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City in northern Egypt where a tributary of the Nile feeds into the Mediterranean. Founded in 331 B.C.E. by Alexander the Great, the city soon became a great metropolis. Alexander the Great was friendly to the Jews, and Alexandria was the first Greek city to give them citizenship. Under the rule of the Ptolemy kings who succeeded Alexander in Egypt, and under the rule of the Romans who defeated Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemies, the Jewish community was autonomous and prosperous. Jews held civic office and served as soldiers. With their population fluctuating between half a million to a million, Alexandrian Jews spoke Greek. Their Greek version of the Bible, the Septuagint, was used in their synagogue in place of the Hebrew. The Great Synagogue of Alexandria was said to hold 100,000 worshipers. The reader had to wave a flag to indicate when the people, some of whom could not hear him, should say the responses. Such sages as Philo lectured on Hellenistic Judaism (See Hellenism) to multitudes of interested pagans. Nevertheless, such heathens as the priest Apion instigated hatred of Jews to the point of riots. This hatred increased after Egypt became Christian. When Christian mobs destroyed the Jewish quarter of Alexandria, Hellenistic Judaism was doomed. Under Arab and Turkish rule, some Jews returned to Alexandria, but the center of Egyptian Jewry gradually moved to Cairo. Before 1956, the year in which thousands of Jews left for Israel, Alexandria had a Jewish population of about 15,000. Today, there are practically none. (See also Egypt.)

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