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Leila Murad

Leila Murad (stage name of Lillian Zaki Mourad Mordechai) (aka Layla Murad, Leila Mourad) (1918-1995), singer and actress, one of the most famous superstars in the Arab world, born in Cairo into an observant Jewish family that included rabbis and dayanim. Her father, Ibrahim Zaki Mordechai (later known as Zaki Murad), was a well-known musician and singer who immigrated to Egypt from Iraq.

At the start of her career she received the encouragement and support of Daoud Hosni. The real success occurred after her appearance in the 1938 film Long Live Love (Yihia Al-Hub) by Mohammed Abdel Wahab. Murad collaborated with Togo Mizrahi appearing in five movies: A Rainy Night (Laylah moumtirah) in 1939, Laila from the Countryside (Layla bint el rif) in 1941, Laila the School Girl (Layla bint el madâris) in 1941, Laila (1942), and Laila in the Dark (Layla fi-l-zalâm) in 1944. These movies are regarded as some of the finest films in the history of the Egyptian cinematography. Murad was suspected of visiting and supporting Israel. As a result of these rumors, some Arab radio broadcasters boycotted her until Egypt's security services provided her with a certificate that cleaned her of all suspicions. Murad converted to Islam in 1947 and was married three times. She retired in 1956, following the failure of her last film, Al Habib al Majhoul ("The Unknown Lover"),

Date of birth:
1918
Date of death:
1995
ID Number:
18887441
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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MORDECHAI, BEN MORDECHAI, MORDOCH, MORDOCHAI

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a patronymic surname derived from a male ancestor's personal name, in this case of biblical origin.

Mordechai is a biblical male personal name, derived from the name Morduch, which is the name of a Babylonian god. The biblical Mordechai lived in the exile of Shushan (Persia), and is described as "a certain Jew, whose name was Mordechai, the son of Yair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite" (Esther 2.5). Apparently he was the first among his ancestors, who carried Hebrew names, to live in exile, and to adopt a foreign name. The personal name Mordechai is recorded as a family name among Jewish families from various countries. The Hebrew Ben means "son of". There are numerous Jewish surnames derived from Mordechai, many of which comprise of vernacular suffixes and various languages and dialects. The following examples are recorded as Jewish family names in the 19th century in the former Russian Empire: Modukhaj, Mordukhaev, Mordkha, Mordkhovich, Mardushenko, Mordkhel, Mordkhalevich, Mordechaiov, Motkes, Motin, the Ukrainian form Mordkovskij, and others.

Cairo

In Arabic: القاهرة‎ 

Capital of Egypt

It is almost certain that Jews settled in Fostat at the time of its establishment in 641 by Arab occupation, and they built their synagogue in the ancient byzantine citadel. In the 10th century Jews arrived from Babylon and founded two communities - the Babylonian and the Palestinian. After the Fatimids established the new city of Cairo (969), north of Fostat, the local Jewish community became the most famous in Egypt. Jews continued to dwell in Fostat (old Cairo) until it was burned by the Egyptians (1169) in an effort to prevent its capture by the crusaders; the famous "genizah" was found in the ancient synagogue of Fostat at the end of the 19th century.

Maimonides, his son Abraham, and his grandson David lived in Fostat. The heads of the Palestinian community in the b. Moses ha-Levi, and his brother Sar Shalom ha-Levi. Persecutions took place during the rule of the Mamluks (1250-1517), who persecuted non-Muslim communities in general and the large Christian Coptic minority in particular. Synagogues and churches were destroyed and closed and fanatical Muslims plotted against Jews for many reasons. It is said that Sultan Baybars gathered the Jews and the Christians under the citadel walls and threatened to burn them alive unless they agreed to pay a large sum of money (13th century). Mamluk rule forbade Jews to trade in spices and other imports from the Far East, and their economic situation worsened. Most of them were tradesmen and manufacturers and a privileged group still continued to deal in money and banking.

Meshullam of Volterra reports 800 Jewish households in Cairo in 1481 as well as 150 Karaite and 50 Samaritan families. According to an Arab historian, there were five synagogues in Cairo. In the beginning of the 16th century, many refugees from Spain came to Cairo. There were two distinct groups of Jews: maghrebim (Jews of North African origin), and Sephardim, each with its own bet din and charitable institutions; and there was occasional conflict between them. The Sephardim surpassed the other communities and were appointed as rabbis for the musta'rabs, who adopted the customs of the Spanish Jews in their prayers. The descendants of the exiles assimilated with the Jewish majority and forgot their Spanish language. Among the great Spanish scholars of the 16th century were R. David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, R. Moses b. Isaac Alashkar, R. Jacob Berab, R. Bezalel Ashkenazi, R. Jacob Castro, and R. Solomon di Trani.

The Turks, who conquered Egypt in 1517, did not interfere in Jewish religious affairs. They badly treated the rich Jews, however, most of whom occupied official appointments, such as the operation of the mint and the collection of taxes; many of them were condemned to death on various pretexts. In 1524 the governor Ahmed Pasha extorted a vast sum of money from the director of the mint - Abraham Castro - by threatening to slaughter all the Jews. However on the day of payment Ahmed Pasha was murdered by a group of his own soldiers and the danger was averted. This day of salvation was commemorated as an annual Purim Mitzrayim (Purim of Egypt). The extortion and tyranny worsened in the 17th and 18th centuries with the decline of Ottoman rule.

Among the sages of the Jewish community of Cairo a special mention should be made of Chayyim Vital from the kabbalists of Safed, Mordecai ha- Levi, Solomon Algazi; and in the 19th century Moses Algazi, Elijah Israel, and Raphael Aaron b. Simeon.

A new era for the Jewish community in Cairo started with the rise of Muhammad Ali (1769-1849) to Egyptian rule (1805). Moses Montefiore, Adolphe Cremieux, and Solomon Monk (the secretary of the Jewish consistoire of France) visited Cairo, and founded modern schools; and after the economic development of Egypt Jews from other Mediterranean countries settled in Cairo. In 1882 there were 5,000 Jews in Cairo and after 15 years, 11,500, including 1,000 Karaites. In 1917 the Jewish community numbered 25,000, among them many refugees from eastern Europe. Jews prospered in commerce and banking and even took part in public affairs and government institutions. R. Yom Tov Israel was appointed to the legislative assembly and Jacob Cattaui became the chief revenue officer of Egypt; his son Joseph was minister of finance (1923) and another son Moses was president of the Cairo community for 40 years. In 1925 Chief Rabbi Haim Nahoum joined the Egyptian Academy of Science.

