News / Middle East

Leader of Egyptian Jews Honored at Funeral

Leader of Egyptian Jews Honored at Funerali
X
April 19, 2013 1:37 AM
Egypt’s Jewish community was once strong, numbering at its peak some 80,000. On Thursday, a dwindling community held a funeral for its leader at a cemetery she helped save from destruction. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more on Carmen Weinstein, who died Saturday in Cairo.
Elizabeth Arrott
Egypt’s Jewish community was once strong, numbering at its peak about 80,000.  On Thursday, a dwindling community held a funeral for its leader at a cemetery she helped save from destruction.  Carmen Weinstein died Saturday in Cairo.

Egypt's fading Jewish community has receded even further.  Carmen Weinstein, the leader of about 20 elderly women who make up the last of Cairo's once vibrant Jewish presence, was laid to rest Thursday.  She was 82.

Rabbi Marc Elfassy, a close friend, came from Paris to remember her and pay homage.

"She gave her heart and soul," said Elfassy. "It was her son, her children - the  association of the little Jewish community in Cairo."

Funeral services were held for Carmen Weinstein at the Adly Street Synagogue in Cairo, April 17, 2013. (VOA/Y. Weeks)Funeral services were held for Carmen Weinstein at the Adly Street Synagogue in Cairo, April 17, 2013. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
x
Funeral services were held for Carmen Weinstein at the Adly Street Synagogue in Cairo, April 17, 2013. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
Funeral services were held for Carmen Weinstein at the Adly Street Synagogue in Cairo, April 17, 2013. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
Elfassy was among friends from home and abroad, including Israel's ambassador and Weinstein's successor as the community's president, Magda Haroun.  They gathered at Cairo's Adly Street synagogue.

Mourners hailed Weinstein's “dogged determination” to preserve and protect.  Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee:

“She shouldered not just the responsibility of these small number of Jews, but really the heritage that has been the legacy of Jews in Egypt - at its height some 80,000 people, here in Cairo alone, 10 synagogues," said Baker. "This had really been an enormous challenge, even burden, that she undertook.”

Among her successes was pushing for the restoration of the Maimonides Synagogue, named after the great Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages.  She also help saved a portion of the Jewish cemetery of Bassatine, the only remaining Jewish cemetery in Cairo.  

Jewish leader Carmen Weinstein was buried at the Bassatine Cemetary in Cairo, April 17, 2013. (VOA/Y. Weeks)Jewish leader Carmen Weinstein was buried at the Bassatine Cemetary in Cairo, April 17, 2013. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
x
Jewish leader Carmen Weinstein was buried at the Bassatine Cemetary in Cairo, April 17, 2013. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
Jewish leader Carmen Weinstein was buried at the Bassatine Cemetary in Cairo, April 17, 2013. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
But on the day she was buried there, the fortunes of a long-gone community are painfully clear.  Graves are defaced for their marble, wild dogs move through the trash.

Weinstein was one of the stubborn few Jews who stayed in Egypt.  Many left starting in the 1950s as tensions grew between the new Israeli state and Egypt's government, led by Arab-nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser.  By the 1967 Arab Israeli war, very few remained.

For returning Egyptian Jews, this moment was bittersweet.  Roger Bilboul, of the Nebi Daniel Association, was a teenager when he left.

“You cannot go back in time," said  Bilboul. "You have to accept that things have changed.  All you can do is ensure the memories are preserved.  And that one will be going forward in terms of making sure that our descendants have a place where they can see where they came from.”

As for the Egyptian Jews who remain, they hope their final days will be peaceful - even as the country has been seized by religious tension.

Bilboul believes there is safety in small numbers.

“It is not worth bothering about such an small, frail, old community," he said.

A small community, but one whose legacy Carmen Weinstein ensured will endure.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid