The last Jews of Cairo sit on wooden pews. Under the domed ceiling of the Shaar Hashamayim synagogue in downtown Cairo, the seven mostly elderly women gather on Sept. 13 for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. One attends the service in a wheelchair.
It is a humid Cairo evening in early September and clothes cling to bodies. The women fan their faces with paper programs. The Muslim call to prayer drifts in through the windows, along with the sound of gridlocked traffic. From the ceiling hung a huge chandelier in the shape of the star of David.
Joining the women are a handful of expatriate Jews, foreign diplomats and non-Jewish friends. The women are all that is left—the last men of the Cairo Jewish community died out or left the country by the 1990s. The community has lacked a rabbi for decades, so a pair of young American volunteers lead the service in a mixture of Arabic, English, and Hebrew.