During early 20th century there were a number of Jewish newspapers in Cairo, among them Mitzrayim (Ladino, 1900), Die Zeit (Yiddish, 1907-08), and the weekly magazines l'Aurore (French, 1908), and Israel (French, 1919). In 1934 there was an Arabic weekly magazine, Al-Shams. The Karaites also published a weekly magazine of their own called Al-Kalim.

In 1947, 41,860 Jews (64% of Egyptian Jewry) lived in Cairo, 58.8% of whom were merchants, and 17.9% worked in industry. Although it contained a few wealthy Jews, the Cairo community was poorer than Alexandria. After the arrests of Jews in 1948-49 and the persecutions of 1956-57, only 5,587 Jews were left. After the Six-Day War this number decreased to about 1,500, and by 1970 only a few hundred remained, especially in the new mixed quarter of Heliopolis. Massive arrests began in June-July 1954; about 100 Jews were concentrated in two camps and fifteen of them brought to trial. In the spy case which ended in 1955, Moses Marzouk and Samuel 'Azar were condemned to death by hanging and others received life sentences. (They were released and sent back to Israel after the Six-Day War.) In 1956 the head of the community Salvador Cicurel left Egypt and was succeeded by Albert Romano. In November 1956 the government confiscated the hospital. After the death of R. Haim Nahoum, Chayyim was elected as chief rabbi in 1960; he left Egypt in 1972.

In 1997 there were 100 Jews living in Egypt, most them in Cairo.

Egypt

مَصر‎ 

Arab Republic of Egypt

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 100 out of 94,000,000

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Egypt 

586 BCE | Fleeing South to Freedom

The founding story of the Jewish people is the biblical Book of Exodus. “In each and every generation,” the Haggadah says, “one must regard oneself as though he himself came out of Egypt” - a statement which can be interpreted as release from mental molds, from our internal Egypt, binding us and inhibiting us on our way to freedom.
But let us leave the psychology aside and move on to history: researchers speak of an ethnic group known as the Habiru (or Hebrews) who left Egypt around the 13th century BCE. Some scholars identify this group with our ancestors and the Biblical Exodus narrative.
The next mention of Jews in Egypt comes in 586 BCE, when the Babylonian Empire destroyed Jerusalem and brought about the Babylonian exile.
In Jeremiah 43 it is told that the Babylonians appointed one Gedaliah Ben Achikam as governor of the small Judean population remaining in the country. Due to internal conflict, Gedaliah was murdered. His killing is considered the first political assassination in Jewish history. Following the murder and the Jews' fear of revenge, a group headed by the prophet Jeremiah got together and fled to Egypt and to freedom.

410 BCE | Soldiers Of Fortune

One of the most intriguing mentions of Jews in Egypt refers to an ancient and mysterious city named Elephantine (Yeb, in Hebrew). This city sat on an island in the Nile, at a strategic location – just south of the major city of Aswan. Records unearthed in archaeological excavations indicate that the Jews of Elephantine made their living mostly as mercenaries. Historians believe that the Persian Empire, which then ruled Egypt, hired a rather large group of Jews to defend the southern border of the Land of the Nile. These Jewish warriors were tasked with killing anyone trying to enter Egypt uninvited.
In memory of the ritual of animal sacrifice, the members of the Jewish warrior community built their own temple, to replace the one that was destroyed in Jerusalem. But close to the Jewish temple sat an Egyptian one, the abode of the Egyptian god Khnum, who according to Egyptian mythology was in charge of source of the Nile, among other things. The Egyptian neighbours took a dim view of the foreign Jewish temple, and in the year 410 BCE they burned it to the ground.

200 BCE | The 70 Faces of Torah

Towards the end of the third century BCE Ptolemy II, then King of Egypt, gathered seventy of the wisest men of the Jewish community in Alexandria and asked them to join in a great undertaking of translating the Jewish Torah into Greek, in order to make it accessible to the world.
This translation, known as the Septuagint, is famous to this day for its accuracy, its rich language, its historical value and most of all, the legend claims, for the fact that each of the seventy scholars translated the Torah on his own – and miraculously, all the translations came out identical to one another.
Legends aside, the project indicates a vibrant Jewish community living in Alexandria. This community, numbering in the tens of thousands, partially adopted the Hellenistic culture, including Greek names, use of the Greek language, daily visits to the baths and an obsession with physical culture. But not all the Jews of Alexandria were Hellenized. Many maintained their own heritage, and the authorities, whose Hellenism included a policy of religious toleration, gave them the right to establish their own autonomous system, under which they could live by their own rules, choose their own leaders and even be tried at their own tribunals.

170 BCE | Another Temple in Egypt

In the run-up to the Maccabean revolt (aka the story of Hanukkah), the ancient line of High Priests known as The House of Zadok was dispossessed of that all-important position, and the last legitimate High Priest, Onias (Honyio) III, was murdered in Antioch. His son, Onias IV, fled to Egypt, where he built a precise replica of the temple in Jerusalem in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, which stood for about 240 years, presided over by the descendants of Onias and the House of Zadok.
The Sages of the Mishna were of two minds about this competition to the holy site in the Holy City. They conceded that Onias built his temple “for the sake of heaven” and that both the place and the work done there were ritually correct, and they also viewed it as a fulfillment of bibilical prophecy, which predicted that “on that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the land of Egypt (Isiah 19:19). But some took issue with the fact that it was built outside of Jerusalem, outside of Israel, and in Egypt of all places. However, the fear of competition proved overblown. The temple in Heliopolis served local needs only, and the one in Jerusalem remained the undisputed heart of Jewish life.
In 73 CE, shortly after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Roman Emperor Vespasian ordered the one in Egypt destroyed too, for fear that Jewish zealots, who had fled the failed revolt to Egypt, would rally around it.

45 BCE | The Jewish Plato

The man who best personified the synergy between the precepts of Hellenism and Judaism was Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who lived between 25 BCE-50 CE. In Philo's family tree one can find branches of Roman aristocracy alongside Jewish Hasmonean nobility. He was born in Alexandria to a rich family and his brother is described as “exceeding all others in wealth and good breeding.”
From a young age this prodigy displayed an interest in philosophy and natural science (then far closer pursuits than now), and most of all was interested in the tension between these and the Jewish faith, to which he adhered with all his heart.
The image arising from his many works is that of an original thinker interested in a wide array of topics: Philo pondered the meaning of death 1900 years before the Existentialist philosophers, interpreted the Torah according to Greek philosophical principles 1200 years before Maimonides, and predates most of the Sages with deep observations on human nature, penned 200 years before the sealing of the Mishna.

