For Elderly Moroccan Jews, Residence Offers Refuge and Community
January 16, 2013
“It is very important that we are not alone. We are in a Jewish and secure place,” explains Messod, an elderly resident at the Levine Community Residence built by JDC in Morocco. “I feel safe here, and if I need anything, I know I can get help.”
For Moroccan Jews with no one to turn to in their old age, this subsidized place to live and the support provided here are literally lifelines.
Inaugurated in 2009, the Fred and Velva Levine Community Residence houses 30 of the community’s elderly and welfare clients in a new four-story, 32-apartment facility that is centrally located in a safe neighborhood of Casablanca. As many members of the local Jewish community are approaching their old age, the facility was built to house as many as 60 residents.
The complex provides much more than a place to live, however. Sarah, another resident who moved here from Tangier, has relatives in France, Switzerland, Israel, and the US — but she has no family in Morocco at all. Instead, the Community Residence is her home base. “I feel very Jewish and I go to the synagogue near the residence. Otherwise, I don’t know how to find myself in Casablanca,” she says.
JDC has worked with the local Jewish community of Morocco since the 1940s, providing critical assistance to local Jewish institutions to help implement a range of relief, education, and community strengthening programs. Care for the elderly has been critical for the community, which prioritizes providing assistance to the most vulnerable but relies on JDC’s partnership to supplement local resources for social welfare.
In addition to the independent living facility, JDC also supports the Jewish Home for the Aged in Casablanca, which offers a safe haven with full medical and nursing care (including physiotherapy) to some 47 residents. The JDC-supported central health clinic for needy Moroccan Jews, Oeuvre Secours aux Enfants (OSE), provides emergency medical care and preventive medical initiatives in the community, as well full services to the Jewish Home for the Aged.
In addition to meeting critical health needs, the Home also offers its tenants—and visitors from the Community Residence—a sense of belonging. Together they celebrate Shabbat and most Jewish holidays.
For many of these aging Moroccan Jews, the community gatherings are the highlight of their week. Messod’s Jewish roots reach back to one grandfather who was a dayan (religious judge) and another who was the chief of a Hevra Kadisha (burial ground) in northern Morocco. “I feel very Jewish and the community here is important to me,” he says. “Shabbat is my favorite part of the week because I am always invited and feel completely welcome.”