Ben Ezra Synagogue

Ben Ezra Synagogue

Ben Ezra Synagogue

Ben Ezra Synagogue History

Located in the Fustat area of Old Cairo, Egypt, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, also known as the El-Geniza Synagogue, stands as a significant historical site. In Hebrew, it’s known as בית כנסת בן עזרא, and in Arabic, it’s referred to as معبد بن عزرا. Local legends suggest that this is the very place where Moses was discovered as an infant.

Sun Pyramids Tours, 1970, the most innovative travel agency in Egypt, is inviting you to embark on a remarkable journey through Coptic Cairo and Ben Ezra Synagogue.

Experience the splendor of Coptic Cairo, where majestic churches and the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ’s sacred sites.

The Ben Ezra Synagogue, once a vibrant center for Jewish festivities, congregations, and devotions in Egypt, has evolved into a point of interest for tourists following the departure of the majority of the Jewish community in the 1950s.

 

When was Ben Ezra Sanygouge established?


Origins The exact date of the establishment of the Ben Ezra Synagogue remains uncertain. However, documents discovered in the genizah suggest that it was likely established before 882 CE, possibly during the pre-Islamic era.

In 882, a church and its surrounding property were sold by the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria to a Jewish group. Some scholars in the 19th century speculated that this transaction marked the birth of Ben Ezra. However, the purchasers were adherents of the Talmudic Academies in Babylonia, while Ben Ezra was a congregation that followed the teachings of the competing Talmudic Academies in Syria Palaestina. Contemporary scholars concur that the synagogue sold in 882 was a different one.

 

The location of the Synagogue is also steeped in biblical lore, believed to be the very spot where the Pharaoh’s wife discovered and rescued baby Moses from his river-bound basket.

Ben Ezra Synagogue Facts

Ben Ezra - Coptic Cairo

 

In the 19th century, a remarkable discovery was made in the synagogue’s genizah, or storage room. A wealth of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic manuscripts, and more than 250,000 historic papers, both secular and sacred, that had been lost and stored away were found, turning the synagogue into a treasure trove of historical documents.

 

The refurbishment process involved careful architectural conservation efforts on the walls and ceiling, as well as an overhaul of the lighting system, according to the statement.

 

Boasting an impressive array of books and documents that offer a glimpse into the societal life of Egyptian Jewish communities, the Ben Ezra Synagogue is of considerable significance in the study of modern Jewish history.

When was Discovered in Ben Ezra Synagogue



Jacob Saphir, a Romanian-born Jew who moved to Ottoman Palestine during his childhood, later became a rabbi. In 1859, he embarked on a global journey to fundraise for the restoration of Jerusalem’s Hurva Synagogue, which had been demolished by authorities in 1721. Saphir was the first to acknowledge the historical importance of the geniza at Ben Ezra Synagogue, a fact he documented in a book published in 1874.

The first European to access the geniza was Jewish book collector Elkan Nathan Adler in 1888, who acquired approximately 25,000 documents. During the synagogue’s reconstruction from 1889 to 1892, the documents were piled up in the open. Count Riamo d’Hulst, an Egyptologist, examined some of these documents during this period.

In December 1896, Solomon Schechter, a Cambridge University instructor who later became a renowned American rabbi, initiated the first thorough scholarly study of the geniza documents. He also arranged for the remaining documents to be transferred from Cairo to various university libraries.

Ben Ezra Synagogue Architecture

The synagogue’s doors were officially opened by Egypt Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on September 2023, marking the completion of a decade-long restoration project, as reported by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MOTA).

The latest refurbishment was carried out by the Drop of Milk Association, an entity dedicated to the preservation of Egypt’s Jewish heritage. The restoration involved protective treatments for the ceilings and stones, as well as insulation provision.

In recent years, Egypt’s MOTA has undertaken several conservation projects and worked tirelessly to restore numerous historical buildings.

Restoration of the Ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue

 

The synagogue’s doors were officially opened by Egypt Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on September 2023, marking the completion of a decade-long restoration project, as reported by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MOTA).

The latest refurbishment was carried out by the Drop of Milk Association, an entity dedicated to the preservation of Egypt’s Jewish heritage. The restoration involved protective treatments for the ceilings and stones, as well as insulation provision.

In recent years, Egypt’s MOTA has undertaken several conservation projects and worked tirelessly to restore numerous historical buildings.

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