark El Fassi who has been officiating throughout the High Holiday season was like a chef d’orchestre turning with the Sefers chanting the prayers all along.

Joining us on this holy and happy occasion were American Ambassador Margaret Scoby and Austrian Ambassador Thomas Nader and his wife. Besides the community’s members and friends, a group arrived from the Holy Land whose men participated in carrying the Toras. Also present was Israeli Consul Jack Beja and Vice Consul Alon David as well as some members of the Embassy.

In spite of the freak sandstorm and gusty hot winds, which to some extent disrupted the dinner preparations, it was an overall joyous evening.

Although Rabbi Marc El Fassi left the following day for Paris he promised to return in time for Hannuka.

* * *

Hannuka 2010
eight+1 candles shining bright at Shaar Hashamayim in downtown Cairo

Hannuka 2010
pre-celebration chit-chat

Hannuka 2010
three more candles to go...

Margaret Scoby
US Ambassador lighting a candle

Hannuka 2010
...and here comes the last one

(photo Samir Raafat)

The last religious holiday this year was Hannuka. This is the feast of illumination and miracles.

On this occasion we commemorate the miracle that happened years and years ago when the Maccabites won the war and were once more able to access the Great Temple of Jerusalem. But when they entered they found only one lamp containing undefiled oil. Re-entering the following day they discovered the lamp still had oil so they lit it once more. This went on for the next six days by which time the lamp had consumed the remaining oil.

This year we held the celebration on the last day of Hannuka when we lit eight candles at Shaar Hashamayim in the presence of the Community members and members of the Israeli Embassy. The ceremony was enhanced with the presence of US Ambassador Margaret Scobey who readily lit one of the candles.

After the ceremony, all those present moved to the Synagogue’s community hall where refreshments and the traditional "kraffen" were offered.

Carmen Weinstein - JCC President


Egyptian Bourse book cover chapter on Cattaui

The Egyptian Bourse, Samir W. Raafat, Zeitouna Press, Cairo 2010
reviewed by Michele M. for BN on 22 December 2010

C'est toute l'histoire de la bourse et des actions en Egypte qui prend vie dans ce magnifique album dote de quarante neuf reproductions en couleur de certificats d'action. On doit a Samir Raafat cette plongee dans l'Egypte de la fin du XIXeme siecle au debut du XXeme. Nous sommes a l'age d'or de l'economie liberale en Europe; l'Egypte est un pays exportateur prospere et de nouvelles compagnies y naissent chaque jour. Devant la multiplication de societes par actions il devient de plus en plus necessaire d'encadrer les bourses d'Alexandrie et du Caire dont le fonctionnement est tant soit peu anarchique. Ces deux institutions independantes etaient pourtant semble-t-il dominees par les memes acteurs - Grecs, Anglais, Belges et Juifs. Il faudra attendre plusieurs dizaines d'annees avant de voir des Egyptiens de souche en prendre la direction. A cette epoque des banques apparaissaient et disparaissaient mais le Credit Foncier et la Banque Nationale d'Egypte tenaient solidement la barre du developpement financier de l' Egypte. Coton et canne a sucre etaient le moteur de la prosperite, d'ou la croissance de gigantesques societes agro-industrielles telles que Sucreries et Raffineries d'Egypte, la Societe du Wadi Kom ombo et la societe Cheikh Fadl. Parallelement un essor foncier sans precedent se traduit par l'apparition de societes par action comme la Delta Land Investment company et la societe Oasis du Sahara; la premiere fut a l'origine du developpement de Helwan, de Maadi et du Fayoum et la seconde de la creation d'Heliopolis.
En regardant attentivement les signatures portees sur les certificats d'action on constate que les promoteurs des banques sont aussi les promoteurs de ces societes foncieres. Les memes noms se retrouvent dans les compagnies de transport - chemins de fer, omnibus ou societes de navigation.
Ces certificats d'actions hauts en couleurs se negociaient a la bourse du Caire et a celle de Londres. Ils donnent une image fidele de l'Egypte de l'epoque tout en mettant en evidence la fascination pour le passe pharaonique. Certains certificats representent des scenes agricoles tandis que d'autres semblent evoquer le mouvement maconnique du debut du XXeme siecle.
Sous la plume alerte de Samir Raafat c'est la vie foisonnante de l'epoque qui renait: les societes qui se font et se defont, les intrigues, les personnages. Il y a la des nationalistes convaincus qui s'opposent a la domination etrangere - politique et economique; d'autres qui sont au service d'interets britanniques, francais ou belges. Au passage l'auteur nous fait revivre la naissance de certains des quartiers les plus chics du pays au Caire ou a Alexandrie.
C'est pendant les vingt-deux annees du regne du Khedive Abbas Hilmi II que les institutions de la bourse du Caire et de celle d'Alexandrie ont ete mises en place. Aussi son petit-fils, le prince Abbas Hilmi III, a bien voulu ecrire la preface de cet ouvrage qui evoque le courageux combat de son grand-pere pour assurer a l'Egypte la place qui lui revenait au sein des economies de pointe du debut du vingtieme siecle.
Historiens, financiers et amateurs de souvenirs se plongeront avec bonheur dans ce livre attachant.
Samir W. Raafat est l’auteur de deux autres ouvrages historiques: Maadi 1904-1962 History and Society in a Cario Suburb; et Cairo The Glory Years.

