Cairo Jewish community celebrates Rosh Hashanah

According to local media, less than ten local Jews remain in the city. The service was lead by the wife of a US diplomat.

Shaar Hashamaim synagogue in Cairo, Egypt. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Shaar Hashamaim synagogue in Cairo, Egypt.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The dwindling Jewish community of Cairo celebrated Rosh Hashanah in the city’s Sha’ar Hashamaim synagogue, with a service led by the wife of a US diplomat.
According to Egyptian news website Watani, only five Jews are currently known to be living in Cairo.
However, in the pictures of the celebration shared on social media on Sunday night, at least 50 people can be counted in the synagogue hall.
A Facebook post highlighted that locals were joined by friends, guests and diplomats from different countries, including Thomas Goldberger, US chief of mission and chargé d’affaires in Egypt, whose wife, Eden, led the service. The couple has lived in Egypt since September 2014.
Among the guests were Maltese Ambassador to Cairo Charles Sultana, and Israel-Egypt Friendship Association president Levana Zamir with her children and grandchildren.
Zamir’s family fled Egypt in 1948, and she works to raise awareness of the Jewish expulsion from Muslim countries.
Sultana expressed his appreciation on Twitter at meeting members of Cairo’s Jewry, saying he was “Impressed by their hard work to preserve #Egypt’s #Jewish heritage. Best wishes for #RoshHashanah and thanks for welcoming me into your Synagogue.”
Also present at the synagogue were members of The Drop of Milk Association, a Jewish charitable NGO that has been registered since 1921. The organization was originally founded to support the community’s needy and disadvantaged. However, as the community has diminished to only five people, the NGO now focuses on preserving the rich Jewish heritage of Egypt and on promoting interfaith understanding.
According to the website of Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, a Jewish community continuously functioned in Egypt from the First Temple Period (1000-586 BCE) to the 20th century.
On the eve of the foundation of the State of Israel in 1947, about 80,000 Jews lived in the country.
They became a target of violence and persecution in the immediate aftermath, with about half fleeing before 1956 and the rest thereafter, with the last Egyptian Jews leaving after the 1967 Six Day War.
Earlier this year, the Jewish community of Cairo announced the death of 93-year-old Marcelle Haroun, who was described in a statement as “one of the pillars” of the community.
Watani reported that Haroun was married to the late Jewish lawyer and politician Shehata Haroun, who was a member of the local Communist Party and an adamant anti-Zionist.
Shehata passed away in 2001, and according to Watani, he specifically asked that his funeral would not be officiated by an Israeli rabbi. He and Marcelle had three daughters, two of whom died prematurely, while a third, Magda, is the current president of the community.
According to Beit Hatfutsot, Sha’ar Hashamaim is maintained by the Israeli diplomatic staff.