Algeria has created its first official Jewish association, which will be headed by a prominent Algerian Jewish lawyer, the Jerusalem Post reports. But with hardly any Algerian Jews to speak of, will the association be representing phantoms?
The establishment of the association is in accordance with a 2006 law on non-Muslim religions, which mandated that all non-Muslim religions should have representation from accredited associations.
Mohamed Fellahi, the Algerian minister for Religious Affairs, appointed Roger Saïd, a lawyer from the Bilda region, to act as the representative of the Jewish community in a religious and cultural capacity.
In Algeria, Jews are scarce and difficult to account for. There are no official records on the number of Jews living in the country: speculations range anywhere from eight to under 1,000. While there are twenty-five registered synagogues in Algeria, there has been no official effort to compile data on their congregants.
Many Algerians see the creation of an official association as a part of several positive developments by the Algerian government over the last few years in regard to Jews.
Those who left Algeria when Jews were affected by significant tension have noted that the situation has greatly improved.
I traveled to Algeria, I went there freely, without any kind of constraint," Bernard Haddad, Algerian native and founder of L'Association Mémoire Active Bônoise, told The Media Line. "I was able to move around freely, without being questioned."
Mr. Haddad's organization is based in France and deals primarily with the protection and preservation of Jewish cemeteries in Algeria.
There have been several problems with vandalism in Jewish cemeteries in Algeria, and as the number of Jews in Algeria dwindles, there are fewer people to advocate for the preservation of Jewish heritage in the country.
When asked if he saw improvement in the situation of Jews in Algeria, Haddad replied, "Absolutely. I recently went to Algeria; I met certain people like the Wali, the mayor of the town that I visited. I can assure you that for all of the needs of the Jewish cemeteries in Algeria, I was welcomed."