|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|
Rabbi Mark al-Fassi with US Ambassador Ann Patterson
...and then there was light!
l'chaim @ head table
French Ambassador Nicolas Galey shares matza bread with JCC President Carmen Weinstein
photos by Samir Raafat
Egypt's 80,000 Jews celebrated Pessah in their homes. So did my own family. And since during WW2 there were Allied troops stationed in Cairo, we usually invited two or three Jewish soldiers to join us for Seder. We also had non-Jewish friends of my parents joining us. My grandfather read the Haggada and it lasted almost two hours with glass after glass refilled with wine.
We the kids waited patiently for the prayers to end so as to partake of the sumptuous dinner, which my ma and grandma had been cooking for the past two days.
PASSOVER 1952-79 - THE REVOLUTION YEARS
We continued to celebrate Passover at home despite the dwindling Jewish population. The men in the family had passed away one after the other. The cousins who usually joined us eventually emigrated and it was left to my mother and me to resume the tradition of reading the Haggada and eating a less lavish Seder.
PASSOVER AFTER THE PEACE TREATY
With the first Israeli Embassy opening in Cairo it was the Ben Elissars (Eli & Nitsa) who re-launched communal Seder with most of the members of the Jewish Community attending in full regalia.
This tradition was upheld by successive Israeli ambassadors climaxing in a remarkable joint presence of the members of both the Cairo and Alexandria Communities, plus visitors, expats, students etc., thanks mostly to the efforts of Michelle Mazel, the indefatigable wife of the then-Israeli ambassador, Mr. Zvi Mazel.
Then, too, this slowed down with the last several ambassadors preferring to go home to celebrate. This is when I decided to keep up the tradition and started Passover Feast in the Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue festive hall.
At first we had help from members of the Israeli embassy to conduct the prayers. But then, in 2004, we received a call from a Rabbi in Paris who expressed his wish to help any diaspora community celebrate the religious High Holidays. The surprise caller was the Moroccan-born Rabbi Marc Elfassy who by now had become a French citizen living in Paris. Elfassy proved a great help since he speaks French and Arabic and, above all, is a great chef. For festive occasions the latter talent is quite important!
With about 50 people attending it was an almost full house. While Rabbi Marc read the Haggada in Hebrew, some participants read parts in English with Seth Wikas from the US Embassy and Mr. David Drake, the new Canadian ambassador helping out with the French and English translation.
As usual we had the pleasure of the company of our good friend the American Ambassador, Ann Patterson and her husband as well as French ambassador Mr. Nicolas Galey. We were also joined by members of the US Embassy, by American students studying in Cairo, by good friends of our community, and by our Community members, some of them accompanied by their children who are half Jewish.
At this point I wish to mention that the Jewish Community in Alexandria and its president, Mr. Youssef Ben Gaon, also celebrated Passover. They were joined by the American consul in Alexandria and members and friends of the Alexandria Jewish community.
Whereas in past years the Cairo attendance was over a 100, the recent declining numbers notwithstanding we’re thankful that we are still a crowd, albeit a small one.
WHY THIS PERSISTENT RESENTMENT?
Whereas Greer Fay Cashman gave us positive coverage on 28 March in her popular Jerusalem Post column (thank you Greer Cashman) I am at a loss to understand why it was necessary for the appearance in another Israeli daily a spiteful article signed Ada Aharoni who, it seems, finds untold satisfaction in characterizing the Alexandria and Cairo Jewish communities as finished and done with and that the state forbids us from celebrating our high holidays!!!
Since I cannot explain the reason for such gratuitous malice, is there anyone out there who can give us an explanation? After all, in our website "Bassatine News" issue 33, we gave out details and pictures in virtual real-time even as Passover was still being celebrated in other time zones. Perhaps Ms Ada does not have a laptop or Ipad.
All I can say to the Aharonis out there is that we pray to God that He continues to look after His diligent Egyptian flock while protecting us from the spite of those among our own brethren who resent us.
Carmen Weinstein - 2 April 2013
Rabbi Mark al-Fassi greeting guests as they arrived
seen here with Mr. Sarwat Awwad
(photos Samir W Raafat)
read: CAIRO SEDER in JERUSALEM POST
27 March 1937 advertisment in al-Ahram daily
"pessah table oil produced by the Kafr al-Zayat Cotton Company"
The Haroun sisters, Magda and Nadia, were recently on the Franco-German channel ARTE and the French Channel TV5. Both programs can be watched on YouTube
CARMEN WEINSTEIN VINDICATED FROM ALL CHARGES OF DECEPTIVENESS
IN 2010 Carmen Weinstein learned that a Mr. Nabil Badie Bishay had raised a court case against her claiming he was hoodwinked out of LE 3 million which he had paid for the purchase of a property belonging to the JCC. Moreover, that he was unable to claim possession of same since Weinstein "Had treacherously withdrawn her power of attorney in his favor precluding him to complete the paperwork for the title transfer." (!!!)
Since the said claims were baseless Weinstein answered the summons with a counter court case claiming Bishay had no case and that it was simply a matter of another maverick wanting to steal real estate belonging to the JCC.
The case was highly mediatized in Cairo and abroad. And like similar court cases, it dragged on in court with 'change of venue' and claims and counter claims.
On 5 February 2013 the competent court of Abdeen district ruled that Mr. Bishay had no claim and that all charges against Carmen Weinstein were to be summarily dropped.
The following day the press had a field day announcing Carmen Weinstein's innocence.
HEADLINES DURING THE ON-GOING COURT CASE
CARMEN VINDICATED! says al-Ahram, Egypt's leading quasi government daily echoed by other newpapers (below)
playful puppies guarding Meyr Biton's southern entrance (March 2013)
before motif was added to main entrance
main entrance - lotus flower or palm tree?
(photos Samir W Raafat)
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