"reviewed!!!" by A. Abdelgaffar for Ahram Hebdo on 12 January 2011


While surfing the net Victor Edgard Hanan came across Bassatine News. Born in 1947 he was bar-mitzvad at Adly (Shaar Hashamayim) Synagogue before leaving Egypt in 1965. It was his great-great uncle Baroukh Hanan who founded Synagogue Hanan in Ghamra (3 Rue Qantaret).

Two years ago (2008) Victor found a copy of the Hanan Synagogue Siddur on e-bay but did not succeed in his bid for it. He has generously agreed to share with us two very precious photos which we display below.

Hanan Synagogue

great uncle Hanan
Great Uncle Baroukh Hanan





Message from JCC President Carmen Weinstein

On 19 May 2010 we decided to celebrate Shavuot in the newly restored Maimonides Synagogue in Cairo’s Haret El Yahoud—Jews' Lane, not far from the legendary Khan al-Khalili bazaar in the Mousky-Gamalia district.

It's been years since we celebrated Shavuot. Not having a resident Rabbi or Hazan makes it difficult to celebrate minor festivals. However, this year, Rabbi or not, I decided it would be a good opportunity to inaugurate Rav Moshe Synagogue with a religious feast.

Shavuot is the feast of fields, of sheaves of wheat, of corn and of a very touching story of loyalty and consideration between two women: Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Shavuot is also a story of mutual love and respect between two women, one a Moabite and the other, a Jewess. It celebrates how they helped and supported one another regardless of their different religions and despite the death of their respective male protectors.

For our good fortune we had the visit of Mr. Albert Herscovitch of Montreal's Association of Jews from Egypt who kindly volunteered to read the biblical text referring to Shavuot.

Even though the celebration was originally limited to members of the JCC, I don’t know how, but soon we were joined by friends of the community as well as tourists who were visiting the historic Hara. Finding the Synagogue open they asked if they could join in.

We ended this pastoral feast with a buffet of cheese and dough, and delicious cheesecakes. I remember how long ago at Shavuot we used to eat cheese samboussek, cheese pastries and cheese raviolis. Sometimes worshippers would add a goose for added relish.

On 19 May we did what we could and Rav Moshe did the rest. Surrounded by golden luminosity as daylight filtered through the Synagogue’s yellow-paneled windows, the commemoration was blessed with a miraculous shaman ambiance.

As with this year’s Shavuot, we hope to celebrate our coming holidays in an atmosphere of conviviality and peace.


In an interview with Elpah Online JCC president candidly summarizes the present situation of the ancient Bassatine Cemetery... for details of interview click on ELAPH 


Following our Bassatine News (BN) editorial is a self-explanatory letter sent to JCC President from the author of an article which appeared on 10 September 2010 in the New York Times entitled SPENDING THE JEWISH NEW YEAR ALONE IN A NEW LAND.

While the NYT article is over dramatized and embroidered for effect, which is typical under the circumstances, its author and her journalist husband would have saved time and effort had they simply googled "Cairo + Jew" or better still "Synagogue + Maadi" or " Jew + Egypt" or any such combination as have so many ordinary visiting Jews before them.

By googling the above they would immediately have come across Bassatine News (BN) or the countless links leading to it. Therein Jennifer Conlin and Daniel Rivkin would have found ALL the details of how to get to the Synagogue as well as a hotline to obtain details and schedules concerning the High Holiday celebration.

Like any Jewish worshipper or 'journalist' newly arrived in Egypt, or anyone wanting to write about contemporary Jews in Egypt for that matter, it would have been expected that in our day and age he/she would have consulted BN which is choc full of details, stories and write-ups regarding the community past and present, along with photos of long-ago and recent events. Moreover, any unqualified internet surfer would have realized that other journalists had written about the community although with far less props and drama.

As for the descriptive chestnut used by the author of the NYT article where her husband allegedly parked the car at a distance from the Synagogue so that

"as the fading light cast long shadows from towering palm trees and slender minarets in our path, we walked on, scanning the quiet streets for fellow worshipers to follow. None appeared. I glanced at our three children — hair combed, clothes clean, their heads uncharacteristically tilted toward the ground — and wondered, not for the first time since arriving in Egypt a few weeks earlier, should we really be living here?"

