Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jewish leader Carmen Weinstein dies

Carmen Weinstein, the feisty leader of Cairo's tiny Jewish community, died yesterday, aged 82. This AP obituary downplays the mass expulsion of the Jewish community, which should be seen not just in the context of Egypt's conflict with Israel, but the harassment and ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims generally. Always careful not to 'rock the boat' with the authorities, Mrs Weinstein will probably be remembered for her work preserving Cairo's Jewish heritage - 13 synagogues are listed monuments - and for encouraging the restoration of the Maimonides synagogue. Her latter years were overshadowed by accusations of fraud, from which she was recently cleared: (With thanks: Michelle)

CAIRO (AP) — The leader of Egypt’s dwindling and aging Jewish community, known for her tireless work preserving synagogues and a once-sprawling Jewish cemetery, died Saturday at the age of 82.

Carmen Weinstein will be buried on Thursday in the Bassatine cemetery she herself worked to save since 1978. It is the only Jewish cemetery left in Cairo and is the largest in Egypt.

The transformation of Bassatine mirrors the dramatic changes Egypt has undergone as its population skyrocketed and poverty grew. Named in Arabic after its gardens, the cemetery is now a slum of tightly-packed redbrick apartment buildings that house thousands of poor Egyptians after waves of migration from villages in southern Egypt.

Parts of Bassatine were turned into a garbage dump, while another area was seized by antiquities’ officials. Weinstein was able to preserve a small area as a Jewish cemetery.

Egypt’s once thriving Jewish community largely left more than 60 years ago at a time of hostilities between the country and Israel. Estimates say that since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, about 65,000 Jews left Egypt — most of them traveling to Europe and the West. Some settled in Israel.

Their departure was fueled by rising nationalist sentiment during the Arab-Israeli wars, and harassment and some direct expulsions by then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who seized power shortly after a military coup ousted the country’s king.


Anonymous said...

We shall never know if Carmen played a part in the Egyptian authorities' refusal for not receiving a group of Egyptian Jews from visiting their.Bassatine and Shaar Hashamaim.Everything was ready, passports, hotel accomodations and plane tickets. Some most a lot of money, fortunately knowing Egyptians I had taken a very good insurance
Maybe the future will tell us what it was all about.

Sylvia said...

Baroukh dayan emet.

She has done what she believed was the right thing. History will tell if it was so.