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The Jewish Community of Marrakesh

Marrakesh

In Arabic: مراكش‎‎ 

One of the former capitals of Morocco. Situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains

Marrakesh was founded in 1062 by Yusuf ibn Tashifin, the ruler of the Almoravides who reigned from 1061-1107. However, ibn Tashifin's son and successor, Ali, forbade the Jews of Aghmat-Ailan (an important commercial center further to the east which was exclusively inhabited by wealthy Jews) to live in Marrakesh, under penalty of death. The Jewish community was reconstituted in 1232 after it had been devastated by the Almohads in 1147, though its members later fell victim to a massacre. After the conquest of southern Morocco by Abu Yusuf the Merinid in 1269, Jews once again returned to settle in Marrakesh.

The community was led by Rabbi Judah Djian of Jaen (southern Spain) in 1492. Although large numbers of Spanish and Portuguese refugees arrive in Marrakesh in 1496, the core of the community was made up of the Atlas Jews. Later, during the 16th century, many Marranos immigrated to Marrakesh. Consequently, the city became an important center for reconversion to Judaism and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews controlled most communal affairs. For a long time, these Jews lived in two quarters of their own and were completely separated from the indigenous Jews, who were mainly found in the Mawasin quarter. However, in 1557 Sultan al-Ghalib Billah concentrated all of the Jews in the mellah (Jewish Quarter). At that time, they numbered more than 25,000 though this number would fluctuate through the rest of the century due to the epidemics that swept through the city; for example, in 1558 a cholera epidemic killed 7,500 people. After this catastrophe, however, the community enjoyed a great period of prosperity. It lent an extremely large sum of money to Sultan Abd al-Malik, and had a large role in his rise to the throne in Marrakesh in 1576.

Under the rule of the Sa'adian sharifs beginning in 1525, the Jews of Marrakesh, acting as trade agents for the Sa'adi sultans, were entrusted to manage the principal industries and the commerce of Morocco. All of the sharifs chose their physicians, bankers, advisors, and ambassadors from among the Jewish upper classes. However, when the Alawite dynasty came to power during the latter half of the 17th century, its sultans did not always display such tolerance towards the Jews. When Moulay Rashid conquered the city in 1670 he ordered the Jewish counselor to be publicly burned, along with the ruling prince Abu Bakr and his family, in order to inspire terror among the Jewish community. Moulay Rashid destroyed the city's synagogues, and imposed enormous taxes on the community. His brother Moulay Ismail succeeded him in 1672, and was a cruel tyrant who also imposed enormous taxes on the Jewish community.

In the 18th century, Marrakesh lost its status as the capital of Morocco in favor of Fez (Muhammad ibn Abdallah would retain Marrakesh as his preferred residence and as the de facto capital when he became Sultan of Morroco in 1757). Nevertheless, the city retained its commercial and economic importance. The Jews of Marrakesh saw their economic and social situation improve, especially after 1745. Samuel Sumbal, who lived in Marrakesh and was a scholarly kabbalist who promoted Torah study, was a favorite of Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah and served as his interpreter and counselor. The flourishing yeshivas of the town were headed by Talmudic scholars such as Rabbi Abraham Corcos, the av beit din from 1735 to 1780, and his student Abraham Pinto, or by kabbalists such as Rabbi Solomon Amar, Rabbi Abraham Azulai, and Rabbi Shalom Buzaglo. Many foreigners also came to study under these teachers, such as the kabbalist Chiya Cohen de Lara of Amsterdam, who completed his studies in Marrakesh.

Traditionally, the Jewish community was governed by the same families; one of them was the Corcos family. In spite of the favors given to certain Marrakesh Jews by the sharifs, the community never returned to the state of general prosperity which it had enjoyed during the period of the Sa'adian sharifs. In addition to 200-300 wealthy families, some of whom even lived in opulence, there were 2,000 families who barely earned a living, and a further 2,000 who were poverty-stricken. In 1908-1909 Si Madani al-Glawi, the governor of Marrakesh and the surrounding areas, bestowed on Marrakesh's Jewish elite a number of social and economic privileges. He also lifted the enormously high taxes that the Jewish community of Marrakesh was forced to pay, and maintained close ties with the community president, Joshua Corcos of the abovementioned Corcos family.

During the 19th century the Jewish population of Marrakesh increased with the arrival of groups from Jewish communities throughout the Atlas region. Until 1920, the mellah of Marrakesh was the largest in Morocco and was the center of considerable activity.

The 1951 census indicates that there were 16,392 Jews living in Marrakesh. This number had dropped to 10,007 by 1960.

Since 1899 there had been Alliance schools in Marrakesh, attended by 3,026 pupils in 1953 and an Otzar HaTorah School, with 350 pupils in 1961. There were also Lubavicher, ORT, and other educational institutions, bringing the number of Jewish students in school to 4,392 in 1961.

After the Six Day War and the subsequent attacks on Jews throughout Morocco, there was a mass exodus from the city. In 1970 the community of Marrakesh consisted of a few hundred people who had long since left the mella, and whose socioeconomic standing was particularly high. In 2005, there were several dozen Jews left in Marrakesh.

Place Type:
City
ID Number:
118590
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:
Lasry, Marc (1960-), businessman, born in Marrakesh, Morocco. He was taken to the US by his parents in the late 1960s. He was schooled in Connecticut, studied history at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and then law at the New York Law School.

Lasry is the founder and manager of a large US hedge fund. Together with his sister he founded an investment company in which he invested seven million dollars of his own money together with US$ 100 million from other investors. The funds have been extremely successful and his family very wealthy. In 2005 they donated $5 million to Clark University.
Duration:
00:05:33

Ani Agid Bikehal Am Zu (“I Shall Say in This Crowd” – in Hebrew)

Original recording from Chants Hebreux de la Tradition des Juifs Marocains. Produced by Beit Hatfutsot in 1993.

A 12th century piyyut by Yehuda Halevi. In this recording from 1957 it is sung by David Bouzaglo and two of his students. The opening of the piyyut in this version was changed as per Bouzaglo’s interpretation.

Duration:
00:05:55

Tsama Nafshi Le'el Temim De'im ("My Soul Thirteth to the All-knowing God" - in Hebrew)

Original recording from Chants Hebreux de la Tradition des Juifs Marocains. Produced by Beit Hatfutsot in 1993.

The Qasida in the Morrocan Bakkashot is a closing poem, and at least one is included in every setting. This Qasida is one of the ending poems to Bereshit, the first of the Bakkashot settings. In this recording from 1957 it is sung by David Bouzaglo and two of his students.

At the Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter (Mellah)
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Interior of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 2004
The man in the photo is the Arab caretaker who
opened the place for the Israeli tourists.
Photo: Dorit Bar-Zakay, Israel
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Dorit Bar-Zakay, Israel)

Sukkah in the Jewish Quarter (Mellah)
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1994
Photo: Alex Levac, Israel
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People 

Moroccan Jews often build their Sukkot with palm-tree branches or reed, so that it looks completely green from the outside. The Sukkah is decorated with pictures of venerated rabbis and saints, mainly of R. Shimon Bar-Yohai, author of the Zohar. Every night during Sukkot selected portions from the Zohar are recited

Jewish shopkeeper in the Old Jewish Quarter (Mellah), Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Students of Alliance agricultural college
in Marrakesh, Morocco, 1949
Front row, center: Principal Elias Harrus
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, Elias Harrus Collection)
View of a street in the Jewish Quarter
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
The balconies indicate that the houses used to belong to Jewish families who were the only ones to have balconies
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Torah scrolls in the 'Negidim' synagogue.
Marrakesh, Morocco, 1994
Photo: Zev Radovan
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot)
(Zev Radovan Collection)
Women, members of one of the few remaining Jewish
families still living in the old Jewish Quarter (Mellah),
preparing sweets for a wedding celebration, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1976
Photo: Donna Wosk, USA
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Dona Wosk, USA)
Jewish man in the old Jewish Quarter (Mellah),
Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Jewish merchant in the Jewish Quarter (Mellah)
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1986
Photo: Jean-Jacques Wahl, France
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Jean-Jacques Wahl, France)
Jewish pupils from Marrakesh at summer camp
in Mogador, Morocco, 1945
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Dr. David Cohen, Israel)
The Jewish cemetery,
Marrakesh, Morocco, December 1995
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Courtyard of the Synagogue in the Old Jewish Quarter, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1986
The last Jewish family in the Old Quarter is taking care
of the synagogue
Photo: Richard H. Stern, Holland
(Beit Hatfutsot Phoro Archive,
Richard H. Stern Collection, Holland)
Ha-Etzioni, Yehuda (1868-1938), Zionist, physician. He was born in Jerusalem but after his father's death his mother remarried and took him to Vienna, Austria, where he studied medicine. He helped to promote an exhibition of Eretz Israel products in Berlin and wrote an article supporting Zionism and the revival of Hebrew. Herzl called him "old friend" and sent him the galleys of his book Judenstaat ("The Jewish Stated") to read. At this point, Ha-Etzioni gave up his Zionist activities and moved to Marrakesh in Morocco where he served as physician to the sultan. After World War I he settled in Lithuania and taught in Jewish high schools in Vilkaviskis and Ukmerge.
Asraf, Yehuda (1940- ), educator and communal worker, born in the small village of Ighil Noro in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Ighil Noro is situated in valley of the River Sous, close to the town of Talioune, 65 kilometres south east of Marrakesh and some 100 kilometers east of Taroudant. Yehuda's father, David, made jewellery which he sold in one of the village shops and shops in other nearby villages. He was also a trader in other products. David's parents had come from a village near Marrakesh, but David had gone to live in Ighil Noro when he got married; his wife, whose father was a well-known scholar. Some 4,000 Jewish families lived in small villages in the area. The Jewish communities of the Atlas had always been connected to Marrakesh, which was quite close 'as the crow flies' but a six or seven hour bus ride away on the narrow mountain roads. And often there was just one bus per week.

The Jews were metal-workers, tinsmiths, jewelers (such as David Asraf), tailors, cobblers, saddlemakers and carpenters. They were important mediators in the urban to rural movement, carrying urban-based goods and skills to the countryside. These skills were essential to the local tribal populations, who therefore attempted to attract Jews into their area. David Asraf's skills were appreciated over a wide area and he therefore felt secure in his home environment even if he was very poor by modern standards and his home lacked most modern conveniences. The village boasted one single telephone, at the home of the head man. Even during World War II, when the persecution of the Jews in Europe was at it worst, and many Arabs openly supported the Nazis, the Asraf family was safe and protected by the Berber majority in their village.

Ighil Noro was one of approximately 150 small Jewish communities in the Sous valley. Altogether some 300 families lived in the village, and about 80 or 90 of them were Jewish (making a Jewish population of some 700 people) who lived in the Mellah (the Jewish quarter). This made the Jewish community larger than many in the area. There were two large synagogues constructed from mud-bricks or packed mud. Both synagogues in Ighil Noro were said to be very old- over 1000 years old by some accounts. The synagogue was very simple with one single room for praying. The organization of synagogue activities in every village was basically the same. Synagogue members would pay for its upkeep by buying ritual honours such as being called to the leading of the Torah. The major cost of a synagogue would always be the payment of the teacher, called a hazzan, but funds would be used for other purposes such as providing oil to light the synagogue lamps, contributing to the poor members of the community or providing alms to wandering Jewish beggars who traveled from one community to another.

