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  THE JEWS OF EGYPT   הקהילה היהודית במצרים

 
 
 
  EGYPT  
 
SYNAGOGUES IN EGYPT:
Synagogue Eliahu Hanavi, Alexandria
69 Nebi Daniel Street, Ramla Station
Tel: 3-492-3974, 597-4438
The Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo
6 Harett il-Sitt Barbara, Mari Girges, Old Cairo
Phone: 2-847-695
The Meir Enaim Congregation, Cairo
55 #13 Streed, Maadi
Shaarey HaShamayim, Cairo
17 Adli Pasha Street, Downtown Cairo
Phone: 2-749-025

Synagogue Eliahu Hanavi, Alexandria

SYNAGOGUE ELIYAHU HANAVI, ALEXANDRIA   בית הכנסת אליהו הנביא, אלכסנדריה, מצרים
Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, Alexandria. Photo: Moshira, October 6, 2007


Synagogue Ben Ezra, Cairo

SYNAGOGUE BEN EZRA, CAIRO, EGYPT

The Ben Ezra Synagogue (Hebrew: בית כנסת בן עזרא‎, Arabic: معبد بن عزرا‎), sometimes referred to as the El-Geniza Synagogue (Hebrew: בית כנסת אל גניזה‎), is situated in Coptic Cairo, Egypt. According to local tradition, it is located on the site of where baby Moses was found.[1] The land for the synagogue was purchased in 882 CE for 20,000 dinars by Abraham ibn Ezra of Jerusalem.

This was the synagogue whose geniza or store room was found in the 19th century to contain a treasure of abandoned Hebrew secular and sacred manuscripts. The collection, known as the Cairo Geniza, was brought to Cambridge, England at the instigation of Solomon Schechter.


Etz Chaim Synagogue, Cairo.


Haďm Capoussi Synagogue, Cairo


Ibn Maďmoun Synagogue, Cairo

The Maimonides Synagogue (Hebrew: ‎ בית כנסת הרמב"ם, translit: Beit Knesset ha-Rambam; Arabic: كنيس ابن ميمون‎), also known as the Rav Moshe Synagogue, is a historic synagogue located in Cairo, Egypt. A synagogue has existed at the site since the 10th century and was subsequently named after the famous Jewish philosopher, rabbi and physician Maimonides, after his arrival there in around 1168. It is believed that Maimonides' original tomb is contained within the building. In March 2010, the Egyptian government completed the restoration of the current building which dates from the late 19th century.

Early History:

A synagogue has existed at the site from around two centuries before Maimonides emigrated to Egypt in around 1168, following his exile from Córdoba, Spain at the hands of the Almohads.The Almohads had conquered Córdoba in 1148 and threatened the Jewish community with the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile. Maimonides' family, along with most other Jews, chose exile. After spending ten years in southern Spain, they moved to Morocco and then eventually settled in Fustat, Egypt in around 1168. In Egypt, he gained widespread recognition and became a court physician to Qadi al-Fadil, Grand Vezier to Saladin. Maimonides studied and worked in a yeshiva attached to the small synagogue. The synagogue and yeshiva are located in Harat al-Yahud, the Jewish quarter of medieval Cairo, and can only be reached on foot. (In the time of Maimonides, 97% of the inhabitants of Harat al-Yahud were Jews.)

After his death in Fustat on December 12, 1204, it is believed that he was buried for a short while at the synagogue before being reinterred in Tiberias. According to tradition, his bones were placed for a week in a small shrine where he used to study and to heal strangers. (Some believe his bones never left Egypt.)

19th century: Rebuilding

In the 19th century, another synagogue was built on the site and named in his honor

20th century: Disuse and decay

The situation of Egypt's Jews became increasingly precarious in the middle of the 20th century. Rising Arab nationalism, together with increased tensions between Jews and Arabs following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and later, the 1956 Suez War, led to government restrictions on foreign economic activity which deeply impacted Egypt's Jewish community. Several thousand Jewish residents were expelled from the country following the 1956 war and thousands more fled the hostile social and economic conditions. Egypt's Jewish population eventually dropped from 80,000 to less than 100.

