Thursday, December 31, 2015

Locked away: Egypt’s forgotten Jewish literary heritage

Inside a library of a synagogue in downtown Cairo, hundreds of Judaic books dating from the medieval ages to 20th century are shelved, unread and un-indexed.
Despite a center dedicated to their preservation, government ministries have stalled, eschewing responsibility for what would be an expensive project to review and record the manuscripts digitally.
Cultural history
Some of the shelved books date back to 17th and 18th centuries, while others are kept inside closed glass boxes, Hebrew Language professor at Ain Shams University Mohamed Hosni told The Cairo Post.
“The books are very important and rare. Some books are hand-written while others were donated by dignitaries,” Hosni added, “There are some books [so fragile they] cannot be touched lest they deteriorate.”
The Jewish Heritage Library in Egypt was established inside Cairo‘s Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue by the Jewish Community Council of Cairo in cooperation with Israeli Academic Center in Cairo during the tenure of former President Hosni Mubarak and was inaugurated on Oct. 25, 1988.
Most Egyptian Jews left the country in the 1950s, and of those who remained, the majority officially converted to Christianity or Islam. There less than 20 self-identified Jews estimated to remain in Egypt.
Head of Jewish Community of Egypt Magda Haroun has previously expressed her concerns over neglecting the library’s archeological and old books and rolls without digitizing and documentation.

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