“Sipping from the Nile”: A Memoir of the Exodus of Cairo’s Jewish Daughters

I was raised in a beautiful mansion on the banks of the Nile, in a multicultural multilingual Sephardic Italian Jewish family in Egypt: a Middle Eastern family, where men rose to prominence by their acts in a larger world, while women ran households, managed a large staff, volunteered their services to Jewish charities, and gained their reputations from their family backgrounds, skills at needlework and music, as cooks, and hostesses, and their elegance at all times.

My father was a mild man. He was gregarious and funny, a lover of literature and music that fate had pushed into finance. He left much of the parenting to my mother, whose fiery red hair was matched by an engaged and passionate nature.

When I was five, my father beamed proudly alongside my jubilant mother when I brought home excellent weekly placements from school. Then, something happened. From landing first or second place, week after week, I announced without embarrassment that I was fifth, then twelfth, then fifteenth, then twentieth in my class of twenty.

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