For the first time, Egyptian Jews will have no minyan (quorum) for prayers at the central Jewish house of worship in Alexandria, the Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Avraham Dayan, head of Alexandria Jewish community, said in a radio interview on Monday that in past years, students from yeshivas have flown in to help complete the minyan.
The yeshiva students, who are studying to become rabbis, help slaughter kosher animals for holiday meals. In general, the rabbinic trainees also lift the spirits of the few remaining Jews in the community, nearly all of whom are elderly, during the High Holy Day period.
Although Alexandria once boasted a Jewish community nearly 40,000 strong, the population has dwindled to only 50 in the past 20 years.
This year, Rabbi Dayan told Israeli radio listeners he was informed by Egyptian authorities that the shul, one of the oldest active synagogues in the world, would not be allowed to open for security reasons. Authorities said it was preferable the students not enter Egypt because it is “dangerous,” Rabbi Dayan explained.
As a result, there will be no prayers at the Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue – which at full capacity, once held up to 5,000 Jewish worshipers.
The Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue, the largest Jewish house of worship in the Middle East, was built in 1354. It was badly damaged during the French invasion in 1798, but was subsequently rebuilt in 1850.