From Cairo to Omaha – an Egyptian Jew’s story

On Aug. 8, 1962, Helene Avigdor was 13 years old. She lived with her parents, an older sister and a younger brother in Cairo, Egypt. “I came home that day and I saw the luggage by the door,” she explained. “My father kept us in the dark, and until that moment, I didn’t know we were leaving Egypt.” Helene tells her story in the Omaha Jewish Press.

“Speaking to his family in French, their primary language, Maurice Avigdor cautioned his children, “Don’t tell anyone we are going!”

Since the founding of Israel, pressure mounted on Jews through the Middle East. The Avigdors, a Sephardic family, experienced a great deal of prejudice, Helene explained, “My father told me that on a number of occasions when the doorman of their four-story apartment saw him coming, he would turn off the power in the lobby, forcing my dad to walk up the four flights.”

That was not the only discrimination he faced. Her father, who spoke seven languages and had a good job working for an Italian import/export company, stated he had been stopped often on the street. There had been a number of times when, without cause, he was stopped, questioned by authorities, and occasionally arrested. He knew of others that were roughed up.

And those same kinds of circumstances were occurring all across the Middle East. Jews were made to feel unwelcome. Jewish emigrants by the hundreds of thousands left their homes.

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