Warning! This post is very old and may contain information or opinions that are no longer valid or embarrassing.
Lina Attalah and Mohamed El Dahshan of Al-Masry Al-Youm followed up on my post about the Magen Abraham synagogue that was turned into an NDP office in Hadayeq el-Quba. They did a very good job in finding answers to many of the questions regarding why this building is in such a horrible state.
“This temple was built by the Adda family,” says Carmen Weinstein, president of the Egyptian Jewish Community Council (JCC).
"The Adda's were a Jewish Egyptian family of industrialists and bankers, who contributed to the growth of the Egyptian economy in the 1940s. I wish the state would preserve this temple, which is unique in this part of the city." For Jewish communities in Egypt before 1952 it was customary to erect neighborhood synagogues. "In each neighborhood, the local Jewish collectivity built a synagogue," says Weinstein, who also points out that while 29 synagogues once existed in Cairo, only 13 remain.
When contacted for more information about the building, Cairo Governorate officials expressed surprise with respect to the building's unusual status, and gratitude that Al-Masry Al-Youm reporters brought the matter to their attention. According to one governorate employee who wanted to remain anonymous, the building is recognized in the district's files, but has no licenses or ownership documents.
"This means that no measures of demolition, or restoration, have been taken with respect to the building. Nevertheless, the Hadayeq el-Qubba district headquarters believe the construction to be stable and safe," he says. "Since there has been no ownership documents for the synagogue, the government has put its hand on it."
Abdallah Attar of the Sector of Islamic and Coptic Monuments in the Supreme Council of Antiquities says that the synagogue is not considered a registered monument and therefore does not fall under the jurisdiction of the council. "The Permanent Monuments Committee has to agree to register it as a monument under Law 117/1983," he says. According to the law, the minister of culture or the prime minister has to approve the registration, based on the age of the monument and its architectural standards.
"Once registered, a monument of the Supreme Council of Antiquities becomes regulated by the law in terms of the organization of its use and the criminalization of any violations against it," Attar says. The synagogue of Hadayeq el-Qubba is not one of the registered synagogues as antiquities and therefore falls out of the Supreme Council's jurisdiction, according to Attar. He says there are only nine registered synagogues in Egypt.
"It is not registered as an antiquity because we're yet to formally request it," Weinstein explains. "But I have recently spoken to [head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities] Zahi Hawwas, and he requested we submit a report about it." Regarding the presence of government employees, Weinstein says that the JCC "submitted a request to the Ministry of Social Solidarity to have their offices relocated so that the synagogue can be returned to its original appearance and made into a touristic site." The ministry's response? "They responded that they needed to find a new location first."
Read the full article: The curious case of a Cairo synagogue