It's been nearly 10 years since I first visited the Jewish community in Morocco. Recently, I joined a Men's Next Gen Leadership group from the Tucson, Arizona Jewish community to explore the Moroccan reality today. This small community of some 4,000+ Jews (living mostly in Casablanca), who can trace their heritage back 2,000 years to the time of the Romans, is vibrant and largely self-supporting. JDC has been their partner for 60+ years.
Moroccan Jews are but a tiny minority among over 32 million Moroccan citizens, mostly of Arab or Berber ethnicity. Despite this minority status, the bond between Morocco's Jews and Muslims has remained strong.
The vibrancy of Jewish life there is striking. All Jewish children (635 in total) attend one of two Jewish school systems, emphasizing both religious and secular studies. The quality of education is exceptional, and high school graduates typically go on to some of the best universities in France, Canada, and the US. We visited three of the 20 fully functioning synagogues in Casablanca itself, and two more in Marrakech. We saw a kosher butcher "in action" as families bought chickens to prepare for Shabbat. It was an amazing (if slightly queasy) experience!
JDC began a full-scale program in Morocco in 1949 in response to severe medical and humanitarian needs in the Jewish community. In recent years, working in close partnership with local leadership, JDC helped establish and continues to support the extraordinary new Fred & Velva Levine Community Residence, which is enabling independent living for needy elderly welfare clients in Casablanca. It is next door to the Jewish Home for the Aged, which provides a dignified and safe environment for 30 residents, with full medical and nursing care available—again with JDC’s ongoing support.
In addition to helping to address the needs of Jewish children, the elderly, and the needy and sick for 60+ years, the OSE central health clinic that JDC has been helping to support is providing care today for many middle-income families who can no longer afford the rapidly rising cost of medical care in Morocco.
Last, but certainly not least, JDC is also supporting non-sectarian initiatives that provide medical equipment and assistive devices for people with disabilities in the broader Moroccan community, including a mobile unit serving remote Moroccan villages.
I departed Morocco with a reinforced feeling of how we can, and we must, continue to make a difference in sustaining the vibrancy and dignity of Jewish life in a place where our fellow Jews have been living for many, many centuries.
Senior JDC professional Michael Novick recently visited the Jewish communities in Casablanca and Marrakech, Morocco.
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