115 CE | The Diaspora Revolt

The Kitos War, known in Jewish historiography as “The Diaspora Revolt”, broke out in 115 CE, lasted for two years, and is seen as sort of a forgotten “sandwich child” between its better known siblings – The Great Revolt (66-70 CE) and the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE). The main causes for this revolt, which as the name indicates took place outside the Land of Israel, were religious zealotry, discriminatory laws and frustration following the failure of the Great Revolt and the destruction of the Temple. In addition, horror stories by refugees regarding the cruelty of Roman troops towards the defeated Judean population also inflamed passions, which were running high anyway due to tensions between the Hellenistic and Jewish cultures. The rebelling Jews “piggybacked” on a larger war taking place at the time, between the hated Romans and the Parthian Empire, which ruled modern-day Iran and Iraq, seizing what they saw as a historic opportunity to rise up. The revolt began in Cyrene, in modern-day Libya, but quickly spread to Egypt, and mostly to Alexandria. Despite initial victories, the Romans suppressed the revolt, and the Alexandrian community, the richest and most flourishing in all the diaspora at the time, was destroyed and mostly annihilated.

641 | The Arab Conquest

Ask the average person, and it would take them a few moments to recall that Egypt was not always an Arab country. But the truth is that only in 641, as Islam spread from the Arabian Peninsula, did Egypt become a majority Arabic speaking Muslim country.
Like many other countries under Muslim sovereignty, the Jews were treated as a protected minority – dhimmi, in Arabic. The dhimmi arrangement was simple: The Jews (and Christians) were required to acknowledge the supremacy of Islam, to pay a poll tax (called jeziah), where special clothing indicating their status and other restrictions. In return they enjoyed autonomy in family, personal, and religious matters, and were also permitted to adjudicate internal disputes before Jewish courts. This arrangement with the Jews was meticulously upheld, save for a few episodes, such as that of the sixth Fatimid Caliph Ali Mansur al-Hakim who was known for cruelty. This ruler forced the Jews to convert, and even burned down the Jewish quarter in the city of al-Jawardia.

882 | Karaites and Rabbis

The history of religious sects in Judaism has known bitter struggles – Sadducees and Pharisees, Hasidim and Misnagdim, Haredis and Secular and more. One of the best known was the dispute between the Karaites and the Rabbanites, which took place in full effect in Egypt. Religious, the difference between the two camps is that Karaites adhere strictly to the text of the Torah, whereas proponents of rabbinical Judaism believe that those ordained as rabbis are empowered and even obligated to interpret the Torah so as to fit the times, an authority the Karaites vehemently denied.
Researchers estimate that the Karaite community lived and worked in Fustat (ancient Cairo) from the dawn of the Muslim occupation. Around the year 882 the Karaites in Fustat founded Beit Ezra, the synagogue where in 1896 the rich archive known as the Cairo Geniza was discovered. Among many treasures revealed in this trove, shedding light on trade, relations, intimate and family relations and the music of the Jews of Egypt and neighboring countries, were also the fierce debates which the Karaites waged against the Rabbanites. One of these, Rabbi Saadia Gaon, was born in Egypt and was one of the chief adversaries of the Karaites. Later he moved to the rabbinical academies in Babylon and became one of the great geniuses of the age.

1050 | The Triple Thread

In the mid 11th century the largest Jewish community in Egypt was centered in Fustat, or ancient Cairo. The well-respected, well-to-do community was divided in two: The “Babylonians”, who originated in modern-day Iraq and followed the legal and halachic authority of the great yeshivas of Babylon, and the Jerusalemites, who followed the wise men of the Land of Israel. Both centers of learning were financially dependent upon the rich Jews of Fustat.
Add the fact that Fustat was the epicenter of the struggle for a monopoly on rabbinical authority between Babylon and Jerusalem, and we see a loaded triple thread, which gave rise to much political friction. One of the most famous personal contests was between Ephraim Ben Shmaryah, leader of the Jerusalemites, and Elhanan Ben Shmaryah, leader of the Babylonians. Among the documents in the Cairo Geniza is one detailing a dream had by Ephraim Ben Shmaryah, in which Moses himself came to him at night and bestowed the chief authority in Fustat upon him.

1165 | From Moses to Moses, There Was None Like Moses

One cannot speak of the history of Jews in Egypt without discussing “The Great Eagle,” the man who did it all: philosopher, legal scholar, religious authority, physician, nutritionist and moralist, the genius Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimom, better known as Maimonides, or by his Hebrew acronym, the Rambam, who settled in Cairo in 1165.
Maimonides was the great architect of Jewish thought. He cracked the genome of the Jewish world-view in his composition “Moreh Nevochim” (“Guide to the Perplexed”), strengthened the foundations of faith in the “Epistle to Yemen”, and simplified halacha in his monumental work “Mishne Torah”, (literarily “Secondary Torah”), which was subtitled “HaYad HaChazaka”, in a typical rabbinical wordplay, reflecting the 14 (“yod-dalet” in Hebrew, which spells “Yad”) volumes encompassing all of Jewish law up to his time. Maimonides wrote several books on philosophy, but was also a leading medical authority, leaving behind many writings on proper nutrition and preventive medicine. His immense output is particularly astonishing when one considers that by day he was physician to the Sultan, and in the evening, as head of the Jewish community, received visits from his parishioners.
The greatness of the Rambam was immortalized in the saying “From Moshe (Rabeinu) to Moshe (Ben Maimon) there has been none like Moshe”.

1312 | Prophecy Is Given to the Wise

According to the wisdom of King Solomon, one of the things that “makes the earth tremble” is that of a slave become king (Proverbs, 30:21), meaning one who goes straight from servitude to the highest power, without learning the ways of ruling first. Solomon's prophecy came true 2.300 years later, when the Mamluks, slave-soldiers in service of the Arab Abbasid Empire, took over the Middle East in 1250 and established a tyrannical kingdom in the lands of Egypt, Israel, Syria and other countries in the region.
Historian Eliyahu Ashtor writes in his acclaimed book “History of the Jews in Egypt and Syria” that the rise of the Mamluks ended the golden age for Jews in Egypt and marked the beginning of “the decrease in creative force in Arab culture”. Ashtor quotes philosopher Joseph Caspi, the famed Jewish biblical interpreter, who came to Egypt in 1312 to study philosophy, but was thoroughly disillusioned after meeting the local Jews. “They are all righteous,” Caspi wrote, “but in no wisdom did they engage, nor were there any wise men in all of the east, and I called upon myself: 'Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help' (Isiah 31:1), and I returned to my homeland in disgrace.”

