HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF JEWS FROM EGYPT (HSJE)
undertakes the responsibility of preserving and maintaining the culture and
history of Jews from Egypt. “Culture”, according to the American Heritage
dictionary, is “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns,
arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and
The Egyptian Jewish community, known as the “Communauté Israélite du Caire et d’Alexandrie,” consisted of many different cultures, including Ashkenazim (European Jews) Karaiites (a splinter group from the rabbinical traditional following), and Sephardim (Levantine Jews). HSJE plans to study their origin and contributions to Egypt. According to reports from the media and recent travelers, fewer than 20 Jews live in Egypt today, mostly elderly people. They can no longer preserve the records, culture, and artifacts of the community. Much community property has been disposed of in the past without regard to its historic value. HSJE is attempting to convince the Egyptian government to allow the transfer of the community’s records and religious artifacts to the United States, where most Jews from Egypt reside today.
A)To preserve Jewish historical sites and monuments in Egypt, including
B) To study and document the history of Jews from Egypt, with emphasis on contemporary history, for which scholarly work is sorely lacking:
C) To establish a medium of communication for Jews from Egypt throughout the world.
D) To reunite families through genealogical research.
E) To assist members through social and welfare organizations.
F) To direct the efforts and support students undertaking similar work, sponsor lectures, publications, films, and discussion groups.
A) Preservation of Historical Sites
As the largest organized community of Jews from Egypt, and with the help of cultural agencies in all countries where Jews from Egypt reside, HSJE proposes to appeal to the Egyptian government to safeguard and maintain Jewish artifacts and community property in Egypt, and make available the archives of Jews from Egypt. HSJE also proposes to gather the documents scattered in the Old Geniza of Cairo to classify, itemize, list them by date of origin, and translate them for use by scholars, with the assistance of the Central Archives For The History Of The Jewish People in Israel. HSJE has also been promised cooperation from Beth Hatefutsoth, The Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, in Tel-Aviv.
B) Documentation of Recent History
Our aims in this category are to investigate, document and report the recent history of Egyptian Jewry, a group which is near-moribund today. Appropriately, HSJE’s newsletter was called the SECOND EXODUS. It informs the members and the public of HSJE’s activities at least three time a year, includes short scholarly reports, and is expected to include in the future:
The Society will continue to consult the work of well-known historians and invite them to speak:
Beinin, Ph.D. History, Stanford University.
Pierre Cachia, Ph.D. Modern Arabic Literature, Columbia University.
Jane Gerber, Ph.D. Institute of Sephardic Studies, Graduate Center C.U.N.Y.
Jacques Hassoun, MD Psychoanalysis, History, Paris.
George Gruen, Ph.D. Political Science, Columbia University
Reginetta Haboucha, Ph.D. Spanish Literature and Judeo Spanish folklore, Dean of Humanities, Marist College
Jacob Landau, Ph.D. Political Science, Hebrew University
Michael Laskier, Ph.D. Middle Eastern & Contemporary Jewish History, Beit Berl College, Israel.
Avigdor Levy, Ph.D. Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University.
Moshe Ma’oz, Ph.D. The Harry S. Truman Research Institute, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
Yo’ram Meital, Ph.D. Middle Eastern Studies, Ben Gurion University.
Ya’acov Meron, Ph.D. Doctorate in Islamic Law, Paris. Ministry of Justice, Israel.
Nadav Safran Ph.D. Political Science, Harvard University.
Marianne R. Sanua, Ph.D. Jewish History, Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Sasson Somekh, Ph.D. Director, The Israeli Academic Center in Cairo.
Norman Stillman, Ph.D. Judaic History, University of Oklahoma.
Albert de Vidas, Ph.D. Editor, History of Sephardim, Erensia Sefardi
Walter Zenner, Ph.D. Anthropologist, State University of New York, Albany.
Victor D. Sanua, Ph.D. Coordinator, Research Professor, St. John’s University.
Ada Aharoni Ph.D. Researcher and a cultural sociologist, Technion: Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.
Zvi Zohar Ph.D. Bar Ilan University and Shalom Hartman Institute
HSJE will have many committees, covering archives, education, genealogy, publication, rabbinical, research, and social projects, and other topics. HSJE has already established a committee to study secular and religious education in Egypt. Because many Jews from Egypt attended foreign schools, the dynamic inclination and impact were never analyzed vis-à-vis their Jewish identity.
Through the Internet, which has proven a great asset to HSJE, two discussion groups have been established (Egyjews and Egypt Today) with over 250 regular participants exchanging personal histories and opinions. HSJE intends to expand these fora and add new ones.
D) Genealogical Research
The genealogical research will be conducted through mailings to the members and the exchange of data and other material with other genealogical societies. An effort will be made to obtain copies of the records of the Rabbinates in Cairo and Alexandria, known to date back hundreds of years, reproduce them into modern format, and make them easily available to scholars and researchers. HSJE also consults with many Jewish genealogical sites, such as JewishGen and SephardicGen.
E) Social Welfare
With the help of community and national social welfare agencies, HSJE expects to be able to assist in improving the welfare of its members.
Through membership dues and fund-raising functions, HSJE intends to
1) Establish various
educational and cultural institutions
2) Finance and participate in qualified independent studies, in collaboration with other institutions, within the framework of HSJE’s constitution.
3) Organize lectures by distinguished professors
HSJE will attempt to preserve Jewish historical sites and monuments in Egypt, jointly with other scholarly and cultural agencies in the United States and abroad. The approach may include letters and public announcements, informing the public of the necessity to preserve those monuments, and appealing to the public to express their feelings directly to the Egyptian authorities.
HSJE will not share any financial responsibility to preserve these monuments, nor will it financially support any institution in Egypt.
Scholarships will be awarded to applicants who have proven their academic abilities. All candidates will have equal opportunity and be evaluated on a non-discriminatory basis in regards to race, color, sex, or religion, in compliance with Affirmative Action.
Officers, members of committees, and employees of HSJE, and their relatives, will not be eligible for scholarships.