Joe Pessah was born in Cairo, Egypt to a large Karaite family of seven children. Together they lived on a street that was named Farouk, but later changed to al-Jaish or “The Army Street.” Joe’s family had lived in Egypt for generations, tracing his lineage possibly from Russia, Istanbul and Israel.
Joe has vivid memories of his grandparents who were to him “like saints,” full of wisdom. Though they had little money, Joe says that they were rich with humility. As a poor schoolgirl, Joe’s mother watched the other children with new clothes while she wore tattered shoes even during the winters.