1604 | Twin Communities

For hundreds of years the Land of Israel and Egypt were under the same sovereignty – from the Fatimid dynasty, through the Mamluks to the Ottoman Empire, which took over the Land of the Nile in 1517. Due to this, symbiotic relations developed between the Jewish communities in Israel and Egypt. These relations manifested in mutual migration, in families that lived part time in each country and in trade relations mostly indicating a dependence of the smaller community in Israel on its wealthier southern counterpart.
Another stream of Jews arrived in Egypt following the Spanish expulsion of 1492. Among these were famous men such as David Ben Zimra, a rich merchant and religious ruler who was head of the Jewish community in Egypt, and Avraham David, a rich businessman who gave much of his money for Torah study and community causes.
In the early 17th century the Ottoman Empire suffered a severe economic crisis. This crisis greatly affected the Jewish community and shrunk its population. Testament of this can be found in a missive sent by the leaders of the Jewish community in Safed in 1604. “Egypt is lost to our brethren,” the Jews of Safed write, “for those who were of aid to our supporters in the land of Egypt have fallen most low, for their dealings are greatly diminished.”

1805 | An Ashkenazi, a Sephardi and a Karaite Walk Into a Bar

The dry period in Jewish history in Egypt ended with the great wave of immigration that flooded the Land of the Nile in the 19th century upon the rise of Muhammad Ali, who came to power in 1805. This ruler was responsible for the modernization of Egypt. He is credited with infrastructure development, farming innovations, the paving of roads and byways, establishing centralized authority and more. In the middle of the 19th century there were but 6,000 Jews living in Egypt, and in less than 70 years that number rose to 60,000. The Jews were divided into four groups: Sephradi, Karaite, Egyptian Jews and a group of Ashkenazi Jews who migrated to Egypt from the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe during the 19th century.
Thus did Egypt, and particularly Cairo, become a cosmopolitan mosaic, so multi-cultural that anyone walking around Cairo at the time could encounter Jews holding lively discussions in Ladino, Yiddish, French, Italian or Arabic.

1865 | Class Warfare

Would you be surprised to learn that tensions between Ashkenazi and Sephardi - “The sectarian demon” as they are known in modern-day Israel – existed in Egypt as well? Well, they did, from 1865, when immigration from Eastern Europe began by Jews fleeing the rampant anti-Semitism of the time. The Ashkenazi group, which at its height numbered 10,000 souls, belonged at first to the lower-middle classes, but soon they advanced up the social ladder and managed to free themselves of the crowded, poverty-stricken “Harat al-Yahud” (The Jewish quarter) and move to the more upscale neighborhoods of Cairo. The attempts by the Ashkenazis to mold the face of Egyptian Jewry in their own image were met with strenuous opposition from the Sephardis, the descendants of those expelled from Spain, who constituted the elite of the Jewish community. The Sephardis spoke French, sent their children to British schools and lived in the affluent parts of Cairo. To the authorities, they alone represented the Jews. But strong cultural tensions seethed under the surface. The Sephardis were contemptuous of the Ashkenazis, who could not even speak French with a proper accent, whereas the Sephardis scorned the “easternized” Sephardis, and viewed them as uncivilized, materialistic and lazy. All of which just goes to show that stereotypes do not die, and often do not even shift.

1917 | National Coexistence

The seeds of Zionism in Egypt were sown by Joseph Marco Barouch, a colorful and multidimensional figure – poet and anarchist, teacher and journalist, and most of all an energetic Zionist activist who, had he not taken his own life due to unrequited love at the tender age of 27, there is no telling the heights he may have achieved.
Barouch founded the Bar Kokhba Society in Cairo, a Zionist non-profit organization which operated a library, a coffee shop, a vibrant Zionist clubhouse and more. His Zionist activity increased upon the establishment of the Zionist Organization of Egypt, a branch of the Maccabi organization, and the Hebrew Scouts Movement. The local Zionist organization, like many others around the world, was greatly impacted by the enthusiasm that swept across the Jewish world in 1917, following the Balfour Declaration.
These Zionist initiatives were joined by Jewish businessmen such as Felix de-Menashe and Jacques Mosseri, who made great contributions to the building of Israel and whose philanthropy established several settlements, including the moshav Kfar Yedidiah.
This was also the time in which a large Egyptian national movement, al-Wafd, was growing, calling for Egyptian territorial sovereignty. The fact that these two national movements did not come into conflict is a testament to the rare pluralism typical of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Egypt in the 1920s.

1939 | The True Spring of Nations

The darkness that descended upon humanity in the 1930s, with the rise of Nazism and the various fascist movements throughout Europe, did not skip Egypt. Racist propaganda and xenophobia spread among Egyptian students and military officers, who loathed British colonialism and viewed Hitler as their savior. The fact that the Nazi race theory ranked Arabs only a tiny bit higher than Jews did not stem the radicalization. Finding a common enemy, as the wise Jew Sigmund Freud said, is the best way to unite two adversaries. The moderate national sentiment that characterized the 1920s turned into a pathological nationalism, which rejected anyone deemed not a “true” Egyptian and anyone who was not a Muslim, or in other words Jews and Copts (the Christians of Egypt).
The flag of nationalism was carried by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Young Egypt movement, fueled by texts translated into Arabic, among them “Mein Kampf” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. But the Jewish community did not sit still. Jewish journalists risked their livelihoods to publicly reject the false propaganda, and the Jewish community of Egypt boycotted German goods from 1933 to 1939.

1956 | The End

The UN resolution to partition the Land of Israel in November 1947, and the Israel War of Independence that followed, heralded the end of the Jewish community in Egypt. The Egyptian government used martial law to assault its perceived opponents, and confiscated their property (an issue still being handled with the Egyptian authorities to this day).
Despite protestations of loyalty, the Jewish community fell victim to incitement by the press and the authorities. Between June and September 1948 sections of the Jewish quarter in Cairo were destroyed. The violent demonstrations, acts of arson and bombings ravaged movie theaters, department stores and other businesses owned by Jews.
Between 1948 and 1952 some 20,000 Jews left Egypt. Later, with the rise to power of Gamal Abd al-Nasser, who implemented socialism and Pan-Arabism, another 30,000 Jews followed. In 1967 only around 3.000 Jews remained in Egypt, and their numbers dwindled over the years. In 2014 there were only 360 Jews living in the country.
Is this the end of the long ties between the Land of the Nile and the Chosen People? In 1979 a historic peace agreement was signed between Israel and Egypt. Since then, the Israel's border with Egypt has been respected, and many Israelis have visited the Land of the Nile as tourists, the place their ancestors left thousands of years ago to fulfill their destiny and become a nation.

