Jews in Algeria Observe Saddest Rosh Hashanah in Many Centuries

The saddest Rosh Hashanah in many centuries was observed here by the decimated Jewish community, shrunk to no more than 4,000 of a total of about 50,000 who had flourished in this capital. The Days of Awe here are, indeed, days of unprecedented sorrow and travail.

Of the 12 synagogues previously holding regular services here, only two are functioning now. Of the more than 30 rabbis who were here prior to the vast exodus of Algerian Jewry, only four remain. Of the 19 members of the old Consistoire Israelite, only four are still here. These include Henri Gozlan, who retains his post as municipal veterinarian for the city of Algiers, and Georges Moatti, who owns a grocery store in an area inhabited by Moslems.

Rabbi Gilbert Seror, one of the four spiritual leaders still here, showed the community’s helplessness as he presided over the Rosh Hashanah services. He tried to preach what he called “encouragement and hope”–but his efforts were half-hearted.

Separated from their kin, so many of whom had departed, the Jews here are also separated internally, each small, local group in this large city having only one common contact–the relief office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which is functioning actively. Many of the Jews here live on $12 in cash which they get monthly, and on food packages labeled “donated by the people of the United States of America.”

The once-active Jewish organizations and institutions, cultural, religious or charitable, are dormant or non-existent. Leaders of the community said today that, after Yom Kippur, they plan on taking a census of the Jews still remaining here and in the rest of the country. On the basis of this count, they hope to develop some sort of program of relief, religious revival and cultural rebirth.

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