Sephardic Web Sites - Egypt

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Home of Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Philo of Alexandria, Jeremiah the prophet, Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), the gaon Saadia and others, boasting the oldest known synagogue (Ben Ezra) and the second oldest Jewish cemetery (Bassatine). What else can I say!

After the Exodus from Egypt, Jews returned to Egypt in 586 B.C.E. and then maintained an uninterrupted presence in that land ever since. Some, like Fargeon, say that there has always been Jews in Egypt since the days of Joseph because when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, some Jews remained in Egypt and settled in Asyut where they formed a warrior tribe.

In the early 20th century, the multilingual and cosmopolitan Jews of Egypt, part of Cairo's "Belle Epoque" maintained 37 synagogues in Cairo alone, several all-Jewish orchestras, 3 Jewish theaters (one in Yiddish), nearly a dozen Jewish newspapers in a variety of languages, as well as Jewish hospitals and old age homes. The Jewish aristocracy, lived in palaces rivaling those of European nobility, entertained and hobnobbed with Egyptian and European royalty.

In 1948, 70,000 to 80,000 Jews lived in Egypt; about 55,000 in Cairo and most of the rest in Alexandria, with smaller communities in Port Said and lesser towns. 5,000 to 10,000 held Egyptian citizenship, 40,000 were stateless and 30,000 were foreign nationals (Italian, French, British and other) even though most of the latter had also been born in Egypt.


Cemeteries

-Cairo

Bassatine Second oldest Jewish cemetery in the world (second only to the one on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem).
Divided by a wall into two halves of 60 feddans (a feddan is approximately 4,200 square meters) each for the Karaite and the Rabbinate Jewish burials. The Karaite half has been sold; only the Rabbinic half remains. In the 1960s, marble stones were ransacked en masse from the Bassatine by vandals to be used in the building boom in Cairo and hoodlums set up homes and even businesses in the deserted mausoleums.

Private cemeteries
In addition to the Bassatine cemetery, Cairo has a number of smaller private cemeteries belonging to some of its prominent Jewish families such as the Ades, Cattaui, Levy, Mosseri and Sapriel families. Walled and with private watchmen, these cemeteries are better preserved.

- Alexandria Three Jewish cemeteries.
Two in Chatby and one in Mazarita (sometimes called Chatby 1 cemetery).

All are walled and have largely escaped vandalism.

- Port Said. Walled cemetery just out of town. I have some gravestone names.
- Others Jewish cemeteries exist in smaller towns throughout Egypt such as: Suez, Ismailia (as part of the European cemetery), Damanhour, Tanta, Kafr El Zayat, Mehalla El Cobra (3 cemeteries), Mansoura (2 cemeteries), Mit Ghamr (2 cemeteries), Zifta, Zagazig, and maybe some others.

I have the names on some tombs in those cemeteries.

Archival Resources

- Cairo Archival Records

Are at the Jewish community center of Cairo,
#13 Sabil El Khazinder Street, Abbassia, Cairo, Egypt.
telephone: 20 2 482-4613; fax: 20 2 482 4885.

Archives are disorganized and in Hebrew, French or Arabic.
At present, the archives are under the control of Mrs Weinstein, President of the remaining Cairo Community. She does not provide information from them and will not allow then to be searched individually or photocopied for prosperity

- Jamie Lehman collection at New York's Yeshiva University


A small subset of the Cairo archives that were spirited out of Egypt and today are housed in the university archives.Catalogued but unindexed, they consist of a mix of rabbinic records and letters, Cairo B'nai B'rith records and accounts of the charity activities of the community. As such, advance permission is needed to use it.

- Alexandria Jewish Community Archives

Address requests to Jewish Community Center of Alexandria, 69 Rue Nebi Daniel, Alexandria, with a donation.

- Egyptian Civil Records

To request certificates from the Egyptian civil authorities, one must know the exact date and the specific district within Cairo, Alexandria, etc that the event occurred. Mail requests are not known to ever to get replies. Even on site requests are not likely to succeed unless one goes in person to the proper place and persuades (monetarily - bakshish) the official in charge to look. Even then, you will usually be told that nothing could be found.

- Montefiore Censuses

These censuses which were conducted in 1839, 1849, 1855, 1866 and 1875, were taken of the Jewish population of Palestine, but they also include (on reel 3) a census of the Sephardim of Alexandria, Egypt, taken in 1840.

- Alliance Israelite Universelle Archives

Internet resources

Local Articles of interest


- How to get started in Sephardic Jewish Genealogy for the beginner
- The Sephardim - Who are they and their history.
- Jews and Christians in the Moslem World
- Maps Spain
- Some differences in Sephardic and Ashkenazi genealogy
- Jewish Names and genealogies
- Interesting Population figures
- Inquisicion and early Hispanic Archives
- Don Antonio de Sequera y Carvajal - Descendant of Columbus, founder of the Egyptian Artillery Academy
- General Jewish Genealogy Resources

Other webpages


-Bassatine News - Cairo Jewish Community website.
- Friends of the Jewish Community in Cairo
- Historical Society of Jews from Egypt
- Samir Raafat's excellent articles about Cairo's Jews
- L'Egypte d'Antan (Egypt of Bygone Days) - Old photos of many towns
- Karaite Jews from Egypt - including 11,000 person family tree

Bibliography

The most useful books for the genealogist researching Egypt are:


- Toledano, Joseph: La Saga des Familles. Stavit, Tel Aviv 1983. Much smaller but similar to Laredo's book. Does not indicate sources but has old photos of family members. There is now a new much expanded edition available.

- Aciman, Andre.: Out of Egypt. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1994, 1995. About an Alexandrian Jewish family.

- Alhadeff, Gini.: The Sun at Midday. Tales of a mediterranean family. Pantheon Books, NY 1997.

- Perera, Victor. : The Cross and the Pear Tree. New York: Knopf, 1995. The author relates his search for his ancestors, some of whom lived in Alexandria, Egypt.


A listing of names compiled by me can be found in the "Names" section of this website.

However there are many others that are of interest to a researcher of Egyptain Jewry. For a more complete list go to my "Book" section .

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