A special delegation of Chabad representatives took part in the inauguration of the Rambam’s synagogue in Cairo. The event was held with much fanfare and in the presence of many Israeli government officials.
The Rambam’s synagogue was destroyed many years ago and was restored with the help of the Egyptian government and from donors abroad who also attended. The restoration of the Rambam’s synagogue sent emotional waves rippling throughout the Egyptian Jewish community and to former residents of the county who now reside elsewhere, many of who came to participate in the historic event.
The representation of Chabad rabbis at the event was led by Eilat’s Chief Rabbi Yosef Hecht and Rabbi Mendy Klein, coordinator of Beis Eilat. The delegation consisted of Chief Rabbi of Kfar Chabad Rabbi Mordechai Ashkenazi, member of Chief Rabbinate Rabbi Shimon Elitov, renowned scribe Rabbi Chanoch Glitzenstein, member of Agudas Chassidei Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Greizman and Tel Aviv Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hecht. Additionally, many shluchim from around Israel attended.
Rabbi Yosef Hecht, who held many Siyumei Rambam in Egypt in the past, continued with his tradition and made a Siyum in the synagogue. He said the symbolism was great for according to legend the Rambam wrote part of his great work the Yad Hachazak in that synagogue. Rabbi Hecht would make many trips to Egypt with instructions from the Rebbe to encourage the local Jewish community and to hold these Siyumei Rambam.
After the Siyum, Rabbi Hecht gave an inspiring speech in English.
Rabbi Mordechai Ashkenazi began the new cycle of learning of the Rambam, after which he delivered a few short words expressing his emotions at the witnessing of such a monumental event.
Rabbi Shimon Elitov spoke in Hebrew and Spanish, explaining that these were two languages that the Rambam used. The rabbi then went on to entertain the crowd with songs in Arabic and Latino with music accompaniment by Reb Meir Rosen.
Security was tight and extreme measures were taken to ensure that there would be no chance of any hostile clashes.
Eilat’s Chabad House coordinator Rabbi Mendy Klein noted that although the synagogue was restored and now looked beautiful, it did not lose its ancient ambience nor its historical splendor. He said the repairs enhanced the appearance and reminded one of how it must have looked in better days when the community was much larger.
Israeli and Egyptian media flooded the synagogue to cover this historical event which shook the local Egyptian Jewish community, imbuing them with new pride and strength in their often hostile environment.