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Damanhur, Egypt

DAMANHŪR, name of several Egyptian cities in the Middle Ages. One Damanhūr is referred to by Maimonides in his responsa as a major community in Egypt at his time. He together with other dayyanim decreed that anybody could marry or divorce a woman in Damanhūr without the permission of Rabbi Halfon (Bar Ula), the dayyan of Damanhūr. It would appear that the reference is to the present Damanhūr, which is the principal city of the Buḥayra province. This Jewish community remained in existence until modern times. In the 19th century the community was subordinated to the Jewish court of law in Alexandria. In 1901 the rabbis of Cairo visited Damanhūr and declared there the new Qisushin regulation. In the 19th century there were no Jewish local institutions, probably because the majority of the Jewish population lived in the city only for a short time. In 1897 the community numbered 228 members, but in 1917 there were only 56. The decrease is probably accounted for by migration to nearby Alexandria. In spite of their small numbers, the Jews had many enemies in this city, and blood libels were brought against them in 1877 and 1882. The tomb of the kabbalist Jacob Abu Ḥasirah in Damanhūr was revered by the Jews of Egypt, and pilgrimages were made to it on festivals.

Sources:Mann, Egypt, 2 (1922), 317; E. Ashtor, in: JJS, 19 (1968), 7; Ashtor, Toledot, 1 (1944), 32, 326; 2 (1951), 358ff.; 3 (1970); J.M. Landau, Jews in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (1969), index; idem (ed.), Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Miẓrayim ba-Tekufah ha-Ottemanit (1988), index.

[Eliyahu Ashtor / Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.