Weinstein, who regularly disburses funds to the women, allowed me to write about the Jewish community's events on the condition that I avoid sharing details of individual community members. The group is too small and it could be a security risk to talk about certain people, she said. When I have tried to speak with women outside the celebrations, they have declined to speak on the record.
It is a multilingual group -- most of them grew up in Egypt but some have foreign citizenship and family living abroad. Some come from an aristocratic background in Egypt and spoke French or Italian growing up here.
Foreign visitors usually outnumber these women at services. Diplomats occasionally come to show their support for a minority group, because they themselves are Jewish, or out of sheer curiosity. A motley crew of high-profile visitors has paid its dues in recent years.
Thursday's celebration felt a bit like a U.S. embassy Hannukah party, with U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson and her husband in attendance, chocolate cake in hand. The ambassador has attended before, including Rosh Hashanah services in 2011, at which attendees struggled to follow along with the only English prayer books they could find: 1941-edition siddurim produced for His Majesty's Armed Forces.
Bringing along baked goods has become something of a tradition for U.S. ambassadors. Patterson's predecessor, Margaret Scobey, stopped by the Passover Seder in 2010 with brownies in hand. The Israeli diplomat leading the meal -- in Hebrew, French, and English -- thanked her for the treats but warned everyone they were not strictly kosher. Attendees munched on them anyway.
The Austrian ambassador to Egypt regularly attends with his wife. Photographs of Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, from their 1999 visit to the little Ben Ezra Synagogue across town, are on display in a corner of Shaar Hashamayim's sanctuary. According to legend, Ben Ezra, which dates from the 9th century, is built on the spot where baby Moses was found on the waters of the Nile.
Perhaps the most noticeable change for the Jewish community in this revolutionary time is the absence of Israelis at its events. Fewer Israeli tourists have come to Egypt in the past two years, and the Jewish state evacuated its diplomats from the country after the embassy attack last year. Their absence has led to a dearth of Hebrew speakers to lead prayers and has made it harder to make a minyan. The general drop in tourism since the uprising has hurt both attendance and donations and an initiative begun in the late Mubarak years to renovate Egypt's remaining Jewish sites has been indefinitely halted.
For now, Weinstein fights to keep the community alive. Herself a senior, Weinstein said there is no clear candidate to replace her once she can no longer lead the Jews of Cairo. Weinstein has spent much of her adult life trying to keep Jewish relics within Egypt and preserve what is left, particularly Cairo's Jewish cemetery; her mother previously headed the community.
The community has faced long odds before. Lucette Lagnado, an Egyptian-born American reporter who has authored two memoirs about her Jewish family's expulsion from Cairo and move to the United States, said that on her most recent visit to Egypt in 2010, she marveled at how the women had survived as Jews throughout the years.
"It must have taken enormous wit, spunk, defiance -- you name it what you like," she said.
But for all the focus on the resident of the presidential palace and the crowds on the street, for the aging congregants of Shaar Hashamayim, time may be the greatest enemy.