Moroccan Jews - 3rd Grade Teacher's Guide


The People


Jewish Man in Tahala

What do we call the Jews from central and Eastern Europe? Ashenazim

Who are the Moroccan Jews?  

Sephardim. Sephardim are descendants of Jews who lived in Spain until 1492.

Some Jews came to Morocco before the Sephardim. They came with the Romans and the Arabs. The Arabs brought their new religion, Islam, with them to make Morocco a Muslim country.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus went to America. Why did he go?

To find a trade route with India. 

But also, to celebrate the Christian victory over the Muslims and the ejection of Muslims and Jews from Spain.

Where did Sephardic Jews go when they left Spain?

Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) and lands controlled by Turkey.

Morocco, which was not controlled by Turkey.


Their Lives 


Street scene in the    Jewish Quarter of Casablanca



Jewish Musicians                  in Mogador        (Essaouira)

Where did Jews live until this century?

In walled off neighborhoods with great doors that closed at night. Muslims lived in other walled off neighborhoods.

How did the Jews live in the 20th century?

When the French took control of Morocco a hundred years ago, Jews moved out of their walled off neighborhoods into the modern cities. They were the first Moroccans to learn French and work with French people.

What happened to Jews during the Holocaust?

Jews in Morocco were kicked out of French schools and could no longer live in the French neighborhoods. Only a few people were affected. This lasted only three years, until the American army landed in Morocco.

After Israel was founded in 1948, did many Moroccan Jews move to Israel?

Not immediately, but most Moroccan Jews left for Israel in the 1950s and 1960s. Morocco gained its independence from France in 1956. Later, others left for France, Canada and the US. The population fell from 300,000 in 1950 to less than 5,000 today. 

Their Culture


Amulets against                   Lilith

What languages do Moroccan Jews speak? Judeo-Arab, Judeo-Berber, Hekatia (Judeo-Spanish or Ladino), along with Moroccan Arabic, French and Spanish.

What are some special customs?

Moroccan Jews are very superstitious. Just like the Muslims, they believe in good and bad spirits. When a boy is born, they protect him from the demon Lilith by waving a dagger around his crib until he is circumcised. They also wear protective amulets.

Jews have special festivals to pray at the tombs of rabbis who died long ago. They call these rabbis "saints," just like Christian saints. They believe that praying at their tombs will help them overcome problems. They light candles at the saintsí tombs.

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