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Port Said

Port Said, Egypt city N.E. of *Cairo on the Mediterranean, at the entrance to the Suez Canal. With the construction of the Port Said harbor in 1856 Jews began to settle there. The Anglo-Jewish traveler S. Samuel found about 20 families (70 souls) in the town in 1879, earning their livelihood as tailors, retail traders, and money lenders. The community in Port Said prospered after the building of the Suez Canal. In 1882 there was a blood libel against the Jews of Port Said, but the local governor protected them. In April 1892 there again was a blood libel which resulted in the death of a Jewish merchant and an attack on the synagogue. Some Jews then left the city. Nevertheless, the census of 1897 showed that the Jewish population had increased to 400 (out of a total of 42,972 inhabitants). In 1901, 1903, and 1930, there were further blood libels. The community was organized at the end of the 19th century and obtained the patronage of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1890 the members of the local Jewish court of law were R. Joseph Buskila, Rabbi Bechor Abraham Bitran and the shohet Jacob Aaron Luria. At the beginning of the 20th century an Ashkenazi woman had a pub in the city. In 1901 the rabbis of Cairo traveled to Port Said and published there their new regulation on kiddushin. In the same year seven children from Port Said studied at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Jerusalem. The community was subordinate to the Jewish court of law in *Alexandria. The census of 1907 found 378 Jews in Port Said; the majority were of *Aden and Yemenite origin and a minority of Egyptian origin, Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. In 1917 594 Jews lived in the city. During World War I, the Jewish population temporarily increased. At that time, there were also some Zionist activities in the town. During the 1920s, the community had two synagogues and a school built by the Binyan family of Aden. It closed down in the 1930s. In 1927 there were 1,009 Jews in Port Said; in 1937 they numbered 767 and in 1947, 864. The rabbi of the community in 1918–35 was Nissim Benjamin Ohana, who was born in Algeria (died in Haifa in 1966). He published a responsa collection called Na'eh Eshiv (published in Jerusalem; 1958) and a halakhic book about shehitah, Ze Torat Ha-Zevah (published in Jerusalem in 1959). In 1956 the number of Jews in the town was estimated at 300, most of whom were compelled to leave as a result of the Suez campaign in 1956. In 1960 only six Jews lived in Port Said. In 2005 there were no Jews in Port Said.


J.M. Landau, Jews in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (1969), index.; S. DellaPergola, in: J.M. Landau (ed.), Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Mizraim ba-Tekufah ha-Otmanit (1988), 41; L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: ibid., 143, 152, 166; J. Hassoun, in: ibid., 567; Z. Zohar, in: ibid., 592, 600–801; A. Rodrigue, Hinukh, Hevrah ve-Historiyah (1991), 156; Z. Zohar, in: Pe'amim, 86–87 (2001), 109.

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