The synagogue also served as a school in which (male) children received instruction. These studies did not take place in a separate room, but usually in the same large room which was used for prayer. The teacher, called the hazzan, always received payment for his work, and frequently carried out other tasks such as leading prayers, slaughtering animals and performing marriages. These latter tasks were however often carried out voluntarily. All members of the community contributed to the cost of hiring a teacher, often in relation to the number of children in the family. Many of these hazzanim were relatively young, in their late teens, and were unmarried. Yehuda Asraf tried to earn his living in this manner for several years. The contract of employment would usually stipulate that the teacher be provided with lodging and be fed at the community's expense. The teacher might be mainly the guest of one well-to-do family, or, more commonly in the smaller villages, they would rotate among the families, taking meals at different homes. Often a young unmarried teacher would found a spouse in the community in which he had come to work and reside.

Almost all Jews of the area spoke Arabic at home but most of them learned the Berber language of the region, the shilha, since many had extensive economic contacts with Berbers. Arabic was first learned in the sla, the synagogue school where the boys began to learn the Hebrew alphabet, gain competence in reading from the prayer book and the Bible, and were taught to translate the Biblical text into standard Judaeo-Arabic (shereh). It was said that the Berbers learned Arabic from the Jews.

Ighil Noro with its two synagogues and 80-90 Jewish families was larger than many others and so became a regional centre where individuals from surrounding small communities would receive training to serve as hazzanim and slaughterers. The school where this training was undertaken was known as a yeshiva. This yeshiva was a place where young men would come to study the practical skills associated with synagogue life. In addition to learning to lead the prayers, and to read from the Torah scroll, the student would be trained in the laws of slaughtering. The conclusion of a course of study was a festive occasion both for the community of the yeshiva and other communities. The hazzanim/slaughterers from the entire region would be invited to this ‘graduation ceremony.’ The novices would be tested in the laws of slaughtering and then asked to demonstrate their competence in practice in front of a board of experienced and learned slaughterers. The test provided the occasion for an elaborate feast and the festivities marked the creation of a new cadre of hazzanim, who might seek their livelihood in the communities of the South. During the course of their studies, students would be supported by the local community receiving board and lodging in various homes. It brought a great deal of prestige to run such a yeshiva, and to provide for a future generation of hazzanim. In the 1940s Alliance Israelite school opened in the village.

Economic conditions in Ighil Noro deteriorated seriously after the pro-Nazi Vichy government took over the control of Morocco in 1940. Many Arabs in particular shared the anti-Semitic sentiments of the government. A series of anti-Semitic decrees were introduced and Jews even in the small villages felt very insecure. They were not allowed to participate in many trades, Jewish children were not allowed to number more than 10% of pupils in any school, it was forbidden for Jews to lend money and many of the men were sent to work camps were conditions were appalling. The sultan Mohammed V refused to support these laws, but was unable to protect the Jews. Even after the US landings in Morocco in early 1943 a number of anti-Jewish pogroms occurred. David Asraf, whose business had declined, was very worried about the situation. Anti-Semitic French officials came to the village and listed all the Jews. He had no idea what was being planned for them so David decided to leave the village and move to Marrakesh where his sister Esther and brother Eliyahu lived. He hoped that life would be easier in the big city. Things did not work out as he hoped. After a few months he decided to return to Ighil Noro - his economic situation might be bad but it seems that he felt safer there.

In 1947 his parents decided that Yehuda, now 7 years old, would receive a better education in Marrakesh. He was looked after by his relatives- during the week by Aunt Esther and on Shabatot by Uncle Eliyahu. For four years he went to a secular school and then transferred to a traditional yeshiva there in order to learn Jewish law, tradition and Talmud- all apparently paid for by Uncle Eliyahu. Eight years later his father decided that Yehuda should learn Jewish ritual slaughter, schitta, as a means of earning a living. It seems that his uncle was unable to finance this in Marrakesh, so 15 year-old Yehuda returned to his parents' home in Ighil Noro in order to enrolled at the local village yeshiva for this purpose. In 1957 Yehuda became a qualified shochet and teacher. The family thought that his financial future was assured, but they were wrong.

Yehuda started teaching in villages in the neighbourhood of Marrakesh but it seems that he was unable to earn enough to support himself so he reluctantly agreed to accept a position in the isolated oasis village of Akka, some 300km to the south of Marrakesh near to the Sahara Desert and the border with Algeria. He persevered there for about one year until he returned to his parents' home. Some months later, in 1959, a telephone call to the village head-man (the Asrafs of Ighil Noro had no telephone) from Rabbi Abuhazira in Marrakesh to summon the young man to a teaching position in Taroudant where he met his future wife, Sima. The position, however, did not last long. Once again penniless, Yehuda could not contemplate the responsibilities of married life. Fortunately he met up with a well to do businessman who in 1960 found him a position in Agadir, a large city of 500,000 people on the Atlantic coast with a prosperous Jewish community. He was offered an improved salary and Yehuda was happy to accept. However he soon discovered that the Jewish community was dwindled fast. It was obvious that the young couple would soon be out of work and one again penniless. When the State of Israel was founded in 1948 riots broke out in several cities in Morocco, 44 Jews were killed in two pogroms and many more were injured. Many Jews who wished to emigrate were arrested and imprisoned. The Arabs instituted an economic boycott of the Jews. Only in 1961, just when Yehuda arrived in Agadir, did King Hassan II at last permitted the Jews to emigrate. Recalling the riots and the pogroms the vast majority of Jews decided to leave before some other disaster happened. Most went to Israel, some to France.

So 1962, now aged 22, Yehuda Asraf with his young bride also decided that the only way and also the right way to break the vicious circle was for them to make Aliya to Israel. Yehuda brought his wife's parents with him to Israel, and promised to support them financially. The family, like many others from Morocco, settled in Sderot. Initially he worked as a factory worker, then for the Jewish National Fund in its afforestation projects in the Sderot area. Only later did he find employment as a shochet, a teacher and a rabbi who was involved in the provision of religious services in his community. For some six years he was head of the Religious Council in Sderot. Almost all the family eventually came to live in Israel. Morocco had became independent in 1956. Conditions in post-independence Morocco were too precarious for the Jews. David and Sultana Asraf came to live in the young State of Israel two years later. They settled in Kiryat Gat.
Lasry, Marc (1960-), businessman, born in Marrakesh, Morocco. He was taken to the US by his parents in the late 1960s. He was schooled in Connecticut, studied history at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and then law at the New York Law School.

Lasry is the founder and manager of a large US hedge fund. Together with his sister he founded an investment company in which he invested seven million dollars of his own money together with US$ 100 million from other investors. The funds have been extremely successful and his family very wealthy. In 2005 they donated $5 million to Clark University.

Moshe Zrihen (1877-1953), rabbi, dayan and Av Beit Din of Marrakesh, born in Marrakesh, Morocco, into a family of distinguished rabbis. He studied with his father, Rabbi Abraham Zrihen, Rosh Yeshiva in Marrakesh. He started serving as a dayan at the rabbinical court of Marrakesh in 1909. In 1936 he was appointed Av Beit Din of Marrakesh. Rabbi Zrihen was a humble person who appeared in public only very exceptionally. He lived in a house on L'Hbass street, known as Rabbi Moshe Zrihen's house, that included a synagogue where he used to pray and that was open to the entire community, particularly during the Jewish holidays. As a dayan, he set precedent-setting rulings, particularly about the distribution of inheritance between girls and boys. He died and was buried in Marrakesh. His remains were brought to a cemetery in Haifa, Israel, in 1994.

Taroudant

In Arabic: تارودانت‎

A city on the western slope of the high Atlas mountains, south-west Morocco.

The region of the Atlas mountains is called by the Moroccans “Bilad A - Siba”, the lands of Siba, a region where governmental chaos prevailed until the middle 1920’s. The Jews living in villages of the Atlas mountains were dependent almost entirely on the Berber patron who protected them for his own reasons, as their property was likely eventually to become his own. Thus the Jews of the villages lived in comparative security as compared with the Jews of the urban communities. They even maintained a good relationship with the Muslims, based on mutual economic advantages, as the Jews provided all the needs of their Muslim neighbors. Disputes were resolved in accordance with the tribal Berber tradition. Mutual respect, fairness in business and personal friendship exemplified the relations between the Jewish merchant or artisan and the Muslim patron.

The Jews engaged in trade and in crafts and there were also partnerships between Jews and Muslims, in which the Jews provided the funds for working the land or breeding sheep. Travelling Jewish merchants traversed without fear the domains of the Berber tribes.

Jews also acted as intermediaries between Arabs and Berbers, or between different Berber tribes. As a result, the Jewish merchants enjoyed a strong and respectable position in their community.

In the 16th century Taroudant was the abode of Rabbi Moshe ben Mimon Albaz. In the 19th century existed at Taroudant a large Jewish community which maintained contact with the community of Mogador. The village had the regular communal institutions and a Talmud torah. The synagogue of Rabbi Abraham Ben Benjamin was built at the beginning of the 19th century by Jews who had come from Jerusalem. In the 1930’s a Jewish school was opened at Taroudant. At that time there were 8 synagogues at the village and the prominent person of the community was then Rabbi Moshe Abirmat (died 1955).

Zionist activity started at Taroudant, as in the other southern villages, in 1919, on the initiative of the Rabbi Pinhas Khalifa Benyamin Azug. He collected money for Keren Hayesod and for buying land in Eretz Israel and distributed the Zionist shekel (membership in the Zionist organization and a voting right). For some unknown reason his Zionist activity stopped in 1921.

In the 1950’s the Jews of Taroudant went to Israel and the community ceased to exist. In 1966 one Jew was living in Taroudant.

Tidili

Tidili Fetouaka; in Arabic: فطواكة

A village in the high Atlas mountain range, central Morocco.

The region of the Atlas mountains is called by the Moroccans “Bilad A-Siba”. until the 1920’s the region had been subject to chaotic rule. the Jews in the villages of the Atlas mountains were dependent almost entirely on the Berber patron who gave them protection for his own reasons, as their property was ultimately likely to become his. the Jews of the villages thus enjoyed comparative security, in relation to that of the Jews of the towns. moreover, they enjoyed also reciprocal economic relationships with their Muslim Berber neighbors, that provided all their needs. any disputes were resolved in accordance with the Berber tribal customs. the interdependence was based on mutual respect, fairness in deals and personal friendship between the Jewish merchant or craftsman and the Muslim patrons.

Jews engaged in crafts and trade and there were partnerships between Jews and Muslims. in these partnerships, the Jews provided the money for agricultural activity and the breeding of small cattle. traveling Jewish traders entered without fear into the borders of the Berber tribes.

The Jewish merchants acted also as intermediaries between the Berbers and Arabs or between different Berber tribes. as such, the merchants enjoyed also a strong and respectful position in their own Jewish community.

