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Ben Ezra Synagogue

(4,611 words)

Author(s): David Cassuto
The Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat (today Old Cairo) was the site of the great treasure trove of documents known as the Cairo Geniza. It came to be called Ben Ezra because of a legend that Ezra the Scribe had given skeptical Egyptian Jews a Torah scroll with magical powers to convince them of his authority. In the Middle Ages, the synagogue was known as Kanīsat al-Yerushalmim and Kanīsat al-Shāmiyyīn (Synagogue of the Jerusalemites or Synagogue of the Palestinians). As the doyen of Geniza studies, S. D. Goitein, has observed, the building referred to by the Arab historian al-Maqrīzī (d. 1442) …

Karaite Synagogues of Jerusalem and Cairo

(2,783 words)

Author(s): David Cassuto
The oldest known Karaite synagogue is the one in Jerusalem. Because all Karaite religious trusts, including the one in Jerusalem, were managed by the Karaite community in Egypt, in a sense this Israeli synagogue is an extension of the Karaite property in Egypt (al-Gamil 1988, p. 316.). The Karaites in Egypt were responsible for its maintenance and state of repair. In 1938, the British authorities named Elie Barukh Masʿudah of Cairo manager of the religious trusts in Jerusalem and put him in charge of the associated properties, including the old synagogue. It w…

Synagogues in the Islamic World

(4,783 words)

Author(s): David Cassuto | Mohammad Gharipour
Very little has been written about early synagogues in the Muslim world, whether in the Mediterranean basin, Central Asia, or the Far East. Unlike the West, where the culture was based on stone architecture that lasted for many centuries, and where some relatively ancient structures have survived to this day, building in the Middle East and North Africa was based on wood, bricks, and soft cement materials that did not stand up to the ravages of time. Consequently, synagogues in these countries f…
Date: 2014-09-03