Friday, April 19, 2013

Carmen Weinstein, Who Led the Jews of Cairo, Dies at 82

CAIRO — Carmen Weinstein, the leader of Cairo’s small Jewish community and the driving force behind the restoration of Maimonides’s yeshiva and other monuments of Egyptian Jewish history, died on Saturday at her home here on the island of Zamalek. She was 82.

Her death was announced by the Jewish Community Council of Cairo, of which she was president.
Ms. Weinstein refused to accept that Egypt’s once-vibrant Jewish community was dying out, even if its ranks had dwindled to just a few dozen elderly people from more than 80,000 six decades ago. “We are still in Cairo despite what everybody says,” she told a Los Angeles Times reporter 11 years ago.
When the Historical Society of Jews From Egypt, an American group based in Brooklyn, sought help from Congress to remove historical artifacts and prayer books, known as seforim, to the United States for safekeeping, Ms. Weinstein resisted, saying she would ignore the society’s “insensitive letters referring to our inevitable extinction.”
Instead, in 1997, she persuaded the government to classify the Jewish artifacts as Egyptian antiquities, preventing their sale or export. “Taking the Jewish seforim, books and records out of Egypt is tantamount to saying that Egypt should demolish the pyramids and the Temple of Luxor because there are no pharaohs left,” Ms. Weinstein said.
She pronounced herself unflustered by any hostility from her Muslim neighbors over tensions between Israel and the Arab world. “We have no troubles and we don’t talk politics,” she curtly told The Associated Press during Israel’s 2009 war against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement mourning the loss of Ms. Weinstein. “She was a dedicated Egyptian who worked tirelessly to preserve Egyptian Jewish heritage and valued, above all else, living and dying in her country, Egypt,” he said.

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