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      Leader of Egyptian Jewish Community Brought to Rest

      More than a hundred mourners came to pay their last respects to Carmen Weinstein, who died this week at 84.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 4/19/2013, 2:13 AM

      The Jewish cemetery in the Egyptian capital Cairo
      The Jewish cemetery in the Egyptian capital Cairo
      AFP photo

      The leader of Egypt's tiny Jewish community was buried in Cairo on Thursday in the local Jewish cemetery, AFP reported.

      More than a hundred mourners, including Christians and Muslims as well as Jews from both Egypt and abroad, attended the funeral of Carmen Weinstein under tight security in central Cairo's Shaar Hashamayim synagogue, the report said.

      "Egypt has lost a great lady," said Rabbi Marc Elfassi, who lives in France but has overseen rites in Egypt for nine years.

      "Before each prayer, she told me: 'Please pray for my country, Egypt, to be as happy as it was when I was young,’" he told the congregation, according to AFP.

      Weinstein, who was 84 when she died this week, worked tirelessly to preserve Egyptian Jewish heritage and for the restoration of such monuments as the downtown Cairo synagogue.

      Estimates of the Jewish population in Egypt range from about 200 to a few dozen, mostly elderly women, a fraction of the 80,000 strong community whose members were expelled or left the country in the early 1950s.

      Magda Haroun, daughter of renowned lawyer Shehata Haroun, was elected to replace Weinstein.

      "I promise to members of our community to take care of them. I'd like to give a view of what will be the future of this unfortunately dying community," Haroun said at the funeral service.

      "I want to break the barriers that have been erected between people of this religion and people of other beliefs. I want everyone to remember that Egyptian Jews were living in Egypt and participated in all aspects of life," AFP quoted her as having said.

      Israel's ambassador in Cairo Yaakov Amitai praised in Arabic Weinstein's "loyalty" to the Jewish community "in very difficult conditions."

      After the service, Weinstein was buried in the Bassatine Jewish cemetery in a Cairo suburb. Her relatives said she wished to be buried alongside her parents, but sewage had flooded that part of the graveyard.

      "Look at the humiliation and the filth in which we will be buried," said Haroun, according to AFP.

      "But what to do? The area around should be developed, its residents must be allowed a decent life, so they preserve their surroundings," she said of the neighboring slums.

      Earlier this week Haroun said she will refuse Israeli offers of financial help for the renovation of Egypt's ancient synagogues.

      She told an Egyptian newspaper that she plans to contact UN heritage organization UNESCO if she fails to find adequate funds for synagogue renovation.

      Haroun stressed that Egypt's Jewish monuments belonged to Egypt's historical heritage, which extends over a very long period, saying they “are like the pyramids and the Sphinx. They are a part of Egypt's history that cannot be ignored."