Egypt’s Jewish Community Council unanimously chose a new leader on Monday, Magda
Haroun, amidst the mourning over the passing of the community’s former head,
Carmen Weinstein, whose funeral will take place on Thursday, according to the
Bassatine website for the Egyptian- Jewish community.
Haroun expects to
be the dwindling Jewish community’s last leader, she told Egyptian Al-Ahram on
“We will live in Egypt forever,” Haroun said.
to the Bassatine website, Weinstein said there are around 50 members of the
community, but she thinks it is actually higher since some have assimilated,
marrying Christians or Muslims, and others are not religious and stay away from
Jewish communal life.
Haroun said that if she is unable to find the
necessary funding to maintain the community's synagogues, she would turn to
UNESCO. Haroun also “refused talk of any aid from Israel.”
interview with the AP on Wednesday, Haroun said she considers herself Egyptian
first and then Jewish.
It is not clear if Haroun is merely protecting
herself and her community by disassociating herself from Israel, or whether she
really believes Egyptian-Jews should not be involved with the Jewish
Haroun’s views seem to flow from those of her father, Chehata
Haroun, who died in 2001 and was one of the founders of the Egyptian Communist
Party in the 1940s. He was also one of the founders of the socialist National
Progressive Unionist Party, also known as the Tagamu Party, in 1977, according
to his obituary published in 2001 by Al-Ahram Weekly
and linked to on the
“When my schoolmates used to distress me with their
comments on my Jewish origin, I would go crying to my father,” Haroun said in
the obituary. “He would remind me that Palestinians in Israeli schools face the
same situation and tell me that their life was not any easier.”
states that her father taught her to be both a proud Jew and
Haroun also recounts in the article an incident in 1967 when
her father was arrested by the authorities: “Only a few days before his arrest,
my father was talking about joining the army to fight in the war against Israel.
So when police came and took him away [because of his religion], I thought that
he was going to the army, and I wanted to go with him. When I learned why
he had been arrested, I was so angry. It was only his strong love of Egypt that
enabled him to overcome these situations. He never thought of leaving Egypt and
raised us by the same principles.”
Haroun was born in Alexandria in 1952
and attended high school at the Lycee Francais School in Bab El Louk, Cairo
before graduating from Cairo University’s School of Applied Arts. She is
fluent in Arabic, English, and French.
She joined her sister Nadia Haroun
at the firm Haroun & Haroun dealing with patents and legal affairs,
according to the Bassatine website.
The Jerusalem Post tried to reach
Haroun for this article and was told by her sister Nadia that she would only be
able to speak next week after the funeral. She declined to comment regarding
Haroun’s interview in Al-Ahram