The Ben Ezra Synagogue, also known as the El-Geniza Synagogue, is one of the oldest Jewish synagogues in Egypt and is located in Cairo. Its history dates back to the 9th century.
According to legend, the synagogue was built on the site where the baby Moses was found along the Nile River. However, there is no historical evidence to support this claim.
The actual history of the Ben Ezra Synagogue begins in the 9th century when it was built as a church called the Church of St. Michael. During that time, Egypt was under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate, and the Jewish community faced restrictions on building new synagogues. To bypass these restrictions, the Jewish community of Fustat purchased the church and converted it into a synagogue.
In the 12th century, Rabbi Abraham Ben Ezra discovered the Geniza, a storeroom in the synagogue where old and damaged religious texts were deposited. The contents of the Geniza, known as the Cairo Geniza, were meticulously preserved and provided valuable insights into Jewish history, culture, and everyday life during the medieval period.
Over the centuries, the Ben Ezra Synagogue underwent several renovations and expansions. It boasts a mix of architectural styles, including Fatimid, Mamluk, and Ottoman influences. The synagogue has a richly decorated interior, with marble columns, stained glass windows, and a beautiful domed ceiling.
During the 19th century, Egypt’s Jewish population began to decline, mostly due to economic and political reasons. As a result, the congregation of the Ben Ezra Synagogue dwindled, and the synagogue fell into disrepair.
In the early 20th century, efforts were made to restore and preserve the Ben Ezra Synagogue. Restoration work was carried out by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, which converted it into a museum. The synagogue was officially opened to the public in 1980 and continues to be an important historical site in Cairo.
Although the Jewish community in Egypt has significantly declined since its peak in the mid-20th century, the Ben Ezra Synagogue remains a symbol of the rich and diverse history of Jews in Egypt. It serves as a reminder of Egypt’s multicultural heritage and