The Jewish community at Tidili was small. The Jews lived within a closed compound of internal yards, surrounded by a clay wall. Until the middle of the 19th century the Jews had followed the way of life of the Berbers - they rode horses, carried arms and defended themselves when necessary. Later they were protected by the head of the Berber tribe.

Most of the Jews of Tidili made their living as craftsmen. They made clothes, tools, arms and other products for use by the Berbers. Those who were not craftsmen engaged in trade and with time the merchants became the upper class of the community. The leaders of the community usually came from the commercial class. No information is available as to a synagogue at Tidili but it is known that an emissary from Jerusalem, one Rabbi Abraham, is buried near the village.

In 1955 there were 150 Jews at Tidili. when they emigrated to Israel at the end of the 1950’s the community came to an end.

Entifa

A settlement in the Atlas mountains, south of Marrakesh, Morocco.

The region of the Atlas mountains is called by the Moroccans “Bilad A - Siba”, the lands of Siba, a region where governmental chaos prevailed until the middle 1920’s. The Jews living in villages of the Atlas mountains were dependent almost entirely on the Berber patron who protected them for his own reasons, as their property was likely eventually to become his own. Thus the Jews of the villages lived in comparative security as compared with the Jews of the urban communities. They even maintained a good relationship with the Muslims, based on mutual economic advantages, as the Jews provided all the needs of their Muslim neighbors. Disputes were resolved in accordance with the tribal Berber tradition. Mutual respect, fairness in business and personal friendship exemplified the relations between the Jewish merchant or artisan and the Muslim patron.

The Jews engaged in trade and in crafts and there were also partnerships between Jews and Muslims, in which the Jews provided the funds for working the land or breeding sheep. Travelling Jewish merchants traversed without fear the domains of the Berber tribes.

Jews also acted as intermediaries between Arabs and Berbers, or between different Berber tribes. As a result, the Jewish merchants enjoyed a strong and respectable position in their community.

Entifa is not mentioned in early Jewish records. In the years 1883-84 a French officer visited the place and reported the existence of a community of 200 Jews at Entifa. The Jewish convert Eli Zarbiv visited Entifa in 1890 as the head of a delegation of the London Society of the Anglican Church for spreading Christianity among the Jews. He reported having found at Entifa a mellah with 200-350 Jews and two synagogues.

Marrakesh served as the religious and communal hinterland of Entifa. The community of Entifa maintained close relations also with the community of Mogador, the port 180 km west of Marrakesh.

In 1880 the Muslim governor ordered the killing of a Jew who employed a Muslim girl at his home, which by law was forbidden to Jews. Following this incident some of the Jews of Entifa fled to Marrakesh.

The Jews of Entifa went to Israel in the course of the 1950’s and the community was liquidated.

Bani Malal

In Arabic:  بني ملال‎ /Beni Mellal

A village at the foot of the Atlas mountains, north-east of Marrakesh, central Morocco.

The region of the Atlas mountains is called by the Moroccans “Bilad A - Siba”, the lands of Siba, a region where governmental chaos prevailed until the middle 1920’s. The Jews living in villages of the Atlas mountains were dependent almost entirely on the Berber patron who protected them for his own reasons, as their property was likely eventually to become his own. Thus the Jews of the villages lived in comparative security as compared with the Jews of the urban communities. They even maintained a good relationship with the Muslims, based on mutual economic advantages, as the Jews provided all the needs of their Muslim neighbors. Disputes were resolved in accordance with the tribal Berber tradition. Mutual respect, fairness in business and personal friendship exemplified the relations between the Jewish merchant or artisan and the Muslim patron.

The Jews engaged in trade and in crafts and there were also partnerships between Jews and Muslims, in which the Jews provided the funds for working the land or breeding sheep. Travelling Jewish merchants traversed without fear the domains of the Berber tribes.

Jews also acted as intermediaries between Arabs and Berbers, or between different Berber tribes. As a result, the Jewish merchants enjoyed a strong and respectable position in their community.

The Jewish community of Bani Malal was managed by an independent local committee, headed by a president. The committee was responsible for the management of the community’s fund, whose income came from the gabila tax on kosher meat and wine and from donations of the risher members of the community. The money thus collected was used for supporting the poor and for financing the activities of the community.

Among the scholars of the community of Bani Malal were: Moshe ben Yihiya Malkah (1911-1997), a dayan (religious judge) in the years 1953-1955, David Danino, in the early 20th century, Rabbi Makhlouf Abi-Hasira, the rabbi and dayan of the community in the years 1944-1949.

On November 8, 1942, in World War II, the American forces landed in North Africa and the attitude of the authorities and the local population towards the Jews worsened because the Jews showed pleasure at the retreat of the German forces. The civil controller and the pasha evicted the Jews of Bani Malal from their houses and shops and accommodated French people in their place. The Jews returned to their homes only after the war. The community of Bani Malal was not involved in any Zionist activity, being small and far away from the center. A local branch of the Jewish scout movement was formed only in 1948. On the eve of the mass immigration to Israel 3,500 Jews were living at Bani Malal, out of a total population of 18,000. Most of them were merchants, office workers, and small artisans. The whole community emigrated to Israel in the course of the years 1948-1967.

Morocco

المغرب‎

Kingdom of Morocco  المملكة المغربية

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 2,100 out of 35,000,000 (0.006%)

Conseil des Communautés Israelites du Maroc
Phone: 212 522 48 78 51/ 522 29 57 52
Fax: 212 522 48 78 49
Email: ccimsec@gmail.com

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Morocco

687 | The Jewish Khaleesi

According to Sefer Josippon – a book written in the middle ages, which documents the history of the Jewish people during antiquity – some 30,000 Jews fled after the destruction of the Second Temple to the Maghreb area (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), which was at the time inhabited by Berber tribes.
Legend has it that these Jews founded Jewish kingdoms in the vicinity of modern-day Morocco and even caused many of the Berbers to convert to Judaism. Some sources, part historical and part mythical, mention a Jewish queen named Dihya al-Kahina, who headed the resistance to the Arab conquest in the late seventh century. Al-Kahina, who was described as “A true desert queen, beautiful as a horse and strong as a wrestler”, fascinated many scholars. They describe her as a beautiful, charismatic leader, tough and brave, who yet treated captive enemy warriors mercifully, even adopting two of them.

800 | Fez De-Talmud

In the early ninth century, the great yeshivas of Babylon passed the torch to several heirs, among them the Jewish center in the city of Fez, in northeastern Morocco.
While the Arab conquerors imposed an inferior “dhimmi” status on the Jews of Fez, they still thrived relatively speaking. Muslim historian al-Bakhri noted that “In Fez the Jews lived better than in any other city in the Maghreb”.
Indeed, in Fez there gathered many Jewish scholars, who contributed to its growth as a vibrant spiritual center. The best known were linguist and poet Judah ibn Kuraish and Rabbi Isaac Alfasi, who founded a great yeshiva in the city and wrote the “Sefer HaHalachot”, which refined the essence of religious rulings from the Mishna and the Talmud and won its author eternal fame, as it is an integral part of any yeshiva's library and curriculum to this day.

1146 | Doctor Muhammad and Mister Moses

In order not to fall prey to the cruelty of the Almohad dynasty, which seized control of Morocco in 1146, the Jews were forced to choose between two options: Die or convert. Some chose a third option: To become anusim (crypto-Jews), which is to say, Jews at home and Muslim in public. This situation roused Maimonides, who lived in Fez at the time, to write his famous “Epistle on Martyrdom”, which gave the anusim permission to live in a bi-polar state of identity, until the need should pass. According to tradition, the house in which Maimonides' family lived stands to this day in the old city of Fez.

1492 | A Moroccan Righteous Among The Nations

The expulsion from Spain has been burned into the collective Jewish consciousness as a national disaster that will live in eternal infamy. Like other cases in Jewish history when Jews were uprooted, in the Spanish expulsion too there was no great desire among most nations to take in the Jewish refugees.
One exception was King Muhammad al-Sheikh, a ruler of the Wattasid dynasty, a “Righteous Among the Nations” of his time who was one of the few rulers to open his country to the Jews fleeing Spain.
The refugees from Spain acclimated naturally to their new country. They settled mostly in the urban communities of Fez, Meknes, Sal'e and Marrakesh, and soon integrated into the local Jewish community, creating a new economic and rabbinical elite.

1631 | The Holy Zohar

Like in Christian Europe, so in the lands of Islam, the political game of musical chairs never stopped for a moment. The Jews of Morocco were tossed from one regime to the next, each with its own whims and caprices regarding the Jews. These frequent changes ended in 1631 with the ascension of the Alawite dynasty, which rules Morocco to this day. The rulers of this house treated the Jews warmly, allowing them to find their way to key positions in high places, as royal mint managers, royal treasurers and more.
But the main hero of Morocco's Jews in those years was not a high-ranking official, nor a learned rabbinical leader, but a book: The Holy Zohar, considered the foundation text of Jewish mysticism. The “Zohar” had its greatest influence on the cities of southern Morocco, where Kabbalah literature flourished. Among the most famous sages of this stream of thought one can list Rabbi Shimon Lavi, Moshe Ben Maimon Elbaz and Yaacov ben Itzhak Ifargan, and also Rabbi Avraham Azoulay, great-grandfather of the Hid”a, the gaon Chaim Yosef David Azoulay.

1739 | Imprint of a Genius

While the printing press was invented in Germany back in the 15th century, it had yet to be heard of in Morocco even 300 years later, and so the belated creative explosion experienced by the Jews of Morocco during the reign of King Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif in the late 17th and early 18th century has not received the acclaim it deserves. Among the greatest of that forgotten generation were the members of the Toledano and Bardugo families and the rabbis Even-Tzur, Azoulay and Ben-Hemo. But one member of that era still managed to win eternal fame: Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, author of “Or HaChaim” (“Light of Life”).
It was fate that drove Ben Attar to make aliyah in 1739, after a bitter inheritance dispute within his family. En-route to Israel Ben Attar stopped in Livorno, Italy, where he printed his books, and the rest is history.
The greatness of Ben Attar crossed all sectarian and geographical boundaries. According to legend, when the founder of the Hasidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, heard that Ben Attar was making aliyah, he wished to join him, but heaven itself prevented it, on the grounds that if the two great tzadikim were to meet, the messiah would have to come, and the People of Israel were not yet ready.

1838 | The Moroccan Roots of Tel Aviv

In 1838 a clipper set sail from the shores of Morocco bound for the Land of Israel. Aboard it were Moroccan Jews whose hearts longed for the Holy Land. But the treacherous sea ended their hopes and sank the vessel. Among the few to survive the tempest was Avraham Shlush.
Although most discussions of the aliyah of Moroccan Jews focus on the early years of the State of Israel, the great Shlush family – which in 1887 founded the neighborhood of Neve Tzedek (the first Jewish expansion outside of Jaffa and one of the kernels of the city of Tel Aviv), and participated in the founding of Tel Aviv itself 20 years later – is but one of the proofs that this community began making aliyah long before the establishment of the state, and continued doing so in a slow but steady manner until it was founded.
Another famous pioneer who bears mentioning is Chaim Amzaleg, who participated in the purchase of land for the moshavot (colonies) of Rishon LeZion and “The Mother of Moshavot”, Petah Tikva.

