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Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt

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Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt

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Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt
A Family Archive from the Nile Valley
By Edward Bleiberg and Kenneth N. Han
Brooklyn Museum of Art (2002), 44 pages
ISBN-10: 0872731472
ISBN-13: 978-0872731479

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - February 9, 2010

The traumatic experience of the Israelites in Egypt as narrated in the Bible is well-known. The slavery and ultimate freedom followed by the revelation of the Torah impacted the Jews to this very day. The exodus from Egypt is part of virtually every Jewish ceremony. Some say that it teaches all humanity to rid itself of any form of slavery, including discrimination of every sort. However, the subsequent history of Jews in Egypt is known by only a few. The Bible itself narrates that many Jews escaped to and settled in Egypt when the Judean Second Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE. They lived there until 1948 when the State of Israel was reestablished, when most of them left, or were driven out, because of Islamic hatred and mistreatment of the Egyptian Jews prompted by the reestablishment. Even the greatest sage of Judaism, Maimonides, lived in Egypt until his death in 1204. Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt is welcome because it translates eight documents of a Jewish family in Egypt who lived in peace with their Egyptian neighbors during the fifth century BCE. We read the story of how they married and raised two children and about their work. We also read, because these are ancient documents, about slavery and animal sacrifices to God. For most people do not know that there was not only a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but also in Egypt.

Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on and on His website is

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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