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Class photo of girls' school elementary school, Meknes, Morocco, 1948

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Class photo of Rene' Cohen (Raphael Cohen's sister)
at the girls' school elementary school, Meknes,
Morocco, January 20, 1948
The teacher was Mrs. Sol Elhadad-Sebbag
)The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Raphael & Georgette Cohen collection)
ID Number:
149885
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)
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Meknes

In Arabic: مكناس‎

A City in Morocco.

Jews settled in the region of Meknes before the advent of Islam. A Hebrew inscription has been found and the remains of a synagogue were uncovered in the excavations of Volubilis, which is near Meknes. A "kinah" of Abraham Ibn Ezra mentions Meknes among the communities which suffered at the hands of the Almohads. A chronological note testifies that such persecutions occurred in 1140, and adds that in 1247, during the wars of the Merinids, many Jews lost their lives or were forcibly converted to Islam, while in the earthquake of 1340 "several courtyards caved in, as well as the synagogue and the Bet Ha-Midrash of rabbi Jacob."

According to traditions preserved in writing, the "Mahrit" synagogue, still existing in Meknes, was first built in the 13th century, destroyed in the earthquake of 1630 and rebuilt in 1646 by the Toledanos upon their arrival in Meknes. It is similarly stated that the "Tobi" synagogue was built in 1540. It would therefore seem that Jews already at that time lived in the present mellah areas as well as in the Medina in which an "Aaron Street" is, according to tradition, named after the then leader of the community. The Sharif Mulay Ismail (1672-1727), the real founder of the Alawid dynasty, moved his capital to Meknes and granted the Jews additional land for construction of buildings. The "Nagid" Abraham Maymeran and other wealthy Jews then built luxurious houses. Christian emissaries from Europe who stayed in them were astonished by their beauty. Near the Mellah, Ismail built a beautiful quarter for his officials and servants.

From then until the 19th century the community of Meknes was one of the best developed and organized in Morocco. It was a city of Chakhamim and authors, as well as merchants and men of action who frequently visited Tetuan, Sale, Rabat, and Fez on their affairs. The community was organized and its institutions functioned accordingly. The taxation on meat, wine, and other products constituted a source of income for the community, which with the addition of local donations, was able to supply the minimal requirements of the needy and those engaged in studies. The community maintained regular relations with Eretz Israel, whose emissaries returned home with considerable funds. The education of the children was entrusted to many teachers; at a more advanced age the youths were employed in the crafts or commerce, while the more talented pursued their studies in yeshivot.

As capital of the country and residence of the Sharifs (rulers) Meknes was also the center of Jewish activities at the court. The leaders of the Meknes community acted as Negidim of Moroccan Jewry and agents of the Sharifs. Among them were members of the Maymeran family (Joseph and his son Abraham), as well as the Toledanos, the Ibn Attars, the Ben Mamans, the Ben Quiquis, and others. The most prominent rabbinic scholars and dayyanim in Meknes during the 18th-- 20th centuries come from the Berdugo and Toledano families, many of whom wrote responsa.

During the 19th century Meknes lost its importance as the capital and the Jewish community also declined. There was an important change for the better in the situation of the Jews with the formal establishment of the French protectorate in 1912. From then on the Jews enjoyed relative security and economic stability, as well as elementary human rights. There were also changes in the field of religious education with the arrival of rabbi Ze'ev Halperin, a Russian scholar who came from Britain in 1912. He introduced reforms in the system of study of the yeshivot and gathered the young men of the town, for whom he founded a Kolel Avrekhim (advanced yeshivah), the first of its kind in Meknes and probably the whole of Morocco. He founded an Etz Chayyim society for laymen which organized regular studies and whose members supported the young men of the Bet El yeshivah with their contributions. As a result of this activity the yeshivah produced a nucleus of Chakhamim who later officiated as rabbis in Meknes and other communities. The fame of Meknes yeshivot spread far and they attracted students from many parts of the country.

After World War II, a Chabad yeshivah was founded (in conjunction with Otzar Ha-Torah).

The government allocated new areas near the mellah for the Jews to live in, and a new quarter, known as the "new Mellah," was built. The construction was modern, being scattered and not surrounded by a wall. Many beautiful synagogues were also built, including the beautiful "Toledano" and Joseph Marijin synagogues, as well as a large Jewish school, Em Ha-Banim, in which all the children of the community studied (the needy were exempted from the payment of tuition fees). Its expenses and the salaries of the teachers were provided from community funds. In 1947 approximately 1,200 pupils attended this school. The Alliance Israelite Universelle built two large schools, one for boys and another for girls, which were attended by about 1,500 boys and girls in 1950. According to the 1947 census the Jewish community numbered 15,482 (about 3,000 others were not included in the census for various reasons). This number decreased greatly after the establishment of the State of Israel.

The Jewish population of Meknes, which numbered 12,445 in the 1951 census report, dropped in 1960 to 10,894 (according to the census of that year), and in 1968, after the large-scale emigration of Moroccan Jewry, to about 2,000-3,000. During the 1950s the Jewish schools had 3,182 pupils, but the number dropped off in the 1960's. Most of the charitable and social welfare organizations, which included branches of WIZO and the World Jewish Congress, were closed. In 1970 the Meknes community, although reduced, was one of the more vital of the Moroccan provincial communities. A considerable Jewish petite bourgoisie lived there with communal life centering around the two main synagogues. Only a few dozen Jews remain in the old Mellah, and most live in the modern Jewish neighborhood.