1860 | Renewed Ties

For many years the Jews in Morocco were relatively cut off from Jewish communities in Europe. This changed somewhat thanks to the “Tajar al-Sultan” (Royal Merchants) – a new class of Jews that developed in the late 1850s. This group of merchants conducted trade relations with the powers of Europe on behalf of their sovereign, while at the same time establishing ties with their European brethren.
In those years there also began a large migration of Jews from Morocco to South America, following the booming rubber trade in the area, mostly in Brazil. One of the leading international merchants of Jewish origin in this period was Moses Elias Levy from the city of Mogador, who upon reaching adulthood migrated to Florida of all places, and in an act of solidarity purchased hundred of thousands of acres with the intention of providing refuge for persecuted Jews in Eastern Europe.

1912 | All Israel Are Friends

In 1912 the signing of the Treaty of Fez turned Morocco into a French protectorate. For the Jews of Morocco this treaty heralded the end of a dark period replete with pogroms and the beginning of a new era, in which the Jews enjoyed a cultural, social, and political renaissance.
During these years the teaching of Hebrew, combined with the ideas of Enlightenment (both the general kind and Jewish Haskala) spread throughout Morocco via the global Jewish school network Alliance Israelite Universelle (translated into Hebrew as "All Israel Are Friends"), which took the children of Morocco under its wings. It was then that the Jews of Morocco began to exit the Mellahs (the Jewish quarters, somewhat akin to the European ghettos) and move to the new European-style neighborhoods in the major cities.

1940 | The Holocaust Stops in Morocco

In 1940 the Nazis conquered France and established the Vichy regime – a German wolf in French sheep's clothing. Historians are divided as to the extent to which Moroccan King Muhammad V acquiesced to the edicts of the Vichy regime. In any event, the Jews were soon expelled from government positions and thrown back into the ghetto-like Mellah. In addition there is a well-known story of 153 Moroccan Jews who happened to be in Paris and were sent to Auschwitz. In 1942 the Allies conquered Morocco and stopped the plans of the Nazi death machine in North Africa.

1948 | Aliyah to the Melting Pot

The establishment of the State of Israel caused much excitement among the Jews of Morocco. However, this was not just due to love of their people, but also resulted from the hardships of life in Morocco.
During those years the struggle for national independence escalated in Morocco and the national press often incited against Jews. The high tensions led to deplorable incidents including the pogroms of Oujda and Jerada, in which 42 Jews – men, women and children – were murdered.
Between 1948-1956 some 85,000 Jews made aliyah from Morocco, then still under French rule. The immigrants were forced to adjust to the national “melting pot” policy led by then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and many of them felt that their rich culture was being trampled by the Zionist steamroller. Thousands of them were led in the dead of night to frontier settlements in order to man and populate the borders. In time these settlements would come to be known as “Development Towns” (“Ayarot Pituach”). This trauma stayed with the immigrants for many years, and found expression in Israeli music, literature and film.

1967 | The Perils of Independence

In 1956 Morocco was liberated from French rule, and banned the Jews living in its territory from emigrating to Israel. One reason was apparently the important role played by the Jews in the Moroccan economy. In 1960 the Israeli Mossad embarked on a daring mission to smuggle the Jews of Morocco to Israel aboard the fishing vessel Egoz. On one of its excursions the ship sank near the Straits of Gibraltar, and nearly all those aboard perished, including 44 immigrants. The disaster drew significant global notice, followed by international pressure on Morocco, until it relented, allowing its Jews to leave under various restrictions. Between 1961-1967 approximately 120,000 Jews made aliyah from Morocco to Israel.
In 1967, following the Six Day War and the growing threats to the Jewish community in Morocco, the final wave of aliyah from the country began, leading to the relocation of some 10,000 people.
In 2014 the Jewish community of Morocco numbered around 2,500 people, as opposed to 204,000 Jews who lived in the country in 1947. Many of the Jews of Morocco also immigrated to other countries, including France, Canada and the United States.

Rabat-Sale

In Arabic: الرباط سلا

Rabat is the capital of Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean at the southern bank of the Bou Regreg River. Sale is located on the on the northern bank of the river and is Rabat's main commuter town. Together, Rabat and Sale form a single metropolis.

As of the 21st century there is a small Jewish community of a few hundred Jews in Rabat; there are no Jews living in Sale. The community in Rabat includes one active synagogue, a kosher butcher, and a kosher restaurant.

HISTORY

A tombstone confirms the existence of a Jewish presence in ancient Sala during the 2nd century C.E. During the 12th century the Almohads intended to make Rabat the capital of the caliphate and indeed, the city became a center of art and architecture during their reign. The community during that time was prominent enough that the Spanish-Jewish philosopher Abraham ibn Daud mentions the Jewish community of Sale in his 1161 book Sefer HaKabbalah. However, with the fall of the dynasty in 1269 Rabat was essentially abandoned until the 17th century. Sale, however, prospered during the reigns of the successive dynasties. Jews lived in the Bab al-Husayn area of Sale during this period and spoke Judeo-Arabic.

Fewer refugees from Spain and Portugal arrived in Sale than in other Moroccan cities, possibly due to the poor treatment that those who did arrive in Sale received at the hands of the Genoese traders living there. By the middle of the 16th century, however, there was a significant population of Spanish and Portuguese refugees living in Sale and the Jewish community began to grow and prosper.

During the 17th century a few Jews settled in the Behira quarter of Rabat, which at that time was known as "New Sale." They were joined by Muslims from the Spanish town Hornachos, and Muslim converts to Christianity (moriscos) who had been expelled from Spain. During the 17th and 18th centuries these twin towns became one of the most important trading centers in Morocco—as well as a center for piracy. Jews and their Muslim neighbors traded in slaves, gold dust, ostrich feathers, dates, goat skins, indigo, linen, and wax with Europe. The Jews in particular traded in weapons, chiefly with Marranos in the Netherlands. Among the most prominent traders of Sale were the Dutch brothers Benjamin and Joseph Cohen, who were among the Dutch Jews who came to settle in Sale between 1620 and 1660. The Jews and Muslims of the city also profited by less legal means, through piracy, reselling captured goods, and the ransoms that Christian nations paid to redeem Christian captives.

Jews also played an active role in the local government, particularly as ambassadors for European countries. Moses Santiago was the secretary to the governor of Rabat and negotiated a truce with the king of France in 1630. Isaac Pallache was the Dutch consul. Moses ben Attar, the nagid of Sale, was the banker of the warrior king Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif, who reigned from 1672 until 1727, and helped him negotiate a treaty with England in 1721.

Sabbateanism became popular in Sale during the late 17th century, and the city was a connecting point for Sabbateans from the Netherlands and Morocco. The yeshivas of Sale and Rabat were also very active during this period. Graduates included Talmudists and legal authorities such as the kabbalist Rabbi Chaim b. Moses Attar, the author of a commentary on the Pentateuch known as Or HaChaim, who eventually immigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1741. Other scholars included Rabbi Shem-Tov Attar, Rabbi Samuel de Avila and his son Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Abraham Rodriguez, Rabbi Samuel Car, Rabbi Solomon Tapiero, Rabbi Judah Anahory, and Rabbi Joseph Elimaleh.

After 1750 the community of Sale was absorbed by Rabat, which numbered over 6,000 people. Some Jews, however, left Sale and Rabat and founded communities elsewhere. The Jews of Rabat were among the founders of the Jewish communities of Gibralter in 1705, Mogador in 1767, Lisbon in 1773, Mazagan in 1825, and the community of the Azores in 1820. Some of the more distinguished families from Rabat settled in Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.

During the late 18th century Rabat and Sale both began to decline in importance. This was due to economic competition from the port that was built in Essaouira—as well as a significant loss of profits as a result of piracy. Additionally, there were a number of natural disasters that affected Rabat-Sale. The 1755 earthquake in Lisbon damaged Rabat-Sale, though it was nothing compared to the famine of 1799, in which two-thirds of the city's population reportedly perished. The Jews of Rabat-Sale were lucky, however, in that they were spared from many of the persecutions initiated by Sultan Moulay Yazid; in 1790 they were saved by Governor Abd Allah Bargash, who convinced the sultan to accept a large payment from the Jews of the city instead of looting Jewish homes and businesses.

For the first time since they arrived to settle in the cities, in 1807 the Jews of Sale-Rabat were confined to two Jewish Quarters, one in Sale and one in Rabat, on the orders of Sultan Mawlay Suleiman. This measure spurred a wave of emigration, especially to South America, while other families converted to Islam rather than leave their homes. New arrivals from the Algerian city of Tlemcen began living in the mellah (Jewish Quarter) of Rabat in 1830. Though the residents of Sale-Rabat continued to be active in international trade, by the end of the 19th century Casablanca had replaced Sale-Rabat as the major international commercial center of Morocco.

The French Protectorate in Morocco was established in 1912, after which Rabat became the capital of Morocco. The Alliance Israelite Universelle, which had opened a school in Rabat in 1905, had enrolled 235 students by 1913, a testament to the French influence over the people and institutions of Morocco. The AIU continued to grow in popularity and prominence; an AIU school was opened in Sale in 1913, and by 1927 most Jewish students were learning in an AIU school. Until 1957 there were also branches of the Jewish National Fund and WIZO active in Rabat.

In 1918 Rabbi Raphael Encaoua was appointed as the chief rabbi and head of the Jewish courts for Morocco. He was a major scholar and an important and influential figure for Jews throughout Morocco. Rabbi Encaoua was revered, and upon his death Moroccan Jews would gather at his tomb in Sale to mark the anniversary of his death. His son, Rabbi Michael Encaoua, was the last chief rabbi of Morocco.

In 1947 there were 20,000 Jews living in the region of Sale-Rabat; 12,350 lived in Rabat, and 3,150 in Sale. However, after Morocco gained its independence in 1956 the Jews of Morocco, including those living in Rabat and Sale, began to emigrate. The majority of the Jews of Rabat emigrated to France, the United States, and Canada; the Jews from Sale almost exclusively left for Israel. Most of the Jewish schools of Rabat were closed, including the wide network of the Alliance Israelite Universelle and Otzar HaTorah schools, as well as a rabbinical seminary that had been established in 1951. By 1971 the Jewish population was less than one percent of the population of Rabat-Sale.

In 1997 there were 6,500 Jews living in Morocco, 400 in Rabat.

Ourika
 

A town in Al Haouz province, Morocco.
 

History

Jews were living in Ourika over 1000 years ago when Arabs invaded the place.

 

Postwar

In the 50s there was a Jewish community in Ourika with community institutions. Jews made Aliyah to Israel in the 50s-60s.  

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The Jewish Community of Marrakesh

Marrakesh

In Arabic: مراكش‎‎ 

One of the former capitals of Morocco. Situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains

Marrakesh was founded in 1062 by Yusuf ibn Tashifin, the ruler of the Almoravides who reigned from 1061-1107. However, ibn Tashifin's son and successor, Ali, forbade the Jews of Aghmat-Ailan (an important commercial center further to the east which was exclusively inhabited by wealthy Jews) to live in Marrakesh, under penalty of death. The Jewish community was reconstituted in 1232 after it had been devastated by the Almohads in 1147, though its members later fell victim to a massacre. After the conquest of southern Morocco by Abu Yusuf the Merinid in 1269, Jews once again returned to settle in Marrakesh.