With only about 30 Jews (mostly elderly women) left in Cairo, the synagogue was closed, and almost collapsed due to underground water and earthquakes.The ceiling of the building collapsed in 1992, and the debris was left on the floor. The slum area in which synagogue was located was littered with garbage. The head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, said that the synagogue was used for the last time in 1960, and then was allowed to "crumble". Although it was declared an antiquity in 1986, the condition of the medieval synagogue had deteriorated further by 2005. A holy ark with a broken door was located in the small courtyard, covered with debris. The ark's Star of David was still present, but was hanging on only by a thread.

21st century: Restoration

In June 2009, the Egyptian government began a year-long restoration project, unveiled in August 2009 by their head of antiquities Zahi Hawass. The $2 million, 18-month restoration project of the Rav Moshe synagogue, in an area of Cairo once called "the neighborhood of the Jews," was financed by the Egyptian government. The restoration work was finished in March 2010. Along with Maimonides tomb, the synagogue contains two areas that were for prayer and rituals, one of which included a section for women. Among the synagogue's treasures is a Bible that allegedly was written by Maimonides himself. Former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Zvi Mazel, said "the results were spectacular; the original colors were restored almost perfectly".

Inauguration controversy

As restoration work was nearing completion, the Egyptian authorities agreed that the small Jewish community of Cairo would organize a dedication ceremony on March 7, 2010. The official inauguration was planned for the middle of March. The dedication ceremony was closed to media but attendees said it was an emotional event, especially for the Egyptian-Jewish families invited, many of whom now live in Europe. About 150 people attended, none of them Egyptian officials.

On March 14, 2010 the official inauguration ceremony was canceled. Zahi Hawass explained that the cancellation was due to media reports of Jews "dancing and drinking alcohol in the synagogue" during the private March 7 dedication, which Hawass described as a "provocation to the feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims in Egypt and around the world". Hawass later added that the decision to scrap the ceremony was made at "a time when Muslim holy sites in occupied Palestine face assaults from Israeli occupation forces and settlers...". Later still, he characterized the cancellation of the ceremony as a "strong slap in the face" to "the Zionist enemy."

Legends and tradition

According to a legend told by Joseph ben Isaac Sambari, (c.1640 - 1703), a Jewish-Egyptian chronicler of the 17th century, the people who carried the body of Maimonides to the Sea of Galilee for permanent burial mistakenly left one of his toes behind in the synagogue, which at that time was called the synagogue of Western (Tunisian) Jews. Later, one of the people who carried the body had a dream, in which a wise man of Egypt reminded him about the forgotten toe. The toe was later recovered and buried next to the body.

The synagogue and accompanying yeshiva have traditionally been considered to have miraculous healing powers. Until the Egyptian government forbade the practice in 1948, the synagogue was used as a place of healing by the local Jewish community. The ailing person was left to sleep in the special underground room in the hope that the sufferer would dream of Maimonides and get better.


Meir'enaim Synagogue, Cairo


Moussa Dar'i Synagogue, Cairo


Pahad Itzhak Synagogue, Cairo


Sha'ar Hashamayim Synagogue , Cairo

SHAAR HASHAMAYIM SYNAGOGUE, CAIRO, EGYPT   בית הכנסת "שער השמים", קהיר, מצרים
Shaar HaShamayim Synagogue, 17 Adly Street, Ismailia. Active on High Holidays. Architect: Maurice Youssef Cattaui. Completed: 1899. Photo: Daniel Mayer, July 2008

The Sha'ar Hashamayim Synagogue (lit. Gate of Heaven) is located in Cairo, Egypt. The synagogue was also known as Temple Ismailia and the Adly Street Synagogue.

Its long time leader was Chief Rabbi Chaim Nahum. In 2008, the synagogue marked its 100th anniversary. The synagogue was built in a style evoking ancient Egyptian temples, and was once the largest building on the boulevard.

When the synagogue opened in 1899, there was a vibrant Jewish community in Cairo. The last time the synagogue was full was in the 1960s. Today the community numbers 30-40 members, most of them older women.

Although it is considered a Sephardic synagogue, many Ashkenazi Jews were members of the congregation and contributed to its construction and upkeep.

In February 2010, a booby-trapped suitcase was hurled at the synagogue from a nearby hotel. The suitcase caught fire, but no one was hurt and no damage was reported.


Vitali Madjar Synagogue, Cairo

 


 
   
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