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Class photo of girls' school elementary school, Meknes, Morocco, 1948
Class photo of Rene' Cohen (Raphael Cohen's sister)
at the girls' school elementary school, Meknes,
Morocco, January 20, 1948
The teacher was Mrs. Sol Elhadad-Sebbag
)The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Raphael & Georgette Cohen collection)
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)

Meknes

Meknes

In Arabic: مكناس‎

A City in Morocco.

Jews settled in the region of Meknes before the advent of Islam. A Hebrew inscription has been found and the remains of a synagogue were uncovered in the excavations of Volubilis, which is near Meknes. A "kinah" of Abraham Ibn Ezra mentions Meknes among the communities which suffered at the hands of the Almohads. A chronological note testifies that such persecutions occurred in 1140, and adds that in 1247, during the wars of the Merinids, many Jews lost their lives or were forcibly converted to Islam, while in the earthquake of 1340 "several courtyards caved in, as well as the synagogue and the Bet Ha-Midrash of rabbi Jacob."

According to traditions preserved in writing, the "Mahrit" synagogue, still existing in Meknes, was first built in the 13th century, destroyed in the earthquake of 1630 and rebuilt in 1646 by the Toledanos upon their arrival in Meknes. It is similarly stated that the "Tobi" synagogue was built in 1540. It would therefore seem that Jews already at that time lived in the present mellah areas as well as in the Medina in which an "Aaron Street" is, according to tradition, named after the then leader of the community. The Sharif Mulay Ismail (1672-1727), the real founder of the Alawid dynasty, moved his capital to Meknes and granted the Jews additional land for construction of buildings. The "Nagid" Abraham Maymeran and other wealthy Jews then built luxurious houses. Christian emissaries from Europe who stayed in them were astonished by their beauty. Near the Mellah, Ismail built a beautiful quarter for his officials and servants.

From then until the 19th century the community of Meknes was one of the best developed and organized in Morocco. It was a city of Chakhamim and authors, as well as merchants and men of action who frequently visited Tetuan, Sale, Rabat, and Fez on their affairs. The community was organized and its institutions functioned accordingly. The taxation on meat, wine, and other products constituted a source of income for the community, which with the addition of local donations, was able to supply the minimal requirements of the needy and those engaged in studies. The community maintained regular relations with Eretz Israel, whose emissaries returned home with considerable funds. The education of the children was entrusted to many teachers; at a more advanced age the youths were employed in the crafts or commerce, while the more talented pursued their studies in yeshivot.

As capital of the country and residence of the Sharifs (rulers) Meknes was also the center of Jewish activities at the court. The leaders of the Meknes community acted as Negidim of Moroccan Jewry and agents of the Sharifs. Among them were members of the Maymeran family (Joseph and his son Abraham), as well as the Toledanos, the Ibn Attars, the Ben Mamans, the Ben Quiquis, and others. The most prominent rabbinic scholars and dayyanim in Meknes during the 18th-- 20th centuries come from the Berdugo and Toledano families, many of whom wrote responsa.

During the 19th century Meknes lost its importance as the capital and the Jewish community also declined. There was an important change for the better in the situation of the Jews with the formal establishment of the French protectorate in 1912. From then on the Jews enjoyed relative security and economic stability, as well as elementary human rights. There were also changes in the field of religious education with the arrival of rabbi Ze'ev Halperin, a Russian scholar who came from Britain in 1912. He introduced reforms in the system of study of the yeshivot and gathered the young men of the town, for whom he founded a Kolel Avrekhim (advanced yeshivah), the first of its kind in Meknes and probably the whole of Morocco. He founded an Etz Chayyim society for laymen which organized regular studies and whose members supported the young men of the Bet El yeshivah with their contributions. As a result of this activity the yeshivah produced a nucleus of Chakhamim who later officiated as rabbis in Meknes and other communities. The fame of Meknes yeshivot spread far and they attracted students from many parts of the country.

After World War II, a Chabad yeshivah was founded (in conjunction with Otzar Ha-Torah).

The government allocated new areas near the mellah for the Jews to live in, and a new quarter, known as the "new Mellah," was built. The construction was modern, being scattered and not surrounded by a wall. Many beautiful synagogues were also built, including the beautiful "Toledano" and Joseph Marijin synagogues, as well as a large Jewish school, Em Ha-Banim, in which all the children of the community studied (the needy were exempted from the payment of tuition fees). Its expenses and the salaries of the teachers were provided from community funds. In 1947 approximately 1,200 pupils attended this school. The Alliance Israelite Universelle built two large schools, one for boys and another for girls, which were attended by about 1,500 boys and girls in 1950. According to the 1947 census the Jewish community numbered 15,482 (about 3,000 others were not included in the census for various reasons). This number decreased greatly after the establishment of the State of Israel.

The Jewish population of Meknes, which numbered 12,445 in the 1951 census report, dropped in 1960 to 10,894 (according to the census of that year), and in 1968, after the large-scale emigration of Moroccan Jewry, to about 2,000-3,000. During the 1950s the Jewish schools had 3,182 pupils, but the number dropped off in the 1960's. Most of the charitable and social welfare organizations, which included branches of WIZO and the World Jewish Congress, were closed. In 1970 the Meknes community, although reduced, was one of the more vital of the Moroccan provincial communities. A considerable Jewish petite bourgoisie lived there with communal life centering around the two main synagogues. Only a few dozen Jews remain in the old Mellah, and most live in the modern Jewish neighborhood.