Alexandria synagogue to hold high holiday services

Jewish community leader denies claims authorities canceled Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur prayers citing security concerns.

September 3, 2012 22:17
2 minute read.
The Synagogue in Alexandria

The Synagogue in Alexandria 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)


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A member of the Jewish community of Alexandria on Monday denied reports that Egyptian authorities had canceled Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers in the city – citing security concerns – saying he would personally lead the services during the High Holidays.

Youssef Gaon, the caretaker of the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue, was quoted by a Jewish official as saying prayers will be held at the 180-year-old house of worship this year, albeit without an ordained rabbi or cantor.

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“The only difference is a rabbi and cantor who usually lead the services were denied entry to the country,” Gaon, who is in close contact with the remaining Jews in the country, told The Jerusalem Post.

Earlier on Monday reports claiming the government in Cairo had canceled Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers in Alexandria emerged in Israel and Egypt.

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“This is the end of Jewish life in Egypt,” Livana Ramez, identified as the president of the international association of Egyptian Jews in Israel, was quoted as saying.

However, “Gaon said he would lead the services together with other members of the community [in Alexandria]. Prayers at the synagogue in Cairo will be held as usual. The rabbi who flies in every year was given a visa,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous not to jeopardize ties with Egyptian authorities.

The vast majority of the historic and once numerous Jewish community of Egypt left or were forced to leave in the decades following the creation of the State of Israel.

From a peak of about 80,000 in 1922 only a few dozen mostly elderly members currently remain in Alexandria and Cairo where they live low-key lives.

Last January a Jewish pilgrimage to the tomb of a Jewish sage in the Nile Delta was canceled due to security concerns. Nonetheless, the source who spoke to Gaon said he had not noticed a perceptible change in policy by the government towards the Jewish community since the election of an Islamist government and president earlier this year.

“From conversations with Jews in Egypt and my visits there I have not seen anything different,” the official said. “Even at the height of protests the Jewish community was left alone.”

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