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קהילות יהודיות
תיעוד חזותי
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Leila Murad

Leila Murad (stage name of Lillian Zaki Mourad Mordechai) (aka Layla Murad, Leila Mourad) (1918-1995), singer and actress, one of the most famous superstars in the Arab world, born in Cairo into an observant Jewish family that included rabbis and dayanim. Her father, Ibrahim Zaki Mordechai (later known as Zaki Murad), was a well-known musician and singer who immigrated to Egypt from Iraq.

At the start of her career she received the encouragement and support of Daoud Hosni. The real success occurred after her appearance in the 1938 film Long Live Love (Yihia Al-Hub) by Mohammed Abdel Wahab. Murad collaborated with Togo Mizrahi appearing in five movies: A Rainy Night (Laylah moumtirah) in 1939, Laila from the Countryside (Layla bint el rif) in 1941, Laila the School Girl (Layla bint el madâris) in 1941, Laila (1942), and Laila in the Dark (Layla fi-l-zalâm) in 1944. These movies are regarded as some of the finest films in the history of the Egyptian cinematography. Murad was suspected of visiting and supporting Israel. As a result of these rumors, some Arab radio broadcasters boycotted her until Egypt's security services provided her with a certificate that cleaned her of all suspicions. Murad converted to Islam in 1947 and was married three times. She retired in 1956, following the failure of her last film, Al Habib al Majhoul ("The Unknown Lover"),

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Egypt
Cairo

Egypt

مَصر‎ 

Arab Republic of Egypt

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 100 out of 94,000,000

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Egypt 

586 BCE | Fleeing South to Freedom

The founding story of the Jewish people is the biblical Book of Exodus. “In each and every generation,” the Haggadah says, “one must regard oneself as though he himself came out of Egypt” - a statement which can be interpreted as release from mental molds, from our internal Egypt, binding us and inhibiting us on our way to freedom.
But let us leave the psychology aside and move on to history: researchers speak of an ethnic group known as the Habiru (or Hebrews) who left Egypt around the 13th century BCE. Some scholars identify this group with our ancestors and the Biblical Exodus narrative.
The next mention of Jews in Egypt comes in 586 BCE, when the Babylonian Empire destroyed Jerusalem and brought about the Babylonian exile.
In Jeremiah 43 it is told that the Babylonians appointed one Gedaliah Ben Achikam as governor of the small Judean population remaining in the country. Due to internal conflict, Gedaliah was murdered. His killing is considered the first political assassination in Jewish history. Following the murder and the Jews' fear of revenge, a group headed by the prophet Jeremiah got together and fled to Egypt and to freedom.

410 BCE | Soldiers Of Fortune

One of the most intriguing mentions of Jews in Egypt refers to an ancient and mysterious city named Elephantine (Yeb, in Hebrew). This city sat on an island in the Nile, at a strategic location – just south of the major city of Aswan. Records unearthed in archaeological excavations indicate that the Jews of Elephantine made their living mostly as mercenaries. Historians believe that the Persian Empire, which then ruled Egypt, hired a rather large group of Jews to defend the southern border of the Land of the Nile. These Jewish warriors were tasked with killing anyone trying to enter Egypt uninvited.
In memory of the ritual of animal sacrifice, the members of the Jewish warrior community built their own temple, to replace the one that was destroyed in Jerusalem. But close to the Jewish temple sat an Egyptian one, the abode of the Egyptian god Khnum, who according to Egyptian mythology was in charge of source of the Nile, among other things. The Egyptian neighbours took a dim view of the foreign Jewish temple, and in the year 410 BCE they burned it to the ground.

200 BCE | The 70 Faces of Torah

Towards the end of the third century BCE Ptolemy II, then King of Egypt, gathered seventy of the wisest men of the Jewish community in Alexandria and asked them to join in a great undertaking of translating the Jewish Torah into Greek, in order to make it accessible to the world.
This translation, known as the Septuagint, is famous to this day for its accuracy, its rich language, its historical value and most of all, the legend claims, for the fact that each of the seventy scholars translated the Torah on his own – and miraculously, all the translations came out identical to one another.
Legends aside, the project indicates a vibrant Jewish community living in Alexandria. This community, numbering in the tens of thousands, partially adopted the Hellenistic culture, including Greek names, use of the Greek language, daily visits to the baths and an obsession with physical culture. But not all the Jews of Alexandria were Hellenized. Many maintained their own heritage, and the authorities, whose Hellenism included a policy of religious toleration, gave them the right to establish their own autonomous system, under which they could live by their own rules, choose their own leaders and even be tried at their own tribunals.

170 BCE | Another Temple in Egypt

In the run-up to the Maccabean revolt (aka the story of Hanukkah), the ancient line of High Priests known as The House of Zadok was dispossessed of that all-important position, and the last legitimate High Priest, Onias (Honyio) III, was murdered in Antioch. His son, Onias IV, fled to Egypt, where he built a precise replica of the temple in Jerusalem in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, which stood for about 240 years, presided over by the descendants of Onias and the House of Zadok.
The Sages of the Mishna were of two minds about this competition to the holy site in the Holy City. They conceded that Onias built his temple “for the sake of heaven” and that both the place and the work done there were ritually correct, and they also viewed it as a fulfillment of bibilical prophecy, which predicted that “on that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the land of Egypt (Isiah 19:19). But some took issue with the fact that it was built outside of Jerusalem, outside of Israel, and in Egypt of all places. However, the fear of competition proved overblown. The temple in Heliopolis served local needs only, and the one in Jerusalem remained the undisputed heart of Jewish life.
In 73 CE, shortly after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Roman Emperor Vespasian ordered the one in Egypt destroyed too, for fear that Jewish zealots, who had fled the failed revolt to Egypt, would rally around it.

45 BCE | The Jewish Plato

The man who best personified the synergy between the precepts of Hellenism and Judaism was Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who lived between 25 BCE-50 CE. In Philo's family tree one can find branches of Roman aristocracy alongside Jewish Hasmonean nobility. He was born in Alexandria to a rich family and his brother is described as “exceeding all others in wealth and good breeding.”
From a young age this prodigy displayed an interest in philosophy and natural science (then far closer pursuits than now), and most of all was interested in the tension between these and the Jewish faith, to which he adhered with all his heart.
The image arising from his many works is that of an original thinker interested in a wide array of topics: Philo pondered the meaning of death 1900 years before the Existentialist philosophers, interpreted the Torah according to Greek philosophical principles 1200 years before Maimonides, and predates most of the Sages with deep observations on human nature, penned 200 years before the sealing of the Mishna.

