The last Jew of Eritrea

Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan. Now Eritrea joins the growing ranks of extinct Jewish communities. But at least the synagogue in Asmara is well cared for and the cemetery has not been allowed to fall into disrepair. BBC report by Ed Harris (with thanks: Albert)

When Sami Cohen, 58, grew up in Asmara, he lived among a buzzing Jewish community, which peaked at about 500 people in the 1950s.

Sami Cohen in the synagogue

But emigration, death
and revolution, have changed all of that.

Now Mr Cohen is the last Jew still native to Asmara still in the city. He looks after both the synagogue and the cemetery because there is no-one else to do it. The first Jews in Eritrea came from Yemen in the late 19th Century, hard on the heels of Italian colonial expansion and new commercial opportunities.They were later joined in the 1930s by those fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe. Some left when Israel gained its independence, but most departed when the violence of Eritrea’s 30-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia came to Asmara in the mid-1970s. Mr Cohen’s wife also stayed, but left with their daughters when Eritrea and Ethiopia went to war again in 1998.

Now he is on his own.

Read article in full

Y-net news article

Read more about the Cohen family here

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