|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|
Jacques Hassoun, 63, died in Paris last week after a long fight against a brain tumor. Despite increasing health difficulties, he refused to let his illness discourage him and continued to work and attend to his extra-curricular activities. A renowned psychiatrist (founded in 1981 with four colleagues the Cercle Freudien) Hassoun was increasingly interested in contemporary Jewish history in Egypt. His most important biographical profile "Histoire des Juifs du Nil (Minerve, 1990) is an excellent reference book on Egyptian Jews in the first half of this century.
Born in Alexandria in 1936 Hassoun settled in France in 1954 where he pursued his studies and ultimately remained. During the last two decades he returned several times to Egypt sometimes in the company of large groups of former Egyptian Jews. His Paris-based Association Pour la Preservation du Patrimoine Culturel Juif d'Egypte was among the first to echo the alarm sent out by the undersigned in Cairo, that unless something was done about the Rabbinical cemetery of Bassatine (southeast of Cairo) there would soon be no cemetery. Bassatine subsequently received a grant from his association, a move which encouraged others, such as the World Sephardic Federation to donate sum for for the erection of a protective wall around the cemetery's vastly reduced perimeter.
Over the years I came to know Jacques better and better. Not only was he a mine of information regarding Jewish history in Egypt, but he was also an excellent researcher--what he did not know he would find out soon enough. But what I most admired in him was his open mindedness both to religion and historical facts. Likewise I enjoyed his sense of humor and welcomed his sense of optimism. Whenever I would be down and out ready to throw in the towel regarding efforts to save Cairo's Jewish cemetery, he would call from Paris and spark me up. He was confident the second oldest Jewish cemetery in the world would enter its third millenium. How sad that he missed seeing the realization of his predictions by a few months.
When I first met Jacques Hassoun in 1983, we went to visit together the Yeshiva and synagogue of Moses Maimonides. Walking in Haret al-Yahood-Cairo's Jewish Quarter he was overjoyed to find one the small alleys still bearing a plate with the name Atfet Hassoun-Hassoun Alley commemorating his grandfather having been the owner of the largest house on that alley.
Then we went to Fishawy's Café and as we sipped our tea, he told me "When people ask me what is your nationality, I answer 'I am Egyptian.' Even though I am French I feel am, and will always be, Egyptian"
He wanted so much to return to, and attend the festivities at, the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, but his illness made him put it off. In our last phone conversation he said "I will come. I must visit Ben Ezra, Rab Moshe and Bassatine once more."
I am sure though his body is buried in Paris, Hassoun's soul rests amongst us in Egypt.
You can e-mail the Jacques Hassoun family at: HASSOUN
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C O N T A C TJewish Community Council (JCC) of Cairo
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