May 27, 2018

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Guardians of the memory of Jewish Aden

Walk down Lilienblum St in Tel Aviv and at No 5 you will find a little known jewel.  Housed on the upper floor is a  synagogue, Below is a room full of objects, models, photos and books.

Dani Goldsmith is the resident historian at the Museum of the Jewish community of Aden, at the tip of the Arabian peninsula. At its height, the bustling port city, a British colony until the 1960s, had a population of 8,000 Jews. They were other small communities of Jews living along the Red Sea coast:  up to 400 Jews lived in Asmara, an Italian port city. All left for Italy.

Abraham Marcus was headmaster of the last Jewish school

In spite of his Ashkenazi name, Dani is the descendant of the Menahem Messa family. they were great philanthropists and seemed to have financed most of the community’s institutions,  notably the community’s schools. The Museum has produced a booklet illustrating the history of Jewish education in Aden.

The boys’ school was burnt down in the riots of 1947, property looted and 82 Jews killed. A mass exodus followed. Only a few hundred Jews remained. In the 1950s, Abraham Marcus became the headmaster of the mixed school.

In the aftermath of the Six Day War, the Jews were at risk from an angry mob and sought to flee. The Lancashire regiment  evacuated by sea the 100 remaining Jews, divided between the old Crater quarter and the port. but the real hero of the rescue effort was Abraham Marcus.

Later, when Marcus became the secretary of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, he told his story to Nigel Grizzard, a researcher. Nigel Grizzard will be giving a talk in London for Harif on the 50th Anniversary of the Six Day War entitled: ‘How the British army saved the last Jews of Aden’ on 5 June. Check Harif website ( for details.

The Adenite couple behind the Esther Cinema

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