The community was led by Rabbi Judah Djian of Jaen (southern Spain) in 1492. Although large numbers of Spanish and Portuguese refugees arrive in Marrakesh in 1496, the core of the community was made up of the Atlas Jews. Later, during the 16th century, many Marranos immigrated to Marrakesh. Consequently, the city became an important center for reconversion to Judaism and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews controlled most communal affairs. For a long time, these Jews lived in two quarters of their own and were completely separated from the indigenous Jews, who were mainly found in the Mawasin quarter. However, in 1557 Sultan al-Ghalib Billah concentrated all of the Jews in the mellah (Jewish Quarter). At that time, they numbered more than 25,000 though this number would fluctuate through the rest of the century due to the epidemics that swept through the city; for example, in 1558 a cholera epidemic killed 7,500 people. After this catastrophe, however, the community enjoyed a great period of prosperity. It lent an extremely large sum of money to Sultan Abd al-Malik, and had a large role in his rise to the throne in Marrakesh in 1576.

Under the rule of the Sa'adian sharifs beginning in 1525, the Jews of Marrakesh, acting as trade agents for the Sa'adi sultans, were entrusted to manage the principal industries and the commerce of Morocco. All of the sharifs chose their physicians, bankers, advisors, and ambassadors from among the Jewish upper classes. However, when the Alawite dynasty came to power during the latter half of the 17th century, its sultans did not always display such tolerance towards the Jews. When Moulay Rashid conquered the city in 1670 he ordered the Jewish counselor to be publicly burned, along with the ruling prince Abu Bakr and his family, in order to inspire terror among the Jewish community. Moulay Rashid destroyed the city's synagogues, and imposed enormous taxes on the community. His brother Moulay Ismail succeeded him in 1672, and was a cruel tyrant who also imposed enormous taxes on the Jewish community.

In the 18th century, Marrakesh lost its status as the capital of Morocco in favor of Fez (Muhammad ibn Abdallah would retain Marrakesh as his preferred residence and as the de facto capital when he became Sultan of Morroco in 1757). Nevertheless, the city retained its commercial and economic importance. The Jews of Marrakesh saw their economic and social situation improve, especially after 1745. Samuel Sumbal, who lived in Marrakesh and was a scholarly kabbalist who promoted Torah study, was a favorite of Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah and served as his interpreter and counselor. The flourishing yeshivas of the town were headed by Talmudic scholars such as Rabbi Abraham Corcos, the av beit din from 1735 to 1780, and his student Abraham Pinto, or by kabbalists such as Rabbi Solomon Amar, Rabbi Abraham Azulai, and Rabbi Shalom Buzaglo. Many foreigners also came to study under these teachers, such as the kabbalist Chiya Cohen de Lara of Amsterdam, who completed his studies in Marrakesh.

Traditionally, the Jewish community was governed by the same families; one of them was the Corcos family. In spite of the favors given to certain Marrakesh Jews by the sharifs, the community never returned to the state of general prosperity which it had enjoyed during the period of the Sa'adian sharifs. In addition to 200-300 wealthy families, some of whom even lived in opulence, there were 2,000 families who barely earned a living, and a further 2,000 who were poverty-stricken. In 1908-1909 Si Madani al-Glawi, the governor of Marrakesh and the surrounding areas, bestowed on Marrakesh's Jewish elite a number of social and economic privileges. He also lifted the enormously high taxes that the Jewish community of Marrakesh was forced to pay, and maintained close ties with the community president, Joshua Corcos of the abovementioned Corcos family.

During the 19th century the Jewish population of Marrakesh increased with the arrival of groups from Jewish communities throughout the Atlas region. Until 1920, the mellah of Marrakesh was the largest in Morocco and was the center of considerable activity.

The 1951 census indicates that there were 16,392 Jews living in Marrakesh. This number had dropped to 10,007 by 1960.

Since 1899 there had been Alliance schools in Marrakesh, attended by 3,026 pupils in 1953 and an Otzar HaTorah School, with 350 pupils in 1961. There were also Lubavicher, ORT, and other educational institutions, bringing the number of Jewish students in school to 4,392 in 1961.

After the Six Day War and the subsequent attacks on Jews throughout Morocco, there was a mass exodus from the city. In 1970 the community of Marrakesh consisted of a few hundred people who had long since left the mella, and whose socioeconomic standing was particularly high. In 2005, there were several dozen Jews left in Marrakesh.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Ourika
Rabat-Sale
Morocco
Bani Malal
Entifa
Tidili
Taroudant

Ourika
 

A town in Al Haouz province, Morocco.
 

History

Jews were living in Ourika over 1000 years ago when Arabs invaded the place.

 

Postwar

In the 50s there was a Jewish community in Ourika with community institutions. Jews made Aliyah to Israel in the 50s-60s.  

Rabat-Sale

In Arabic: الرباط سلا

Rabat is the capital of Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean at the southern bank of the Bou Regreg River. Sale is located on the on the northern bank of the river and is Rabat's main commuter town. Together, Rabat and Sale form a single metropolis.

As of the 21st century there is a small Jewish community of a few hundred Jews in Rabat; there are no Jews living in Sale. The community in Rabat includes one active synagogue, a kosher butcher, and a kosher restaurant.

HISTORY

A tombstone confirms the existence of a Jewish presence in ancient Sala during the 2nd century C.E. During the 12th century the Almohads intended to make Rabat the capital of the caliphate and indeed, the city became a center of art and architecture during their reign. The community during that time was prominent enough that the Spanish-Jewish philosopher Abraham ibn Daud mentions the Jewish community of Sale in his 1161 book Sefer HaKabbalah. However, with the fall of the dynasty in 1269 Rabat was essentially abandoned until the 17th century. Sale, however, prospered during the reigns of the successive dynasties. Jews lived in the Bab al-Husayn area of Sale during this period and spoke Judeo-Arabic.

Fewer refugees from Spain and Portugal arrived in Sale than in other Moroccan cities, possibly due to the poor treatment that those who did arrive in Sale received at the hands of the Genoese traders living there. By the middle of the 16th century, however, there was a significant population of Spanish and Portuguese refugees living in Sale and the Jewish community began to grow and prosper.

During the 17th century a few Jews settled in the Behira quarter of Rabat, which at that time was known as "New Sale." They were joined by Muslims from the Spanish town Hornachos, and Muslim converts to Christianity (moriscos) who had been expelled from Spain. During the 17th and 18th centuries these twin towns became one of the most important trading centers in Morocco—as well as a center for piracy. Jews and their Muslim neighbors traded in slaves, gold dust, ostrich feathers, dates, goat skins, indigo, linen, and wax with Europe. The Jews in particular traded in weapons, chiefly with Marranos in the Netherlands. Among the most prominent traders of Sale were the Dutch brothers Benjamin and Joseph Cohen, who were among the Dutch Jews who came to settle in Sale between 1620 and 1660. The Jews and Muslims of the city also profited by less legal means, through piracy, reselling captured goods, and the ransoms that Christian nations paid to redeem Christian captives.

Jews also played an active role in the local government, particularly as ambassadors for European countries. Moses Santiago was the secretary to the governor of Rabat and negotiated a truce with the king of France in 1630. Isaac Pallache was the Dutch consul. Moses ben Attar, the nagid of Sale, was the banker of the warrior king Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif, who reigned from 1672 until 1727, and helped him negotiate a treaty with England in 1721.

Sabbateanism became popular in Sale during the late 17th century, and the city was a connecting point for Sabbateans from the Netherlands and Morocco. The yeshivas of Sale and Rabat were also very active during this period. Graduates included Talmudists and legal authorities such as the kabbalist Rabbi Chaim b. Moses Attar, the author of a commentary on the Pentateuch known as Or HaChaim, who eventually immigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1741. Other scholars included Rabbi Shem-Tov Attar, Rabbi Samuel de Avila and his son Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Abraham Rodriguez, Rabbi Samuel Car, Rabbi Solomon Tapiero, Rabbi Judah Anahory, and Rabbi Joseph Elimaleh.

After 1750 the community of Sale was absorbed by Rabat, which numbered over 6,000 people. Some Jews, however, left Sale and Rabat and founded communities elsewhere. The Jews of Rabat were among the founders of the Jewish communities of Gibralter in 1705, Mogador in 1767, Lisbon in 1773, Mazagan in 1825, and the community of the Azores in 1820. Some of the more distinguished families from Rabat settled in Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.

During the late 18th century Rabat and Sale both began to decline in importance. This was due to economic competition from the port that was built in Essaouira—as well as a significant loss of profits as a result of piracy. Additionally, there were a number of natural disasters that affected Rabat-Sale. The 1755 earthquake in Lisbon damaged Rabat-Sale, though it was nothing compared to the famine of 1799, in which two-thirds of the city's population reportedly perished. The Jews of Rabat-Sale were lucky, however, in that they were spared from many of the persecutions initiated by Sultan Moulay Yazid; in 1790 they were saved by Governor Abd Allah Bargash, who convinced the sultan to accept a large payment from the Jews of the city instead of looting Jewish homes and businesses.

For the first time since they arrived to settle in the cities, in 1807 the Jews of Sale-Rabat were confined to two Jewish Quarters, one in Sale and one in Rabat, on the orders of Sultan Mawlay Suleiman. This measure spurred a wave of emigration, especially to South America, while other families converted to Islam rather than leave their homes. New arrivals from the Algerian city of Tlemcen began living in the mellah (Jewish Quarter) of Rabat in 1830. Though the residents of Sale-Rabat continued to be active in international trade, by the end of the 19th century Casablanca had replaced Sale-Rabat as the major international commercial center of Morocco.

The French Protectorate in Morocco was established in 1912, after which Rabat became the capital of Morocco. The Alliance Israelite Universelle, which had opened a school in Rabat in 1905, had enrolled 235 students by 1913, a testament to the French influence over the people and institutions of Morocco. The AIU continued to grow in popularity and prominence; an AIU school was opened in Sale in 1913, and by 1927 most Jewish students were learning in an AIU school. Until 1957 there were also branches of the Jewish National Fund and WIZO active in Rabat.

In 1918 Rabbi Raphael Encaoua was appointed as the chief rabbi and head of the Jewish courts for Morocco. He was a major scholar and an important and influential figure for Jews throughout Morocco. Rabbi Encaoua was revered, and upon his death Moroccan Jews would gather at his tomb in Sale to mark the anniversary of his death. His son, Rabbi Michael Encaoua, was the last chief rabbi of Morocco.

In 1947 there were 20,000 Jews living in the region of Sale-Rabat; 12,350 lived in Rabat, and 3,150 in Sale. However, after Morocco gained its independence in 1956 the Jews of Morocco, including those living in Rabat and Sale, began to emigrate. The majority of the Jews of Rabat emigrated to France, the United States, and Canada; the Jews from Sale almost exclusively left for Israel. Most of the Jewish schools of Rabat were closed, including the wide network of the Alliance Israelite Universelle and Otzar HaTorah schools, as well as a rabbinical seminary that had been established in 1951. By 1971 the Jewish population was less than one percent of the population of Rabat-Sale.

