History in Pictures: Extinct Jewish Communities-Egypt, Syria

Jewish communities that once were vibrant.

Contact Editor
Lenny Ben-David,

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

A series of vintage pictures on the Jews of the Middle East.  Like other Jewish communities in the Middle East, the Jews of Cairo, Alexandria, and Damascus are on the verge of extinction. 

Some of the pictures presented here show both the poverty and the former wealth of the various Jewish communities. 


Cairo:  In 1948, the Cairo Jewish community numbered an estimated 55,000. Pogroms and imprisonment caused almost all of the Jews of Egypt to emigrate.

Zaoud-el Mara (Jewish Quarters) Alexandria, Egypt.  A Library of Congress photo dates this picture from 1898.

Alexandria:  According to a Jerusalem Post article from 2008, Alexandria "is said to have boasted a community of tens of thousands of Jews of both Ashkenazi and Mizrahi descent, but some were expelled as French or British citizens during the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. Others were expelled and/or imprisoned for up to three years during the Six Day War. Some, too, left on their own accord, feeling that there was a brighter future for them as Jews in countries like Israel, America and Australia."

There are believed to be around 40 Jews living in Egypt today.

Syria - Damascus

 "Beautiful shaded court of a Jewish Home in Damascus, Syria. Look at the details of the picture.
(Credit: Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography at UCR  ARTSblock, University of California, Riverside) 

The Damascus Jewish community numbered an estimated 15,000-17,000 in 1918.  Riots, government discrimination, and imprisonment caused almost all of Syrian Jewry to flee.  

Today, perhaps a few dozen Jews live in Syria, but the savage civil war has also engulfed old Jewish neighborhoods and ancient synagogues.

At the start of the 20th century, several wealthy Jewish families lived in Damascus, and photographs of their homes are presented here.

Enlarging the photos disclosed several interesting details.

The matron of the home?

Children of the home?

Grand Mosque and Damascus from the Jewish Quarters, Syria. Three women on a balcony overlooking city. 
Credit: Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography at UCR ARTSblock, University of California, Riverside) 

Court of a Wealthy Jew’s Home in Old Damascus, Syria. See also here.
Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography at UCR ARTSblock, University of California, Riverside) 

Click on pictures to enlarge.  Click on the caption to view the original photo.