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





* Early in June, a two-day conference entitled The History and Culture of the Jews in Modern Egypt took place in Cairo attended by eminent scholars including former ambassador to Egypt Professor Shimon Shamir, now of Tel Aviv University, and Professor Yoram Meital of the University of Ben Gurion at Beersheba. Both have written extensively on the subject. Day two of the conference took place in the library annex of the Adly Street Synagogue followed by a lunch where much of the informal discussions took place. The conference was mentioned in a page-long Cairo Times (Vol 1. Issue 9; June 29-July 9, 1997 P.6) exposť on the fate of the Jewish community in Egypt, much of it quoted from Bassatine News.


Going High-Tec

* The good news is that a generous benefactor promised to provide the Jewish Community Council of Cairo Office (JCC) with a computer and fax. All we now need is a photocopy machine and we'll be ready to take off. These modern working tools come at a time when the world is going cyber and some of us have been left behind. Once the computer is in place, we will go online via an internet homepage. This is why we are looking forward to the arrival of Thomas Winderl, a young Austrian who will give us the required technical support. He is currently doing his military service and has volunteered for the newly introduced Gedenkdienst Corps which is an Austrian WW2 reparations-related program.

Face Lift

The face lift of the JCC's Abassia headquarters, located on the ground floor in part of what used to be l'ecole de la communaute Israelite du Caire, has been completed. Gone are the cakes of dust and the cobwebs that had made their permanent home on the premises.

* Drawing of detailed plans of the graves at the Bassatine Cemetery outside Cairo are scheduled to begin in August with the assistance of two women volunteers. A prototype preliminary sketch of one plot was made last April. This undertaking will identify the Hebrew marked graves transcribing the inscriptions into English; this will solve in part the identity of some of the unmarked graves.

* Due to a generous donation, the planting of about 1,000 trees at Bassatine Cemetery will be possible once the water utility company extendes the cemetery with the necessary fresh water pipe.

Museum Anyone?

* Plans for starting a Museum of Jewish Artifacts is under consideration. The venue suggested is somwhere near the Coptic Museum, not too far from the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo. The Synagogue was restored a few years ago thanks to the generous donation of Ms. Phyllis Lambert of the CCA - Canadian Center of Architecture in Montreal. The creation of a museum will need considerable financing and we look upon the Jewish and historically minded community at large for its support. Perhaps the benefactors of the Ben Ezra Synagogue can be persuaded to undertake the fund raising of this worthwhile project. With the increasing number of tourist arrivals, the museum should be self-sustaining within a short time. The first task of the museum would be to collect and put on display available artifacts starting with those that need to be repurchased from the antiquarians in Khan al-Khalili and the Mousky. Much of these artifacts were disposed of by previous administrations of the JCC who sought to strip the Judaica from forsaken synagogues and sell them in the Antique Market.

Ben Ezra before and after

Restore Maadi's Temple

* Another envisaged plan is to raise $20,000 to restore Maadi's "Meyr Y. Biton" Synagogue and garden. Unlike the remaining Cairo synagogues - with the exception of Char Hachamayim on Adly Street, th Maadi temple is currently used by the growing Jewish expatriate community most of whom live in old Maadi, near the Cairo American College in Digla. Meyr Biton stands at the center of Old Maadi, on ex-Mosseri Street, opposite the residence of the South African ambassador. It is also within walking distance from the villas of the South Korean, Israeli, Mexican and Swiss ambassadors and thus highly visible. Neglected for almost 40 years, the synagogue's restoration has become a dire necessity. Such an endeavor will generate positive PR within this elegant suburb, itself the brainchild of several well thought of 19th century Jewish financiers (Rolo, Cattaui, Menashe, Suares, Mosseri).

* Once again, we reiterate that the process of searching for and transcribing old marriage, birth and death certificates from the community's ledgers is time consuming especially if entries are written in classical Hebrew requiring outside expert assistance. Needless to say, inquiries have to be as accurate as possible. Please note that donations should be made out to the "Jewish Community of Cairo"

* Bassatine News extends its thanks to all those who sent in contributions and donations.


Several historical inaccuracies and misleading statements can be found in the Egypt section of the JEWISH COMMUNITIES OF THE WORLD home page. For instance it wrongly states that...

- The Israeli embassy in Cairo maintains the upkeep of the Chaar Hachamayim (Ismailia Temple) Synagogue in Cairo.
It is the JCC (Jewish Community Council of Cairo) AND NOT the Israeli Embassy in Cairo which runs and maintains the Adly Temple.

- Chaar Hachamayim is the only temple operating in Cairo.
What about the the Meyr Biton temple in Maadi which is open each year from Yom Kipur to Sukkot. And have we forgotten the beautifully restored Ben Ezra in Old Cairo, probably the oldest known synagogue in the world?

- ...after 1948 most Egyptian Jews fled the country and the majority settled in Israel.
Prominent Jewish academics have stated in their publications that less than a third of Egypt's Jews chose to go to Israel. There were over 55,000 Jews in Egypt when Israel, France and Britain attacked Egypt in October 1956 subsequent to President Gamal Abdel Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal. Many of those who left after 1956 were holders of British and French passports and thus considered enemy aliens. With the intensification of the Arab-Israeli conflict after Israel's participation in the Tripartite Agression, most of the Jews who had a choice, left for Europe and America.

- From 1956 to 1979 the Jewish Community in Egypt did not have ties with Israel and the World Jewry.
Although it had no ties with Israel even before 1956, the Jewish community in Egypt maintained relations with Jewish communities in other parts of the world.

- 2,000 Jews were arrested in 1948 following the outbreak of the first Arab-Israeli war.
Why not tell it like it was: Egypt was at war with Israel. Out of the approximate 60,000 - 80,000 Jews living in Egypt at the time, those arrested were either self-declared Zionists possibly members of the Young Hebrew Movement and other like-minded Zionist organizations, or those who had strong Zionist links and supported political Zionism. Unfortunately, there were also those mistakenly arrested as suspect Zionists. The practise of jailing what the state termed 'subversive elements' was not directed specifically at Jews; members of other non desirable political currents -- communists and Moslem Brothers, were treated in a similar manner.

Incomplete, inaccurate and out-of-context rhetoric only contributes to poor relations.

from the Bassa album

Rolando Schinasi with cup flanked by Gilbert Berengier and...

Rolando Schinasi flanked by Gilbert Berengier and (forgot name!!!) (photo courtesy Rolando Schinasi)


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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
+20 122 2115915

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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