115 CE | The Diaspora Revolt

The Kitos War, known in Jewish historiography as “The Diaspora Revolt”, broke out in 115 CE, lasted for two years, and is seen as sort of a forgotten “sandwich child” between its better known siblings – The Great Revolt (66-70 CE) and the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE). The main causes for this revolt, which as the name indicates took place outside the Land of Israel, were religious zealotry, discriminatory laws and frustration following the failure of the Great Revolt and the destruction of the Temple. In addition, horror stories by refugees regarding the cruelty of Roman troops towards the defeated Judean population also inflamed passions, which were running high anyway due to tensions between the Hellenistic and Jewish cultures. The rebelling Jews “piggybacked” on a larger war taking place at the time, between the hated Romans and the Parthian Empire, which ruled modern-day Iran and Iraq, seizing what they saw as a historic opportunity to rise up. The revolt began in Cyrene, in modern-day Libya, but quickly spread to Egypt, and mostly to Alexandria. Despite initial victories, the Romans suppressed the revolt, and the Alexandrian community, the richest and most flourishing in all the diaspora at the time, was destroyed and mostly annihilated.

641 | The Arab Conquest

Ask the average person, and it would take them a few moments to recall that Egypt was not always an Arab country. But the truth is that only in 641, as Islam spread from the Arabian Peninsula, did Egypt become a majority Arabic speaking Muslim country.
Like many other countries under Muslim sovereignty, the Jews were treated as a protected minority – dhimmi, in Arabic. The dhimmi arrangement was simple: The Jews (and Christians) were required to acknowledge the supremacy of Islam, to pay a poll tax (called jeziah), where special clothing indicating their status and other restrictions. In return they enjoyed autonomy in family, personal, and religious matters, and were also permitted to adjudicate internal disputes before Jewish courts. This arrangement with the Jews was meticulously upheld, save for a few episodes, such as that of the sixth Fatimid Caliph Ali Mansur al-Hakim who was known for cruelty. This ruler forced the Jews to convert, and even burned down the Jewish quarter in the city of al-Jawardia.

882 | Karaites and Rabbis

The history of religious sects in Judaism has known bitter struggles – Sadducees and Pharisees, Hasidim and Misnagdim, Haredis and Secular and more. One of the best known was the dispute between the Karaites and the Rabbanites, which took place in full effect in Egypt. Religious, the difference between the two camps is that Karaites adhere strictly to the text of the Torah, whereas proponents of rabbinical Judaism believe that those ordained as rabbis are empowered and even obligated to interpret the Torah so as to fit the times, an authority the Karaites vehemently denied.
Researchers estimate that the Karaite community lived and worked in Fustat (ancient Cairo) from the dawn of the Muslim occupation. Around the year 882 the Karaites in Fustat founded Beit Ezra, the synagogue where in 1896 the rich archive known as the Cairo Geniza was discovered. Among many treasures revealed in this trove, shedding light on trade, relations, intimate and family relations and the music of the Jews of Egypt and neighboring countries, were also the fierce debates which the Karaites waged against the Rabbanites. One of these, Rabbi Saadia Gaon, was born in Egypt and was one of the chief adversaries of the Karaites. Later he moved to the rabbinical academies in Babylon and became one of the great geniuses of the age.

1050 | The Triple Thread

In the mid 11th century the largest Jewish community in Egypt was centered in Fustat, or ancient Cairo. The well-respected, well-to-do community was divided in two: The “Babylonians”, who originated in modern-day Iraq and followed the legal and halachic authority of the great yeshivas of Babylon, and the Jerusalemites, who followed the wise men of the Land of Israel. Both centers of learning were financially dependent upon the rich Jews of Fustat.
Add the fact that Fustat was the epicenter of the struggle for a monopoly on rabbinical authority between Babylon and Jerusalem, and we see a loaded triple thread, which gave rise to much political friction. One of the most famous personal contests was between Ephraim Ben Shmaryah, leader of the Jerusalemites, and Elhanan Ben Shmaryah, leader of the Babylonians. Among the documents in the Cairo Geniza is one detailing a dream had by Ephraim Ben Shmaryah, in which Moses himself came to him at night and bestowed the chief authority in Fustat upon him.

1165 | From Moses to Moses, There Was None Like Moses

One cannot speak of the history of Jews in Egypt without discussing “The Great Eagle,” the man who did it all: philosopher, legal scholar, religious authority, physician, nutritionist and moralist, the genius Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimom, better known as Maimonides, or by his Hebrew acronym, the Rambam, who settled in Cairo in 1165.
Maimonides was the great architect of Jewish thought. He cracked the genome of the Jewish world-view in his composition “Moreh Nevochim” (“Guide to the Perplexed”), strengthened the foundations of faith in the “Epistle to Yemen”, and simplified halacha in his monumental work “Mishne Torah”, (literarily “Secondary Torah”), which was subtitled “HaYad HaChazaka”, in a typical rabbinical wordplay, reflecting the 14 (“yod-dalet” in Hebrew, which spells “Yad”) volumes encompassing all of Jewish law up to his time. Maimonides wrote several books on philosophy, but was also a leading medical authority, leaving behind many writings on proper nutrition and preventive medicine. His immense output is particularly astonishing when one considers that by day he was physician to the Sultan, and in the evening, as head of the Jewish community, received visits from his parishioners.
The greatness of the Rambam was immortalized in the saying “From Moshe (Rabeinu) to Moshe (Ben Maimon) there has been none like Moshe”.

1312 | Prophecy Is Given to the Wise

According to the wisdom of King Solomon, one of the things that “makes the earth tremble” is that of a slave become king (Proverbs, 30:21), meaning one who goes straight from servitude to the highest power, without learning the ways of ruling first. Solomon's prophecy came true 2.300 years later, when the Mamluks, slave-soldiers in service of the Arab Abbasid Empire, took over the Middle East in 1250 and established a tyrannical kingdom in the lands of Egypt, Israel, Syria and other countries in the region.
Historian Eliyahu Ashtor writes in his acclaimed book “History of the Jews in Egypt and Syria” that the rise of the Mamluks ended the golden age for Jews in Egypt and marked the beginning of “the decrease in creative force in Arab culture”. Ashtor quotes philosopher Joseph Caspi, the famed Jewish biblical interpreter, who came to Egypt in 1312 to study philosophy, but was thoroughly disillusioned after meeting the local Jews. “They are all righteous,” Caspi wrote, “but in no wisdom did they engage, nor were there any wise men in all of the east, and I called upon myself: 'Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help' (Isiah 31:1), and I returned to my homeland in disgrace.”

