A choir in a synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt, in the 1960s. (Photo/Wikimedia)
A choir in a synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt, in the 1960s. (Photo/Wikimedia)

Egypt introduces Judaism into its school curriculum

Students in Egyptian public schools will be learning Torah verses and about Jewish culture, thanks to a recent decision by the country’s Ministry of Education.

The ministry approved a new school subject known as “common values” which is designed to show the similarities between the three major Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is keen to teach the youth the values ​​of respect for others, tolerance and rejection of fanaticism and extremism,” said Kamel Amer, a government official, according to Al-Monitor.

Accompanying the new subject is the decision to remove explicitly Islamic content from nonreligious courses such as Arabic, geography and history.

“Teaching religious texts through subjects not related to religion leads teachers to interpret such texts in extremist and subversive ways,” said Egyptian parliamentarian Farid el-Bayadi who authored the proposal.

While the subject is new for Egyptian primary and secondary school students, Jewish culture is not entirely foreign to Egyptian university students, as more than a dozen of the country’s universities offer degrees in Hebrew or Jewish studies, according to Haaretz.

The Egyptian Curriculum follows a similar decision approved by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI in November, to teach Moroccan-Jewish history in the North African Kingdom’s Arabic language school system. Israel and Morocco formalized diplomatic ties in December.

A joint statement from the American Sephardi Federation and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations hailed that decision as an effort to “perpetuate the Judeo-Moroccan legacy as an integral part of the Moroccan identity.”

As in Egypt, the move was seen as a measure against extremism. “Ensuring Moroccan students learn about the totality of their proud history of tolerance, including Morocco’s Philo-Semitism, is an inoculation against extremism,” said the statement.

David Ian Klein
David Ian Klein

David Ian Klein covers breaking news and international Jewish communities for the Forward. You can reach him at klein@forward.com and on Twitter @davidianklein.

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