In Casablanca, Focus on Jewish Education

September 10, 2014

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For Casablanca’s Jews, coexistence isn’t merely a buzzword or goal — it’s a reality as tangible as the young Muslim student sitting one seat over in a high school classroom.

“I enjoyed sharing classes, learning, and growing together with Muslim kids without any political tensions. I continue to love meeting with my friends, both Muslims and Jews, who enroll their children at our school,” said one former student with two children now in the city’s Alliance Israelite Universelle (Ittihad) network of Jewish schools. “I often tell the students how lucky they are—and how wonderful it is—to attend a school where they can coexist.”

Morocco has a population of about 4,000 to 4,500 Jews, out of a total of 32.5 million people. Most live in Casablanca, home to six schools that teach nearly 600 children.

“Here in Casablanca, we are very proud of the quality of Jewish identity and life enhanced by our schools. Even our 4-year-olds are fluent in Hebrew and prayers,” said the parent and former student. “Another source of pride is that nearly 100 percent of our students graduate each year.”

JDC supports two Jewish school systems in Morocco, Ozar HaTorah and Alliance.

Ozar HaTorah runs a special computer literacy class benefiting both students and teachers, and runs intensive tutorial classes in French and mathematics for students struggling to participate at their grade level.

More than 100 students with learning disabilities receive special instruction at two of the four Alliance schools.

A scholarship fund established by JDC provides tuition assistance to children from needy and low-income families at both schools, as well as school supplies.

Jacky Sebbag, the school director of the Ozar HaTorah Neve Shalom primary school, takes his responsibility to his teachers and pupils seriously.

“We spend the holidays thinking about what we need and making sure that everything is ready for the beginning of the year: the teachers, the programs, the classes, the decorations, the materials and equipment,” he said. “Besides teaching and education, we’re also responsible for our pupils’ well-being, which is also an important part of their education.”

And for Sebbag’s students, back to school in Casablanca is the same as in Los Angeles or Philadelphia — the same mix of “afraid and impatient at the same time.”

“I am very nervous on the first day of school. I take a lot of time choosing what I’m going to wear the first day,” one student said. “I can’t wait to sit in the classroom with my friends, but I also don’t want too much homework. I hope I get to sit next to my best friend and that my teacher is nice.”

For JDC, investing in Jewish schools in Morocco accomplishes two goals: it provides a sense of security for local parents that their children will grow up with a Jewish educational foundation, and it is critical in raising the next generation of engaged leaders and securing the future of Moroccan Jewry.

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