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Leader of Lebanon's declining Jewish community dies

Lebanon's Jewish community is now down to "around 30 people," most of whom have emigrated to the USA, Brazil or Europe.

Leader of Lebanon's declining Jewish community dies

Inside the abandoned Bhamdoun Synagogue. (Credit: Matthieu Karam/L'Orient Today)

The former president of Lebanon's tiny Jewish community, who had pushed for the rehabilitation of Beirut's abandoned synagogue, has died, his family and the community's lawyer told AFP on Wednesday.

Isaac Arazi, 80, who headed the Lebanese Jewish Community Council, "died on Tuesday and was buried the same day," lawyer Bassem el-Hout said.

Jews have been living in Lebanon for 2,000 years but their numbers shrank from some 22,000 before the 1975-1990 civil war to around 30 today, according to Hout.

They left steadily for the United States, Brazil and Europe after the state of Israel was established in 1948, "but they are still attached to Lebanon and many come back regularly," Hout added.

Arazi's family published an obituary in a Lebanese newspaper describing him as the driving force behind the reconstruction of the Magen Abraham synagogue in central Beirut, one of the largest and most ornate in the Arab world.

The Jewish council that Arazi headed had helped fund the project through donations.

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In 2009, Arazi told AFP he was "ecstatic" about renovating the synagogue, which opened to worshippers in 1926, and expressed hope that the endeavour would "ensure that the community grows once again".

The synagogue's last rabbi fled the country in 1977 as Lebanese Jews left in droves, particularly after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, where the words "Jews" and "Israelis" are often synonymous.

A handful of buildings that were once synagogues still stand in Lebanon, including one in the northern city of Tripoli and another in the southern city of Sidon.




The former president of Lebanon's tiny Jewish community, who had pushed for the rehabilitation of Beirut's abandoned synagogue, has died, his family and the community's lawyer told AFP on Wednesday.Isaac Arazi, 80, who headed the Lebanese Jewish Community Council, "died on Tuesday and was buried the same day," lawyer Bassem el-Hout said.Jews have been living in Lebanon for 2,000 years but their...