1604 | Twin Communities

For hundreds of years the Land of Israel and Egypt were under the same sovereignty – from the Fatimid dynasty, through the Mamluks to the Ottoman Empire, which took over the Land of the Nile in 1517. Due to this, symbiotic relations developed between the Jewish communities in Israel and Egypt. These relations manifested in mutual migration, in families that lived part time in each country and in trade relations mostly indicating a dependence of the smaller community in Israel on its wealthier southern counterpart.
Another stream of Jews arrived in Egypt following the Spanish expulsion of 1492. Among these were famous men such as David Ben Zimra, a rich merchant and religious ruler who was head of the Jewish community in Egypt, and Avraham David, a rich businessman who gave much of his money for Torah study and community causes.
In the early 17th century the Ottoman Empire suffered a severe economic crisis. This crisis greatly affected the Jewish community and shrunk its population. Testament of this can be found in a missive sent by the leaders of the Jewish community in Safed in 1604. “Egypt is lost to our brethren,” the Jews of Safed write, “for those who were of aid to our supporters in the land of Egypt have fallen most low, for their dealings are greatly diminished.”

1805 | An Ashkenazi, a Sephardi and a Karaite Walk Into a Bar

The dry period in Jewish history in Egypt ended with the great wave of immigration that flooded the Land of the Nile in the 19th century upon the rise of Muhammad Ali, who came to power in 1805. This ruler was responsible for the modernization of Egypt. He is credited with infrastructure development, farming innovations, the paving of roads and byways, establishing centralized authority and more. In the middle of the 19th century there were but 6,000 Jews living in Egypt, and in less than 70 years that number rose to 60,000. The Jews were divided into four groups: Sephradi, Karaite, Egyptian Jews and a group of Ashkenazi Jews who migrated to Egypt from the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe during the 19th century.
Thus did Egypt, and particularly Cairo, become a cosmopolitan mosaic, so multi-cultural that anyone walking around Cairo at the time could encounter Jews holding lively discussions in Ladino, Yiddish, French, Italian or Arabic.

1865 | Class Warfare

Would you be surprised to learn that tensions between Ashkenazi and Sephardi - “The sectarian demon” as they are known in modern-day Israel – existed in Egypt as well? Well, they did, from 1865, when immigration from Eastern Europe began by Jews fleeing the rampant anti-Semitism of the time. The Ashkenazi group, which at its height numbered 10,000 souls, belonged at first to the lower-middle classes, but soon they advanced up the social ladder and managed to free themselves of the crowded, poverty-stricken “Harat al-Yahud” (The Jewish quarter) and move to the more upscale neighborhoods of Cairo. The attempts by the Ashkenazis to mold the face of Egyptian Jewry in their own image were met with strenuous opposition from the Sephardis, the descendants of those expelled from Spain, who constituted the elite of the Jewish community. The Sephardis spoke French, sent their children to British schools and lived in the affluent parts of Cairo. To the authorities, they alone represented the Jews. But strong cultural tensions seethed under the surface. The Sephardis were contemptuous of the Ashkenazis, who could not even speak French with a proper accent, whereas the Sephardis scorned the “easternized” Sephardis, and viewed them as uncivilized, materialistic and lazy. All of which just goes to show that stereotypes do not die, and often do not even shift.

1917 | National Coexistence

The seeds of Zionism in Egypt were sown by Joseph Marco Barouch, a colorful and multidimensional figure – poet and anarchist, teacher and journalist, and most of all an energetic Zionist activist who, had he not taken his own life due to unrequited love at the tender age of 27, there is no telling the heights he may have achieved.
Barouch founded the Bar Kokhba Society in Cairo, a Zionist non-profit organization which operated a library, a coffee shop, a vibrant Zionist clubhouse and more. His Zionist activity increased upon the establishment of the Zionist Organization of Egypt, a branch of the Maccabi organization, and the Hebrew Scouts Movement. The local Zionist organization, like many others around the world, was greatly impacted by the enthusiasm that swept across the Jewish world in 1917, following the Balfour Declaration.
These Zionist initiatives were joined by Jewish businessmen such as Felix de-Menashe and Jacques Mosseri, who made great contributions to the building of Israel and whose philanthropy established several settlements, including the moshav Kfar Yedidiah.
This was also the time in which a large Egyptian national movement, al-Wafd, was growing, calling for Egyptian territorial sovereignty. The fact that these two national movements did not come into conflict is a testament to the rare pluralism typical of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Egypt in the 1920s.

1939 | The True Spring of Nations

The darkness that descended upon humanity in the 1930s, with the rise of Nazism and the various fascist movements throughout Europe, did not skip Egypt. Racist propaganda and xenophobia spread among Egyptian students and military officers, who loathed British colonialism and viewed Hitler as their savior. The fact that the Nazi race theory ranked Arabs only a tiny bit higher than Jews did not stem the radicalization. Finding a common enemy, as the wise Jew Sigmund Freud said, is the best way to unite two adversaries. The moderate national sentiment that characterized the 1920s turned into a pathological nationalism, which rejected anyone deemed not a “true” Egyptian and anyone who was not a Muslim, or in other words Jews and Copts (the Christians of Egypt).
The flag of nationalism was carried by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Young Egypt movement, fueled by texts translated into Arabic, among them “Mein Kampf” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. But the Jewish community did not sit still. Jewish journalists risked their livelihoods to publicly reject the false propaganda, and the Jewish community of Egypt boycotted German goods from 1933 to 1939.

1956 | The End

The UN resolution to partition the Land of Israel in November 1947, and the Israel War of Independence that followed, heralded the end of the Jewish community in Egypt. The Egyptian government used martial law to assault its perceived opponents, and confiscated their property (an issue still being handled with the Egyptian authorities to this day).
Despite protestations of loyalty, the Jewish community fell victim to incitement by the press and the authorities. Between June and September 1948 sections of the Jewish quarter in Cairo were destroyed. The violent demonstrations, acts of arson and bombings ravaged movie theaters, department stores and other businesses owned by Jews.
Between 1948 and 1952 some 20,000 Jews left Egypt. Later, with the rise to power of Gamal Abd al-Nasser, who implemented socialism and Pan-Arabism, another 30,000 Jews followed. In 1967 only around 3.000 Jews remained in Egypt, and their numbers dwindled over the years. In 2014 there were only 360 Jews living in the country.
Is this the end of the long ties between the Land of the Nile and the Chosen People? In 1979 a historic peace agreement was signed between Israel and Egypt. Since then, the Israel's border with Egypt has been respected, and many Israelis have visited the Land of the Nile as tourists, the place their ancestors left thousands of years ago to fulfill their destiny and become a nation.