Apart from the melodrama of the well dressed American family meandering in a foreign land, BN cannot but laugh off the part of fading long shadows from slender minarets since there are no mosques in sight within the Temple’s EXTENDED perimeter unless the well-dressed Amercian family confused the two-blocks-away Catholic Church for a Mosque… tks tsk tsk…

By the same token the Rivkins could not differentiate between mango trees, flame trees and jacarandas from date palms, the latter being practically absent from Maadi's vegetation! Desperate to pepper her article with crisis buildups, its author resolved to discreditable typecast.

All one can say to the author of the article and her husband is spare us the cliches PLEASE, especially since the township of Maadi has been the elected place of residence of foreigners since the 1910s and the sight of a "meandering" bunch of Americans is as common as drinking water from the Nile. But then perhaps the Rivkins have not yet removed their pre-conceived blinkers.

It is true that we, the Jews of Egypt, are a tiny dwindling community. Likewise it is correct to say that our places of worship are very closely guarded for our own safety and those of the surrounding residents. And yes, we are more often than not short of a minyan and sometimes rely on Jewish tourists and students, but for Pete’s sake stop using us as fodder for what has become formulaic articles for journalists who are in want of something to write about.

If the author and her journalist husband are truly concerned for our welfare and as she claims in her letter to the JCC president, 'that many outside Egypt are eager to know about Jewish life in present-day Egypt', why then did she not mention in her article our more-than-objective and very accurate-informative website that has been around for over 15 years? Surely this is one way for NYT’s readers to learn more about the small community and keep abreast of its news rather than limit themselves to a drawn-out commentary or misrepresented article every so often.

Desperate for a story, the author and her husband chose instead to play the naïve off the boat arrivals, giving us the 'lost in a foreign land' spiel and yes, the 'how very stunned' they were at the size of the tiny Jewish community... Hel-lo… where have you been all these years when internet became a basic tool for any curious journalist?! Or do you not read anything else other than what you write?

All we can say at BN is that it is worrisome that media persons such as the Rivkins have been sent overseas to cover stories for their publication(s) or wire service (Reuters?)... Our advice to Jennifer and Daniel is to omit the theatrics and to please "Google Before You Leap” thus sparing us and their readers more stage shows and worn-out cliches… otherwise, they would be both better off remaining in the United States reporting on rising homegrown ethnic racism or alternately, elaborating on local sectarian violence in the Republic of Ireland since the article's author claims to be of Irish Catholic descent. We in Cairo can do without your stage setting and empty theatrics.

Dear Carmen,
Daniel phoned me to tell me how upset you were about my article in the New York Times last Sunday. I am so sorry, as I fear you think we are ungrateful for all you do to keep the synagogues alive and operating. Nothing was more special for us during our time in Cairo than being a part of the very small Jewish community there and I know that Daniel has enjoyed the services this week celebrating Rosh Hashana. He plans to join you tomorrow for Yom Kippur.
I can see how angry you must get when anyone writes anything sad about the very small Jewish community in Cairo (I remember you did not like Lucette's piece about visiting Adly street alone.) You do so much to keep that small group together and to welcome Jewish tourists and the small group of expatriates, in the hopes that no one will feel sad who is Jewish in Egypt. But I think what you do not realize is the reaction to the article was very positive in the States, as I knew it would be.
I have heard from so many people who did not know there was ever a large Jewish community in Egypt. They had no idea there were synagogues in Cairo that one can still visit. They were impressed that a Rabbi flies in and keeps them alive with services twice a year. They want to visit Cairo and see the synagogues. They want to donate money and help the community so it can continue to exist and the synagogues can be maintained. I know that you had a bad experience with the Historical group in New York, wanting to move all the Jewish antiquities out of Cairo. I am a true supporter of your cause that those antiquities must stay in Egypt, where the history exists.
The New York Times asked me to write this article first, wanting me to then write a guide to visiting the synagogues in Cairo and the one in Alexandria. I explained that not all of them are open all the time and that some are rarely open and that you are basically in charge of them. They would love to run something, as we discussed last May, in which Jewish tourists could not just visit these places but also have a way of donating to the community. Again, my apologies. I admire you very much and what you have done in Egypt. Have an easy fast.
Jennifer Conlin
author of 10 September 2010 NYT article


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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
mobile: 0122 2115915
from outside Egypt call
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Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue @ 17 Adly Street, downtown Cairo
open daily 10:00 to 15:00
Friday 10:00 to 17:00
Sunday closed

Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fostat (Old Cairo)
open daily 09:00 to 16:00

For visits to other Cairo synagogues or Bassatine Cemetery contact JCC

The JEWISH COMMUNITY COUNCIL of ALEXANDRIA (JCCA president: Youssef Ben Gaon) can be reached by email at:
and by telephone on +20 3 484-6189 or +20 3 486-3974 or by ordinary mail at
No. 69 Nebi Daniel Street, Alexandria, Egypt

please note the Jewish Community Council of Alexandria is an independent entity separate from the Jewish Community Council of Cairo

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