Morocco's Jewish community beams quiet pride as pope visits

The Moroccan Jewish community dates back to Roman times and for centuries Jews served the royal court as ambassadors, diplomats, ministers and advisors.

By REUTERS
April 1, 2019 18:32
2 minute read.
Suzanne Harroch, a Jewish Moroccan singer poses for a portrait in her house in Rabat, Morocco

Suzanne Harroch, a Jewish Moroccan singer poses for a portrait in her house in Rabat, Morocco March 29, 2019. (photo credit: YOUSSEF BOUDLAL / REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

RABAT, - Suzanne Harroch speaks and sings in Judeo-Moroccan, a language of a once-thriving Jewish community that numbered about 300,000 - one of the largest in the Muslim world.

Today, she and her husband are two of only 2,500 Jews left in Morocco, a community that is aging and dwindling even as it enjoys constitutional recognition and protection.

"I identify myself as Moroccan first, then Jewish," the mother of three said in her house in Rabat ahead of Pope Francis' visit, which Jews have welcomed as an opportunity to highlight a status they say is unique in the Muslim world.

On Saturday, Jewish leaders joined Christian representatives in the front row at two events presided over by the pope and King Mohammed VI on interfaith dialog.

Morocco's 2011 constitution recognizes the "Hebraic" constituent as a component of the national identity. Jews in the north African Kingdom have their own courts, family code and schools and even a state-supported Jewish heritage museum.

Unlike many Moroccan Jews, who left for Israel, Europe and America in the past six decades because of grinding poverty and political uncertainty, Harroch and her husband decided to stay.

"Morocco is where I belong. I feel safe here," said Harroch, who worked as hotel director until her recent retirement. Her husband is also Jewish and works as a doctor serving the Muslim community.

She now dedicates her time to singing in Judeo-Moroccan as part of a musical group made up of Muslim musicians who help her delve deep into the country's ancient Jewish heritage.

The Moroccan Jewish community dates back to Roman times and for centuries Jews served the royal court as ambassadors, diplomats, ministers and advisors.

During the French colonial era, King Mohammed V refused to apply the antisemitic measures imposed by the collaborationist French Vichy regime during the Nazi occupation of France in World War Two.


In 2010, his grandson, the current king, launched a program to restore hundreds of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and heritage sites across the country, and reinstated the original names of some Jewish neighborhoods that had been changed during and after the colonial era.

The king also paid for the restoration of the Jewish cemetery in the island nation of Cape Verde, more than 2,000 miles away, as it contains the graves of Moroccan Jews who emigrated there.

Moroccan Jews say they feel protected by the king.

"He is the head of all the faithful, both Muslims and Jews," said Davide Toledano, head of Rabat’s Jewish community, which now has less than 200 members.

Morocco's 23,000 Roman Catholics - most of them expatriate Europeans, mainly French, and sub-Saharan African migrants - make up less one percent of the population of about 35 million.

Addressing the pope on Saturday, the king, who is also Morocco's top religious authority, said: "I cannot speak of the land of Islam as if only Muslims lived there .... I protect Moroccan Jews as well as Christians from other countries who are living in Morocco."

Zhor Rehihel, director of the museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca, is a Muslim.

"Jewish heritage is part of our collective and diverse Moroccan identity that we should preserve,” she said.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

A MEMBER of a neo-Nazi party gives a salute outside a speech by Richard Spencer on the campus of Mic
April 18, 2019
Facebook bans British neo-Nazi groups

By AMY SPIRO