Until the mid twentieth century, Moroccan Jewry constituted the largest non-Ashkenazi Jewish community and had more than double the population of any other Jewish community in the Islamic world. Under the influence of the Alliance Israélite Universelle school network, French colonialism, the experience of World War II and the innate tensions between Zionism and Arab nationalism, the Jews of Morocco underwent a variety of transformations and ultimately the dissolution of the community as a result of the mass exodus to Israel, France and North America.
Orientations and Reorientations
Norman A. Stillman
A Family Story
This article melds family history with History, tracing the lives of my daughter’s grandparents, Marcelle Libraty and Pinhas Cohen. Products of the social mobility and integration offered by the Alliance israélite universelle, they became schoolteachers in Morocco and opted for France after independence. Currently in their eighties, Marcelle and Pinhas’s lives are connected to sweeping events in history: French colonialism, Vichy anti- Semitism, Moroccan independence, Jewish emigration. Inspired by Ivan Jablonka’s L’Histoire des grandparents que je n’ai pas eus, I experiment as both narrator of the past and participant in the family story, and demonstrate new ways of writing history. This auto-historiographical project shows how a family succeeds in preserving identities of origin and maintaining relationships despite socio-political upheaval and global mobility.
The eleven articles in this issue of European Judaism reflect the social and religious culture of Moroccan Jews set against an ever changing backdrop of persecution and conflict, interaction and cohabitation. Ranging from Berber Jews to forced converts, scholars, courtiers and artisans, Moroccan Jews were constantly under threat. Despite this unstable situation, they produced literary and religious works in Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Spanish as well as creating distinctive life-cycle customs, songs and a highly skilled material culture. While the Jewish community of Morocco is today considerably reduced, Moroccan immigrants in Israel, France and the Americas keep the memory and identity of Jewish Morocco alive.
Moroccan Muslims and Jews through Western Lenses, 1860–1912
Michael M. Laskier
This study is a portrayal of Moroccan Muslims and Jews by European travellers, journalists, experts and diplomats from the latter half of the nineteenth century until the transformation of Morocco in 1912 into a colonial entity under French and Spanish protectorates. In this pre-colonial setting, we catch a glimpse of a traditional society and its gradual, albeit partial, evolution towards modernity among the Jews as well as an understanding of Europe’s economic, political and cultural penetration into the Sharifian Empire, which for hundreds of years preserved its independence when many Islamic societies capitulated to foreign domination. What were the major challenges confronted by Morocco in the pre-colonial era? Did Muslims and Jews conform to or reject modernisation brought by European culture? What were the socioeconomic conditions and the juridical status of the Jews vis-à-vis the Muslim majority? These are some of the main concerns of our investigation.