In 1997 there were 6,500 Jews living in Morocco, 400 in Rabat.

Morocco

المغرب‎

Kingdom of Morocco  المملكة المغربية

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 2,100 out of 35,000,000 (0.006%)

Conseil des Communautés Israelites du Maroc
Phone: 212 522 48 78 51/ 522 29 57 52
Fax: 212 522 48 78 49
Email: ccimsec@gmail.com

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Morocco

687 | The Jewish Khaleesi

According to Sefer Josippon – a book written in the middle ages, which documents the history of the Jewish people during antiquity – some 30,000 Jews fled after the destruction of the Second Temple to the Maghreb area (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), which was at the time inhabited by Berber tribes.
Legend has it that these Jews founded Jewish kingdoms in the vicinity of modern-day Morocco and even caused many of the Berbers to convert to Judaism. Some sources, part historical and part mythical, mention a Jewish queen named Dihya al-Kahina, who headed the resistance to the Arab conquest in the late seventh century. Al-Kahina, who was described as “A true desert queen, beautiful as a horse and strong as a wrestler”, fascinated many scholars. They describe her as a beautiful, charismatic leader, tough and brave, who yet treated captive enemy warriors mercifully, even adopting two of them.

800 | Fez De-Talmud

In the early ninth century, the great yeshivas of Babylon passed the torch to several heirs, among them the Jewish center in the city of Fez, in northeastern Morocco.
While the Arab conquerors imposed an inferior “dhimmi” status on the Jews of Fez, they still thrived relatively speaking. Muslim historian al-Bakhri noted that “In Fez the Jews lived better than in any other city in the Maghreb”.
Indeed, in Fez there gathered many Jewish scholars, who contributed to its growth as a vibrant spiritual center. The best known were linguist and poet Judah ibn Kuraish and Rabbi Isaac Alfasi, who founded a great yeshiva in the city and wrote the “Sefer HaHalachot”, which refined the essence of religious rulings from the Mishna and the Talmud and won its author eternal fame, as it is an integral part of any yeshiva's library and curriculum to this day.

1146 | Doctor Muhammad and Mister Moses

In order not to fall prey to the cruelty of the Almohad dynasty, which seized control of Morocco in 1146, the Jews were forced to choose between two options: Die or convert. Some chose a third option: To become anusim (crypto-Jews), which is to say, Jews at home and Muslim in public. This situation roused Maimonides, who lived in Fez at the time, to write his famous “Epistle on Martyrdom”, which gave the anusim permission to live in a bi-polar state of identity, until the need should pass. According to tradition, the house in which Maimonides' family lived stands to this day in the old city of Fez.

1492 | A Moroccan Righteous Among The Nations

The expulsion from Spain has been burned into the collective Jewish consciousness as a national disaster that will live in eternal infamy. Like other cases in Jewish history when Jews were uprooted, in the Spanish expulsion too there was no great desire among most nations to take in the Jewish refugees.
One exception was King Muhammad al-Sheikh, a ruler of the Wattasid dynasty, a “Righteous Among the Nations” of his time who was one of the few rulers to open his country to the Jews fleeing Spain.
The refugees from Spain acclimated naturally to their new country. They settled mostly in the urban communities of Fez, Meknes, Sal'e and Marrakesh, and soon integrated into the local Jewish community, creating a new economic and rabbinical elite.

1631 | The Holy Zohar

Like in Christian Europe, so in the lands of Islam, the political game of musical chairs never stopped for a moment. The Jews of Morocco were tossed from one regime to the next, each with its own whims and caprices regarding the Jews. These frequent changes ended in 1631 with the ascension of the Alawite dynasty, which rules Morocco to this day. The rulers of this house treated the Jews warmly, allowing them to find their way to key positions in high places, as royal mint managers, royal treasurers and more.
But the main hero of Morocco's Jews in those years was not a high-ranking official, nor a learned rabbinical leader, but a book: The Holy Zohar, considered the foundation text of Jewish mysticism. The “Zohar” had its greatest influence on the cities of southern Morocco, where Kabbalah literature flourished. Among the most famous sages of this stream of thought one can list Rabbi Shimon Lavi, Moshe Ben Maimon Elbaz and Yaacov ben Itzhak Ifargan, and also Rabbi Avraham Azoulay, great-grandfather of the Hid”a, the gaon Chaim Yosef David Azoulay.

1739 | Imprint of a Genius

While the printing press was invented in Germany back in the 15th century, it had yet to be heard of in Morocco even 300 years later, and so the belated creative explosion experienced by the Jews of Morocco during the reign of King Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif in the late 17th and early 18th century has not received the acclaim it deserves. Among the greatest of that forgotten generation were the members of the Toledano and Bardugo families and the rabbis Even-Tzur, Azoulay and Ben-Hemo. But one member of that era still managed to win eternal fame: Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, author of “Or HaChaim” (“Light of Life”).
It was fate that drove Ben Attar to make aliyah in 1739, after a bitter inheritance dispute within his family. En-route to Israel Ben Attar stopped in Livorno, Italy, where he printed his books, and the rest is history.
The greatness of Ben Attar crossed all sectarian and geographical boundaries. According to legend, when the founder of the Hasidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, heard that Ben Attar was making aliyah, he wished to join him, but heaven itself prevented it, on the grounds that if the two great tzadikim were to meet, the messiah would have to come, and the People of Israel were not yet ready.

1838 | The Moroccan Roots of Tel Aviv

In 1838 a clipper set sail from the shores of Morocco bound for the Land of Israel. Aboard it were Moroccan Jews whose hearts longed for the Holy Land. But the treacherous sea ended their hopes and sank the vessel. Among the few to survive the tempest was Avraham Shlush.
Although most discussions of the aliyah of Moroccan Jews focus on the early years of the State of Israel, the great Shlush family – which in 1887 founded the neighborhood of Neve Tzedek (the first Jewish expansion outside of Jaffa and one of the kernels of the city of Tel Aviv), and participated in the founding of Tel Aviv itself 20 years later – is but one of the proofs that this community began making aliyah long before the establishment of the state, and continued doing so in a slow but steady manner until it was founded.
Another famous pioneer who bears mentioning is Chaim Amzaleg, who participated in the purchase of land for the moshavot (colonies) of Rishon LeZion and “The Mother of Moshavot”, Petah Tikva.

1860 | Renewed Ties

For many years the Jews in Morocco were relatively cut off from Jewish communities in Europe. This changed somewhat thanks to the “Tajar al-Sultan” (Royal Merchants) – a new class of Jews that developed in the late 1850s. This group of merchants conducted trade relations with the powers of Europe on behalf of their sovereign, while at the same time establishing ties with their European brethren.
In those years there also began a large migration of Jews from Morocco to South America, following the booming rubber trade in the area, mostly in Brazil. One of the leading international merchants of Jewish origin in this period was Moses Elias Levy from the city of Mogador, who upon reaching adulthood migrated to Florida of all places, and in an act of solidarity purchased hundred of thousands of acres with the intention of providing refuge for persecuted Jews in Eastern Europe.

1912 | All Israel Are Friends

In 1912 the signing of the Treaty of Fez turned Morocco into a French protectorate. For the Jews of Morocco this treaty heralded the end of a dark period replete with pogroms and the beginning of a new era, in which the Jews enjoyed a cultural, social, and political renaissance.
During these years the teaching of Hebrew, combined with the ideas of Enlightenment (both the general kind and Jewish Haskala) spread throughout Morocco via the global Jewish school network Alliance Israelite Universelle (translated into Hebrew as "All Israel Are Friends"), which took the children of Morocco under its wings. It was then that the Jews of Morocco began to exit the Mellahs (the Jewish quarters, somewhat akin to the European ghettos) and move to the new European-style neighborhoods in the major cities.

1940 | The Holocaust Stops in Morocco

In 1940 the Nazis conquered France and established the Vichy regime – a German wolf in French sheep's clothing. Historians are divided as to the extent to which Moroccan King Muhammad V acquiesced to the edicts of the Vichy regime. In any event, the Jews were soon expelled from government positions and thrown back into the ghetto-like Mellah. In addition there is a well-known story of 153 Moroccan Jews who happened to be in Paris and were sent to Auschwitz. In 1942 the Allies conquered Morocco and stopped the plans of the Nazi death machine in North Africa.

1948 | Aliyah to the Melting Pot

The establishment of the State of Israel caused much excitement among the Jews of Morocco. However, this was not just due to love of their people, but also resulted from the hardships of life in Morocco.
During those years the struggle for national independence escalated in Morocco and the national press often incited against Jews. The high tensions led to deplorable incidents including the pogroms of Oujda and Jerada, in which 42 Jews – men, women and children – were murdered.
Between 1948-1956 some 85,000 Jews made aliyah from Morocco, then still under French rule. The immigrants were forced to adjust to the national “melting pot” policy led by then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and many of them felt that their rich culture was being trampled by the Zionist steamroller. Thousands of them were led in the dead of night to frontier settlements in order to man and populate the borders. In time these settlements would come to be known as “Development Towns” (“Ayarot Pituach”). This trauma stayed with the immigrants for many years, and found expression in Israeli music, literature and film.

1967 | The Perils of Independence

In 1956 Morocco was liberated from French rule, and banned the Jews living in its territory from emigrating to Israel. One reason was apparently the important role played by the Jews in the Moroccan economy. In 1960 the Israeli Mossad embarked on a daring mission to smuggle the Jews of Morocco to Israel aboard the fishing vessel Egoz. On one of its excursions the ship sank near the Straits of Gibraltar, and nearly all those aboard perished, including 44 immigrants. The disaster drew significant global notice, followed by international pressure on Morocco, until it relented, allowing its Jews to leave under various restrictions. Between 1961-1967 approximately 120,000 Jews made aliyah from Morocco to Israel.
In 1967, following the Six Day War and the growing threats to the Jewish community in Morocco, the final wave of aliyah from the country began, leading to the relocation of some 10,000 people.
In 2014 the Jewish community of Morocco numbered around 2,500 people, as opposed to 204,000 Jews who lived in the country in 1947. Many of the Jews of Morocco also immigrated to other countries, including France, Canada and the United States.

Bani Malal

In Arabic:  بني ملال‎ /Beni Mellal

A village at the foot of the Atlas mountains, north-east of Marrakesh, central Morocco.

The region of the Atlas mountains is called by the Moroccans “Bilad A - Siba”, the lands of Siba, a region where governmental chaos prevailed until the middle 1920’s. The Jews living in villages of the Atlas mountains were dependent almost entirely on the Berber patron who protected them for his own reasons, as their property was likely eventually to become his own. Thus the Jews of the villages lived in comparative security as compared with the Jews of the urban communities. They even maintained a good relationship with the Muslims, based on mutual economic advantages, as the Jews provided all the needs of their Muslim neighbors. Disputes were resolved in accordance with the tribal Berber tradition. Mutual respect, fairness in business and personal friendship exemplified the relations between the Jewish merchant or artisan and the Muslim patron.

The Jews engaged in trade and in crafts and there were also partnerships between Jews and Muslims, in which the Jews provided the funds for working the land or breeding sheep. Travelling Jewish merchants traversed without fear the domains of the Berber tribes.

