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Virtual SJCC: Zoom In!terview with Aaron Kiviat
May 21 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Join us for a Zoom In!terview with longtime JCC member and criminal defense attorney Aaron Kiviat about his fascinating, life-changing work mapping one of Egypt’s all-but-forgotten and nearly destroyed cemeteries.
This week, we “Zoom In!” on Seattle criminal defense attorney Aaron Kiviat, and his fascinating and life-changing work in Egypt’s Jewish community. In 1998, as a student of Arabic at Evergreen University and UW Jackson School of International Studies, Kiviat spent his senior year on a study abroad program in Cairo that would change his life, the lives of those in the Egyptian-Jewish Diaspora, and the memory of those buried in Egypt’s all-but-forgotten and nearly destroyed cemeteries.
In 1999, Kiviat embarked on a two-year effort to map Egypt’s Jewish Bassatine Cemetery, marked only by a small Magen David gate in Cairo’s vast City of the Dead. Filled with unmarked graves, headstones upturned and broken, and squatters living in makeshift houses with piles of trash everywhere, Kiviat and a hand-picked team set out to map the cemetery, photograph and digitize all marked tombstones, and enter 4,000 names into a database. Despite political controversies and challenges getting records, the milestone project, facilitated by JCC Cairo and American Jewish Committee, enabled Cairo’s small and dwindling Jewish community to identify and pinpoint where there loved ones are buried.
Aaron shares some of his moving memories and images from his efforts, and discusses his lifelong, ongoing relationship with Egyptian organizations like Cairo’s Jewish Drop of Milk Foundation, as well as recent efforts to restore Cairo’s cemetery and finished renovation of the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria this February 2020, even as the country’s tiny Jewish community prepares for a “Jew-free” future.
“I Buried My Father’s Talis at Bassatine” – Aaron Kiviat
“Egypt Restores Historic Synagogue, but Few Jews Remain” – Haaretz
“US Embassy to Fund Restoration of Jewish Cemetery in Cairo” – Egyptian Streets
Cairo Jewish Drop of Milk Foundation’s Facebook group
Map of Bassatine Cemetery