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De Menasce Family


Sephardic family who arrived in Egypt during the eighteenth century, via Palestine and Morocco.

The leading member of the family in the nineteenth century was Jacob De Menasce (18071887), who began his career in Cairo as a money changer (sarraf) and banker and gradually emerged as the private banker of the Khedive Ismaʿil. He was one of the earliest entrepreneurs in Egypt to recognize the opportunities offered by European trade and, with Jacob Cattaoui, opened the banking and trading establishment of J. L. Menasce et Fils with branches in England, France, and Turkey. In 1872 and 1873, De Menasce was granted Austro-Hungarian protection and subsequently was given the title of baron by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, along with Hungarian citizenship. In 1871, he moved to Alexandria, the new and permanent seat of the family. His son, Béhor Levi, continued in the family's financial enterprises, but his grandson, Baron Jacques Béhor De Menasce (18501916), deserted the banking profession in favor of the cotton and sugar businesses. In 1890, Jacques served as the president of Alexandria's Jewish community and remained in that capacity for about twenty-five years. His younger brother Félix Béhor (18651943) became concerned with Zionism and was a personal friend of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, then president of the World Zionist Organization. In September 1921, Félix represented the Egyptian Zionist organization in Carlsbad at the twelfth World Zionist Congress; in later years he served as Alexandria's Jewish community president. The De Menasce family was not merely wealthy. It was European-educated and Western-oriented and led the Alexandria community from the early 1870s into the 1930s.

See also Weizmann, Chaim; World Zionist Organization (WZO).


Krämer, Gudrun. The Jews in Modern Egypt: 19141952. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989.

Landau, Jacob M. Jews in Nineteenth-Century Egypt. New York: New York University Press, 1969.

Mizrahi, Maurice. "The Role of Jews in Economic Development." In The Jews of Egypt: A Mediterranean Society in Modern Times, edited by Shimon Shamir. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1987.

michael m. laskier

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