Jews also acted as intermediaries between Arabs and Berbers, or between different Berber tribes. As a result, the Jewish merchants enjoyed a strong and respectable position in their community.

The Jewish community of Bani Malal was managed by an independent local committee, headed by a president. The committee was responsible for the management of the community’s fund, whose income came from the gabila tax on kosher meat and wine and from donations of the risher members of the community. The money thus collected was used for supporting the poor and for financing the activities of the community.

Among the scholars of the community of Bani Malal were: Moshe ben Yihiya Malkah (1911-1997), a dayan (religious judge) in the years 1953-1955, David Danino, in the early 20th century, Rabbi Makhlouf Abi-Hasira, the rabbi and dayan of the community in the years 1944-1949.

On November 8, 1942, in World War II, the American forces landed in North Africa and the attitude of the authorities and the local population towards the Jews worsened because the Jews showed pleasure at the retreat of the German forces. The civil controller and the pasha evicted the Jews of Bani Malal from their houses and shops and accommodated French people in their place. The Jews returned to their homes only after the war. The community of Bani Malal was not involved in any Zionist activity, being small and far away from the center. A local branch of the Jewish scout movement was formed only in 1948. On the eve of the mass immigration to Israel 3,500 Jews were living at Bani Malal, out of a total population of 18,000. Most of them were merchants, office workers, and small artisans. The whole community emigrated to Israel in the course of the years 1948-1967.

Entifa

A settlement in the Atlas mountains, south of Marrakesh, Morocco.

The region of the Atlas mountains is called by the Moroccans “Bilad A - Siba”, the lands of Siba, a region where governmental chaos prevailed until the middle 1920’s. The Jews living in villages of the Atlas mountains were dependent almost entirely on the Berber patron who protected them for his own reasons, as their property was likely eventually to become his own. Thus the Jews of the villages lived in comparative security as compared with the Jews of the urban communities. They even maintained a good relationship with the Muslims, based on mutual economic advantages, as the Jews provided all the needs of their Muslim neighbors. Disputes were resolved in accordance with the tribal Berber tradition. Mutual respect, fairness in business and personal friendship exemplified the relations between the Jewish merchant or artisan and the Muslim patron.

The Jews engaged in trade and in crafts and there were also partnerships between Jews and Muslims, in which the Jews provided the funds for working the land or breeding sheep. Travelling Jewish merchants traversed without fear the domains of the Berber tribes.

Jews also acted as intermediaries between Arabs and Berbers, or between different Berber tribes. As a result, the Jewish merchants enjoyed a strong and respectable position in their community.

Entifa is not mentioned in early Jewish records. In the years 1883-84 a French officer visited the place and reported the existence of a community of 200 Jews at Entifa. The Jewish convert Eli Zarbiv visited Entifa in 1890 as the head of a delegation of the London Society of the Anglican Church for spreading Christianity among the Jews. He reported having found at Entifa a mellah with 200-350 Jews and two synagogues.

Marrakesh served as the religious and communal hinterland of Entifa. The community of Entifa maintained close relations also with the community of Mogador, the port 180 km west of Marrakesh.

In 1880 the Muslim governor ordered the killing of a Jew who employed a Muslim girl at his home, which by law was forbidden to Jews. Following this incident some of the Jews of Entifa fled to Marrakesh.

The Jews of Entifa went to Israel in the course of the 1950’s and the community was liquidated.

Tidili

Tidili Fetouaka; in Arabic: فطواكة

A village in the high Atlas mountain range, central Morocco.

The region of the Atlas mountains is called by the Moroccans “Bilad A-Siba”. until the 1920’s the region had been subject to chaotic rule. the Jews in the villages of the Atlas mountains were dependent almost entirely on the Berber patron who gave them protection for his own reasons, as their property was ultimately likely to become his. the Jews of the villages thus enjoyed comparative security, in relation to that of the Jews of the towns. moreover, they enjoyed also reciprocal economic relationships with their Muslim Berber neighbors, that provided all their needs. any disputes were resolved in accordance with the Berber tribal customs. the interdependence was based on mutual respect, fairness in deals and personal friendship between the Jewish merchant or craftsman and the Muslim patrons.

Jews engaged in crafts and trade and there were partnerships between Jews and Muslims. in these partnerships, the Jews provided the money for agricultural activity and the breeding of small cattle. traveling Jewish traders entered without fear into the borders of the Berber tribes.

The Jewish merchants acted also as intermediaries between the Berbers and Arabs or between different Berber tribes. as such, the merchants enjoyed also a strong and respectful position in their own Jewish community.

The Jewish community at Tidili was small. The Jews lived within a closed compound of internal yards, surrounded by a clay wall. Until the middle of the 19th century the Jews had followed the way of life of the Berbers - they rode horses, carried arms and defended themselves when necessary. Later they were protected by the head of the Berber tribe.

Most of the Jews of Tidili made their living as craftsmen. They made clothes, tools, arms and other products for use by the Berbers. Those who were not craftsmen engaged in trade and with time the merchants became the upper class of the community. The leaders of the community usually came from the commercial class. No information is available as to a synagogue at Tidili but it is known that an emissary from Jerusalem, one Rabbi Abraham, is buried near the village.

In 1955 there were 150 Jews at Tidili. when they emigrated to Israel at the end of the 1950’s the community came to an end.

Taroudant

In Arabic: تارودانت‎

A city on the western slope of the high Atlas mountains, south-west Morocco.

The region of the Atlas mountains is called by the Moroccans “Bilad A - Siba”, the lands of Siba, a region where governmental chaos prevailed until the middle 1920’s. The Jews living in villages of the Atlas mountains were dependent almost entirely on the Berber patron who protected them for his own reasons, as their property was likely eventually to become his own. Thus the Jews of the villages lived in comparative security as compared with the Jews of the urban communities. They even maintained a good relationship with the Muslims, based on mutual economic advantages, as the Jews provided all the needs of their Muslim neighbors. Disputes were resolved in accordance with the tribal Berber tradition. Mutual respect, fairness in business and personal friendship exemplified the relations between the Jewish merchant or artisan and the Muslim patron.

The Jews engaged in trade and in crafts and there were also partnerships between Jews and Muslims, in which the Jews provided the funds for working the land or breeding sheep. Travelling Jewish merchants traversed without fear the domains of the Berber tribes.

Jews also acted as intermediaries between Arabs and Berbers, or between different Berber tribes. As a result, the Jewish merchants enjoyed a strong and respectable position in their community.

In the 16th century Taroudant was the abode of Rabbi Moshe ben Mimon Albaz. In the 19th century existed at Taroudant a large Jewish community which maintained contact with the community of Mogador. The village had the regular communal institutions and a Talmud torah. The synagogue of Rabbi Abraham Ben Benjamin was built at the beginning of the 19th century by Jews who had come from Jerusalem. In the 1930’s a Jewish school was opened at Taroudant. At that time there were 8 synagogues at the village and the prominent person of the community was then Rabbi Moshe Abirmat (died 1955).

Zionist activity started at Taroudant, as in the other southern villages, in 1919, on the initiative of the Rabbi Pinhas Khalifa Benyamin Azug. He collected money for Keren Hayesod and for buying land in Eretz Israel and distributed the Zionist shekel (membership in the Zionist organization and a voting right). For some unknown reason his Zionist activity stopped in 1921.

In the 1950’s the Jews of Taroudant went to Israel and the community ceased to exist. In 1966 one Jew was living in Taroudant.

Moshe Zrihen
Asraf, Yehuda
Ha-Etzioni, Yehuda
Lasry, Marc

Moshe Zrihen (1877-1953), rabbi, dayan and Av Beit Din of Marrakesh, born in Marrakesh, Morocco, into a family of distinguished rabbis. He studied with his father, Rabbi Abraham Zrihen, Rosh Yeshiva in Marrakesh. He started serving as a dayan at the rabbinical court of Marrakesh in 1909. In 1936 he was appointed Av Beit Din of Marrakesh. Rabbi Zrihen was a humble person who appeared in public only very exceptionally. He lived in a house on L'Hbass street, known as Rabbi Moshe Zrihen's house, that included a synagogue where he used to pray and that was open to the entire community, particularly during the Jewish holidays. As a dayan, he set precedent-setting rulings, particularly about the distribution of inheritance between girls and boys. He died and was buried in Marrakesh. His remains were brought to a cemetery in Haifa, Israel, in 1994.

Asraf, Yehuda (1940- ), educator and communal worker, born in the small village of Ighil Noro in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Ighil Noro is situated in valley of the River Sous, close to the town of Talioune, 65 kilometres south east of Marrakesh and some 100 kilometers east of Taroudant. Yehuda's father, David, made jewellery which he sold in one of the village shops and shops in other nearby villages. He was also a trader in other products. David's parents had come from a village near Marrakesh, but David had gone to live in Ighil Noro when he got married; his wife, whose father was a well-known scholar. Some 4,000 Jewish families lived in small villages in the area. The Jewish communities of the Atlas had always been connected to Marrakesh, which was quite close 'as the crow flies' but a six or seven hour bus ride away on the narrow mountain roads. And often there was just one bus per week.

The Jews were metal-workers, tinsmiths, jewelers (such as David Asraf), tailors, cobblers, saddlemakers and carpenters. They were important mediators in the urban to rural movement, carrying urban-based goods and skills to the countryside. These skills were essential to the local tribal populations, who therefore attempted to attract Jews into their area. David Asraf's skills were appreciated over a wide area and he therefore felt secure in his home environment even if he was very poor by modern standards and his home lacked most modern conveniences. The village boasted one single telephone, at the home of the head man. Even during World War II, when the persecution of the Jews in Europe was at it worst, and many Arabs openly supported the Nazis, the Asraf family was safe and protected by the Berber majority in their village.

Ighil Noro was one of approximately 150 small Jewish communities in the Sous valley. Altogether some 300 families lived in the village, and about 80 or 90 of them were Jewish (making a Jewish population of some 700 people) who lived in the Mellah (the Jewish quarter). This made the Jewish community larger than many in the area. There were two large synagogues constructed from mud-bricks or packed mud. Both synagogues in Ighil Noro were said to be very old- over 1000 years old by some accounts. The synagogue was very simple with one single room for praying. The organization of synagogue activities in every village was basically the same. Synagogue members would pay for its upkeep by buying ritual honours such as being called to the leading of the Torah. The major cost of a synagogue would always be the payment of the teacher, called a hazzan, but funds would be used for other purposes such as providing oil to light the synagogue lamps, contributing to the poor members of the community or providing alms to wandering Jewish beggars who traveled from one community to another.

The synagogue also served as a school in which (male) children received instruction. These studies did not take place in a separate room, but usually in the same large room which was used for prayer. The teacher, called the hazzan, always received payment for his work, and frequently carried out other tasks such as leading prayers, slaughtering animals and performing marriages. These latter tasks were however often carried out voluntarily. All members of the community contributed to the cost of hiring a teacher, often in relation to the number of children in the family. Many of these hazzanim were relatively young, in their late teens, and were unmarried. Yehuda Asraf tried to earn his living in this manner for several years. The contract of employment would usually stipulate that the teacher be provided with lodging and be fed at the community's expense. The teacher might be mainly the guest of one well-to-do family, or, more commonly in the smaller villages, they would rotate among the families, taking meals at different homes. Often a young unmarried teacher would found a spouse in the community in which he had come to work and reside.