Cairo

In Arabic: القاهرة‎ 

Capital of Egypt

It is almost certain that Jews settled in Fostat at the time of its establishment in 641 by Arab occupation, and they built their synagogue in the ancient byzantine citadel. In the 10th century Jews arrived from Babylon and founded two communities - the Babylonian and the Palestinian. After the Fatimids established the new city of Cairo (969), north of Fostat, the local Jewish community became the most famous in Egypt. Jews continued to dwell in Fostat (old Cairo) until it was burned by the Egyptians (1169) in an effort to prevent its capture by the crusaders; the famous "genizah" was found in the ancient synagogue of Fostat at the end of the 19th century.

Maimonides, his son Abraham, and his grandson David lived in Fostat. The heads of the Palestinian community in the b. Moses ha-Levi, and his brother Sar Shalom ha-Levi. Persecutions took place during the rule of the Mamluks (1250-1517), who persecuted non-Muslim communities in general and the large Christian Coptic minority in particular. Synagogues and churches were destroyed and closed and fanatical Muslims plotted against Jews for many reasons. It is said that Sultan Baybars gathered the Jews and the Christians under the citadel walls and threatened to burn them alive unless they agreed to pay a large sum of money (13th century). Mamluk rule forbade Jews to trade in spices and other imports from the Far East, and their economic situation worsened. Most of them were tradesmen and manufacturers and a privileged group still continued to deal in money and banking.

Meshullam of Volterra reports 800 Jewish households in Cairo in 1481 as well as 150 Karaite and 50 Samaritan families. According to an Arab historian, there were five synagogues in Cairo. In the beginning of the 16th century, many refugees from Spain came to Cairo. There were two distinct groups of Jews: maghrebim (Jews of North African origin), and Sephardim, each with its own bet din and charitable institutions; and there was occasional conflict between them. The Sephardim surpassed the other communities and were appointed as rabbis for the musta'rabs, who adopted the customs of the Spanish Jews in their prayers. The descendants of the exiles assimilated with the Jewish majority and forgot their Spanish language. Among the great Spanish scholars of the 16th century were R. David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, R. Moses b. Isaac Alashkar, R. Jacob Berab, R. Bezalel Ashkenazi, R. Jacob Castro, and R. Solomon di Trani.

The Turks, who conquered Egypt in 1517, did not interfere in Jewish religious affairs. They badly treated the rich Jews, however, most of whom occupied official appointments, such as the operation of the mint and the collection of taxes; many of them were condemned to death on various pretexts. In 1524 the governor Ahmed Pasha extorted a vast sum of money from the director of the mint - Abraham Castro - by threatening to slaughter all the Jews. However on the day of payment Ahmed Pasha was murdered by a group of his own soldiers and the danger was averted. This day of salvation was commemorated as an annual Purim Mitzrayim (Purim of Egypt). The extortion and tyranny worsened in the 17th and 18th centuries with the decline of Ottoman rule.

Among the sages of the Jewish community of Cairo a special mention should be made of Chayyim Vital from the kabbalists of Safed, Mordecai ha- Levi, Solomon Algazi; and in the 19th century Moses Algazi, Elijah Israel, and Raphael Aaron b. Simeon.

A new era for the Jewish community in Cairo started with the rise of Muhammad Ali (1769-1849) to Egyptian rule (1805). Moses Montefiore, Adolphe Cremieux, and Solomon Monk (the secretary of the Jewish consistoire of France) visited Cairo, and founded modern schools; and after the economic development of Egypt Jews from other Mediterranean countries settled in Cairo. In 1882 there were 5,000 Jews in Cairo and after 15 years, 11,500, including 1,000 Karaites. In 1917 the Jewish community numbered 25,000, among them many refugees from eastern Europe. Jews prospered in commerce and banking and even took part in public affairs and government institutions. R. Yom Tov Israel was appointed to the legislative assembly and Jacob Cattaui became the chief revenue officer of Egypt; his son Joseph was minister of finance (1923) and another son Moses was president of the Cairo community for 40 years. In 1925 Chief Rabbi Haim Nahoum joined the Egyptian Academy of Science.

During early 20th century there were a number of Jewish newspapers in Cairo, among them Mitzrayim (Ladino, 1900), Die Zeit (Yiddish, 1907-08), and the weekly magazines l'Aurore (French, 1908), and Israel (French, 1919). In 1934 there was an Arabic weekly magazine, Al-Shams. The Karaites also published a weekly magazine of their own called Al-Kalim.

In 1947, 41,860 Jews (64% of Egyptian Jewry) lived in Cairo, 58.8% of whom were merchants, and 17.9% worked in industry. Although it contained a few wealthy Jews, the Cairo community was poorer than Alexandria. After the arrests of Jews in 1948-49 and the persecutions of 1956-57, only 5,587 Jews were left. After the Six-Day War this number decreased to about 1,500, and by 1970 only a few hundred remained, especially in the new mixed quarter of Heliopolis. Massive arrests began in June-July 1954; about 100 Jews were concentrated in two camps and fifteen of them brought to trial. In the spy case which ended in 1955, Moses Marzouk and Samuel 'Azar were condemned to death by hanging and others received life sentences. (They were released and sent back to Israel after the Six-Day War.) In 1956 the head of the community Salvador Cicurel left Egypt and was succeeded by Albert Romano. In November 1956 the government confiscated the hospital. After the death of R. Haim Nahoum, Chayyim was elected as chief rabbi in 1960; he left Egypt in 1972.

In 1997 there were 100 Jews living in Egypt, most them in Cairo.

MORDECHAI
MORDECHAI, BEN MORDECHAI, MORDOCH, MORDOCHAI

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a patronymic surname derived from a male ancestor's personal name, in this case of biblical origin.

Mordechai is a biblical male personal name, derived from the name Morduch, which is the name of a Babylonian god. The biblical Mordechai lived in the exile of Shushan (Persia), and is described as "a certain Jew, whose name was Mordechai, the son of Yair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite" (Esther 2.5). Apparently he was the first among his ancestors, who carried Hebrew names, to live in exile, and to adopt a foreign name. The personal name Mordechai is recorded as a family name among Jewish families from various countries. The Hebrew Ben means "son of". There are numerous Jewish surnames derived from Mordechai, many of which comprise of vernacular suffixes and various languages and dialects. The following examples are recorded as Jewish family names in the 19th century in the former Russian Empire: Modukhaj, Mordukhaev, Mordkha, Mordkhovich, Mardushenko, Mordkhel, Mordkhalevich, Mordechaiov, Motkes, Motin, the Ukrainian form Mordkovskij, and others.