Moroccan Jews - 6th Grade Teachers Guide

(page 2)

Contact with Those Outside of the Community

Synagogue in the Beach Resort of Agadir

Jews speak a number of languages - Judeo-Arab, Judeo-Berber, Hekatia (Judeo-Spanish or Ladino), along with Moroccan Arabic, French and Spanish. Many Jews in the 20th century have been attracted by French and Spanish culture. In the mellahs, the Rabbis in synagogues and Jewish courts controlled their lives. Most Jews had little contact with Moroccan authorities, but some went in business with Muslims. Community leaders represented the community with the authorities. Many Jewish communities have received support from Jewish organizations in Europe and the US. When they could not leave legally for Israel, Israel organized an illegal exodus. Today, there are some super-rich, who support the community. There also are some very poor. Most Jews keep in touch with family members in Europe and in Israel, to the extent they can.


Keeping Moroccan Jewish Traditions

Casablanca Jewish leaders meeting with Representatives of the King (in Ben Ahmed)

With only 5,000 Jews, it is difficult to maintain their 2,000 year-old culture. Many Moroccan Jewish traditions are now followed in Israel and France. Jews work hard to keep the support of the King, but they donít want to appear too close to Israel. One of the biggest problems is taking out their money when they leave the country for good.

Customs and Religion

Protective Amulets





Praying at a Jewish Saint's Tomb (Rabbi Amrane ben Diwane in Ouezzane)


Moroccan Jews have unique customs. They 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 Lillith by waving a dagger around his crib until he is circumcized. They wear protective amulets. They have special festivals to pray at the tombs of rabbis who died long ago. They call these rabbis "saints" and believe that praying at their tombs will help them overcome problems.

Moroccan Jews pray according to the Sephardic tradition, which is a variety of Orthodox. For Chanukah, they eat doughnuts and light wicks in olive oil in menorahs. They have established special Purims to remember times when the Jewish community was saved, such as when the Americans arrived during World War II to begin fighting the Nazis. The most unique Jewish holiday is called Mimuna, at the end of Passover, when Muslims visit, and Jews go from house to house visiting friends and family, to eat lots of sweets and bread.

Moroccan Jewish culture is closely linked to Muslim culture. Muslims visit Jewish saints and Jews visit Muslim saints. Jewish cooking is kosher, but is almost the same as Muslim cooking, including couscous, cooked salads, stews and fantastic pastries. Moroccan Jews will often wear traditional clothes, such as djellabas and caftans. Brass art and jewelry are now made by Muslims, based on designs and techniques of Jews. One shared symbol is the hamsa, or the hand of Fatima. Jews often used traditional Moroccan wall carvings in their synagogues. Jewish marriage ceremonies feature Moroccan music, especially Andalusian music, which was developed by Jews and Muslims in Spain in the 15th century. At marriages, Jewish women wear traditional Moroccan robes and have their hands and feet covered with tatoos made of henna. Jewish men love to drink alcohol made from dates and anise, called mahiya.


The Future of Moroccan Jews

The Moroccan Jewish community is dying slowly. The community is getting smaller each year. The problems in Israel and Palestine make Jews in Morocco nervous, encouraging some of them to leave. Those in Israel, France and Canada are proud of their Moroccan culture, but younger people are losing their close feelings for Morocco. Many Jews from abroad visit the graves of their parents in Morocco. While life was difficult for the first generation of Moroccans in Israel, things are improving for their children and grandchildren. Soon, Jews will not be much more than a memory within Morocco.

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