Almost all Jews of the area spoke Arabic at home but most of them learned the Berber language of the region, the shilha, since many had extensive economic contacts with Berbers. Arabic was first learned in the sla, the synagogue school where the boys began to learn the Hebrew alphabet, gain competence in reading from the prayer book and the Bible, and were taught to translate the Biblical text into standard Judaeo-Arabic (shereh). It was said that the Berbers learned Arabic from the Jews.

Ighil Noro with its two synagogues and 80-90 Jewish families was larger than many others and so became a regional centre where individuals from surrounding small communities would receive training to serve as hazzanim and slaughterers. The school where this training was undertaken was known as a yeshiva. This yeshiva was a place where young men would come to study the practical skills associated with synagogue life. In addition to learning to lead the prayers, and to read from the Torah scroll, the student would be trained in the laws of slaughtering. The conclusion of a course of study was a festive occasion both for the community of the yeshiva and other communities. The hazzanim/slaughterers from the entire region would be invited to this ‘graduation ceremony.’ The novices would be tested in the laws of slaughtering and then asked to demonstrate their competence in practice in front of a board of experienced and learned slaughterers. The test provided the occasion for an elaborate feast and the festivities marked the creation of a new cadre of hazzanim, who might seek their livelihood in the communities of the South. During the course of their studies, students would be supported by the local community receiving board and lodging in various homes. It brought a great deal of prestige to run such a yeshiva, and to provide for a future generation of hazzanim. In the 1940s Alliance Israelite school opened in the village.

Economic conditions in Ighil Noro deteriorated seriously after the pro-Nazi Vichy government took over the control of Morocco in 1940. Many Arabs in particular shared the anti-Semitic sentiments of the government. A series of anti-Semitic decrees were introduced and Jews even in the small villages felt very insecure. They were not allowed to participate in many trades, Jewish children were not allowed to number more than 10% of pupils in any school, it was forbidden for Jews to lend money and many of the men were sent to work camps were conditions were appalling. The sultan Mohammed V refused to support these laws, but was unable to protect the Jews. Even after the US landings in Morocco in early 1943 a number of anti-Jewish pogroms occurred. David Asraf, whose business had declined, was very worried about the situation. Anti-Semitic French officials came to the village and listed all the Jews. He had no idea what was being planned for them so David decided to leave the village and move to Marrakesh where his sister Esther and brother Eliyahu lived. He hoped that life would be easier in the big city. Things did not work out as he hoped. After a few months he decided to return to Ighil Noro - his economic situation might be bad but it seems that he felt safer there.

In 1947 his parents decided that Yehuda, now 7 years old, would receive a better education in Marrakesh. He was looked after by his relatives- during the week by Aunt Esther and on Shabatot by Uncle Eliyahu. For four years he went to a secular school and then transferred to a traditional yeshiva there in order to learn Jewish law, tradition and Talmud- all apparently paid for by Uncle Eliyahu. Eight years later his father decided that Yehuda should learn Jewish ritual slaughter, schitta, as a means of earning a living. It seems that his uncle was unable to finance this in Marrakesh, so 15 year-old Yehuda returned to his parents' home in Ighil Noro in order to enrolled at the local village yeshiva for this purpose. In 1957 Yehuda became a qualified shochet and teacher. The family thought that his financial future was assured, but they were wrong.

Yehuda started teaching in villages in the neighbourhood of Marrakesh but it seems that he was unable to earn enough to support himself so he reluctantly agreed to accept a position in the isolated oasis village of Akka, some 300km to the south of Marrakesh near to the Sahara Desert and the border with Algeria. He persevered there for about one year until he returned to his parents' home. Some months later, in 1959, a telephone call to the village head-man (the Asrafs of Ighil Noro had no telephone) from Rabbi Abuhazira in Marrakesh to summon the young man to a teaching position in Taroudant where he met his future wife, Sima. The position, however, did not last long. Once again penniless, Yehuda could not contemplate the responsibilities of married life. Fortunately he met up with a well to do businessman who in 1960 found him a position in Agadir, a large city of 500,000 people on the Atlantic coast with a prosperous Jewish community. He was offered an improved salary and Yehuda was happy to accept. However he soon discovered that the Jewish community was dwindled fast. It was obvious that the young couple would soon be out of work and one again penniless. When the State of Israel was founded in 1948 riots broke out in several cities in Morocco, 44 Jews were killed in two pogroms and many more were injured. Many Jews who wished to emigrate were arrested and imprisoned. The Arabs instituted an economic boycott of the Jews. Only in 1961, just when Yehuda arrived in Agadir, did King Hassan II at last permitted the Jews to emigrate. Recalling the riots and the pogroms the vast majority of Jews decided to leave before some other disaster happened. Most went to Israel, some to France.

So 1962, now aged 22, Yehuda Asraf with his young bride also decided that the only way and also the right way to break the vicious circle was for them to make Aliya to Israel. Yehuda brought his wife's parents with him to Israel, and promised to support them financially. The family, like many others from Morocco, settled in Sderot. Initially he worked as a factory worker, then for the Jewish National Fund in its afforestation projects in the Sderot area. Only later did he find employment as a shochet, a teacher and a rabbi who was involved in the provision of religious services in his community. For some six years he was head of the Religious Council in Sderot. Almost all the family eventually came to live in Israel. Morocco had became independent in 1956. Conditions in post-independence Morocco were too precarious for the Jews. David and Sultana Asraf came to live in the young State of Israel two years later. They settled in Kiryat Gat.
Ha-Etzioni, Yehuda (1868-1938), Zionist, physician. He was born in Jerusalem but after his father's death his mother remarried and took him to Vienna, Austria, where he studied medicine. He helped to promote an exhibition of Eretz Israel products in Berlin and wrote an article supporting Zionism and the revival of Hebrew. Herzl called him "old friend" and sent him the galleys of his book Judenstaat ("The Jewish Stated") to read. At this point, Ha-Etzioni gave up his Zionist activities and moved to Marrakesh in Morocco where he served as physician to the sultan. After World War I he settled in Lithuania and taught in Jewish high schools in Vilkaviskis and Ukmerge.
Lasry, Marc (1960-), businessman, born in Marrakesh, Morocco. He was taken to the US by his parents in the late 1960s. He was schooled in Connecticut, studied history at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and then law at the New York Law School.

Lasry is the founder and manager of a large US hedge fund. Together with his sister he founded an investment company in which he invested seven million dollars of his own money together with US$ 100 million from other investors. The funds have been extremely successful and his family very wealthy. In 2005 they donated $5 million to Clark University.
Courtyard of the Synagogue in the Old Jewish Quarter, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1986
The Jewish Cemetery, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Jewish pupils from Marrakesh in a summer camp in Mogador, Morocco, 1945
Jewish merchant in the Jewish Quarter (Mellah) of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1986
Jewish man in the old Jewish Quarter (Mellah), Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Women preparinf sweets foer a wedding celebration, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1976
Torah Scrolls in the 'Negidim' Synagogue, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1994
View of a street in the Jewish Quarter of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Students of Alliance agricultural college in Marrakesh, Morocco, 1949
Jewish shopkeeper in the Old Jewish Quarter (Mellah), Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Sukkah in the Mellah, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1994
Interior of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Marrakesh, Morocco, 2004
At the Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter (Mellah) of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Courtyard of the Synagogue in the Old Jewish Quarter, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1986
The last Jewish family in the Old Quarter is taking care
of the synagogue
Photo: Richard H. Stern, Holland
(Beit Hatfutsot Phoro Archive,
Richard H. Stern Collection, Holland)
The Jewish cemetery,
Marrakesh, Morocco, December 1995
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Jewish pupils from Marrakesh at summer camp
in Mogador, Morocco, 1945
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Dr. David Cohen, Israel)
Jewish merchant in the Jewish Quarter (Mellah)
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1986
Photo: Jean-Jacques Wahl, France
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Jean-Jacques Wahl, France)
Jewish man in the old Jewish Quarter (Mellah),
Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Women, members of one of the few remaining Jewish
families still living in the old Jewish Quarter (Mellah),
preparing sweets for a wedding celebration, Marrakesh, Morocco, 1976
Photo: Donna Wosk, USA
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Dona Wosk, USA)
Torah scrolls in the 'Negidim' synagogue.
Marrakesh, Morocco, 1994
Photo: Zev Radovan
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot)
(Zev Radovan Collection)
View of a street in the Jewish Quarter
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
The balconies indicate that the houses used to belong to Jewish families who were the only ones to have balconies
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Students of Alliance agricultural college
in Marrakesh, Morocco, 1949
Front row, center: Principal Elias Harrus
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, Elias Harrus Collection)
Jewish shopkeeper in the Old Jewish Quarter (Mellah), Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)

Sukkah in the Jewish Quarter (Mellah)
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1994
Photo: Alex Levac, Israel
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People 

Moroccan Jews often build their Sukkot with palm-tree branches or reed, so that it looks completely green from the outside. The Sukkah is decorated with pictures of venerated rabbis and saints, mainly of R. Shimon Bar-Yohai, author of the Zohar. Every night during Sukkot selected portions from the Zohar are recited

Interior of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 2004
The man in the photo is the Arab caretaker who
opened the place for the Israeli tourists.
Photo: Dorit Bar-Zakay, Israel
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Dorit Bar-Zakay, Israel)
At the Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter (Mellah)
of Marrakesh, Morocco, 1995
Photo: Doron Bacher, Ra'anana
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Doron Bacher, Israel)
Tsama Nafshi Le'el Temim De'im
Ani Agid Bikehal Am Zu - Moroccan tradition

Tsama Nafshi Le'el Temim De'im ("My Soul Thirteth to the All-knowing God" - in Hebrew)

Original recording from Chants Hebreux de la Tradition des Juifs Marocains. Produced by Beit Hatfutsot in 1993.

The Qasida in the Morrocan Bakkashot is a closing poem, and at least one is included in every setting. This Qasida is one of the ending poems to Bereshit, the first of the Bakkashot settings. In this recording from 1957 it is sung by David Bouzaglo and two of his students.

Ani Agid Bikehal Am Zu (“I Shall Say in This Crowd” – in Hebrew)

Original recording from Chants Hebreux de la Tradition des Juifs Marocains. Produced by Beit Hatfutsot in 1993.

A 12th century piyyut by Yehuda Halevi. In this recording from 1957 it is sung by David Bouzaglo and two of his students. The opening of the piyyut in this version was changed as per Bouzaglo’s interpretation.

Lasry, Marc
Lasry, Marc (1960-), businessman, born in Marrakesh, Morocco. He was taken to the US by his parents in the late 1960s. He was schooled in Connecticut, studied history at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and then law at the New York Law School.

Lasry is the founder and manager of a large US hedge fund. Together with his sister he founded an investment company in which he invested seven million dollars of his own money together with US$ 100 million from other investors. The funds have been extremely successful and his family very wealthy. In 2005 they donated $5 million to Clark University.