Morocco Jewish Leaders Praise King for Keeping Peace and Respect

Despite Hiccups, Largest Community in Arab World Safe

Good Times: Serge Berdugo, secretary general of the Moroccan Jewish community and a former minister of tourism, says things couldn’t be better for Jews in the North African land.
nathan guttman
Good Times: Serge Berdugo, secretary general of the Moroccan Jewish community and a former minister of tourism, says things couldn’t be better for Jews in the North African land.

By Nathan Guttman

Published November 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Morocco currently has a Jewish community of 4,500 members, most of them concentrated in Casablanca. It is a mere shadow of the country’s storied Jewish community which began nearly 2000 years ago after the destruction of the second temple and reached a peak of more than 250,000 in 1948. Since, in several waves, Jews left Morocco, mainly to Israel, but also to Europe and Canada.

The country still boasts, however, the largest remaining Jewish community in the Arab world and prides itself with flourishing Jewish life, all sponsored and protected by the ruler. There are 15 synagogues in Casablanca, a Jewish school system that attracts also Muslim students, and even a Jewish Beit Din, religious court, that operates as part of the state court system.

The Jewish community’s strong show of support for the Moroccan ruler dates back to the former king Mohammed V who refused to implement the discriminatory Vichy laws against his country’s Jewish community during World War II. The community continued to enjoy good relations with the monarch after Morocco gained its independence. Most recently, in 2010, King Mohammed launched a program to preserve the nation’s cemeteries and funded a major drive that restored more than 12,000 Jewish graves. Now, the Jewish community is advising Muslim organizations on how to implement the cemetery restoration program.

Will King Mohammed’s tolerance save Morocco’s Jews from the upheaval caused in some countries following the Arab Spring?

Berdugu believes it can. The country’s prime minister, Abdelillah Benkirane, leader of the Islamist Justice and Development party, participated last year at the dedication of a new synagogue. With Islamists like these, he believes, Morocco’s Jews have nothing to fear. “Morocco is immune,” added Abbadi. He noted that throughout history, the country had proved its ability to reject extremism and to embrace tolerance for its Arab, Berber, and Jewish populations.

In the mid 1990’s Morocco experiences a short-lived normalization in its relations with Israel, but the collapse of the Oslo accords and the eruption of the second intifada, ended the rapprochement. Israelis, and other members of the Moroccan Jewish diaspora across the world, are still welcome in Morocco as tourists, despite the lack of diplomatic relations with Israel.

Relations with the Muslim community, Berdugo insisted, have not been strained because of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, “but,” he added, “it is true that our fellow citizens are fed up by some of the decisions of the Israeli government.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.