Egyptian Jewish community elects new leader

Magda Haroun in ‘Al-Ahram’ interview: We will live in Egypt forever and reject any aid from Israel.

Magda Haroun 370 (photo credit: Bassatine News)
Magda Haroun 370
(photo credit: Bassatine News)
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 Tuesday.
“We will live in Egypt forever,” Haroun said.
According 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.”
In an 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 state.
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 Bassatine website.
“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.”
She states that her father taught her to be both a proud Jew and Egyptian.
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.