TANTA, town in Lower *Egypt, situated between *Alexandria and *Cairo. A prosperous Jewish community, noted for its loyalty to Jewish tradition, existed in Tanta at least from the beginning of the 17th century and it is possible that the community was founded in earlier times and grew considerably during the second half of the 19th century. At one time, it was the third-largest Jewish community in Egypt, after Cairo and Alexandria. A document from the Muslim court of law in Tanta from 1871 deals with the case of the merchant Joseph Levi of Cairo, who purchased real estate in the vicinity of Tanta. In 1897 there were 883 Jews in Tanta and in 1917, 1,183. Most of the Jews in Tanta were of North African origin. During the period of the community's prosperity, there were three synagogues, a Jewish school, and a women's charitable society. The Jewish population in the city grew because of its location on the railroad line connecting Alexandria and Cairo. The *Alliance Israélite Universelle founded a school in Tanta in 1903 and in 1905–6 232 students of both genders were enrolled, some of whom were Muslims. This school remained after the Alliance Israélite Universelle had left Egypt in 1922. After World War I, the number of Jews decreased when many of them left for Cairo and Alexandria and others went to Ereẓ Israel. Only the poor remained and they too eventually died or departed. In 1912 the Jews of the town contributed to the Kuppat Pidyon Shevuiim of Jerusalem for the young Jews who joined the Ottoman army. The rabbi of Tanta at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th was David Nahmias, who submitted a number of halakhic questions to R. Raphael Aaron ben Simeon. He received one answer in 1900 about an ice factory which had been opened. In 1901 the rabbis of Cairo traveled to Tanta to publish there the new kiddushin regulation. Emile *Suarez was the president of the Tanta community in 1938.
J.M. Landau, Jews in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (1969), index; S. DellaPergola, in: J.M. Landau (ed.), Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Miẓraim ba-Tekufah ha-Otmanit (1517 – 1914) (1988), 41–42; Z. Zohar, in: ibid., M. Winter, in: ibid., 408. G. Pozailov, Ḥakhmeihen shel Arbaʿ Arei ha-Kodesh, 2 (2001), 601.
[Eliyahu Ashtor /
Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.