Jews (Arabic: اليهود المغاربة,
translit. al-Yehud al-Magharibah Hebrew: יהודים
מרוקאים Yehudim Maroka'im) are the
Jews who live or have
lived in the area of North African country of Morocco. Some Jews
migrated to this area and settled among the Berbers. They were later
met by a second wave of migration from the
Iberian peninsula in the
period immediately preceding and following the 1492 Alhambra Decree,
Jews were expelled from kingdoms of Spain, and soon
Portugal as well. This second immigration wave deeply
modified Moroccan jewry, who largely embraced the Andalusian Sephardic
liturgy, making the Moroccan
Jews switch to a mostly Sephardic
At its peak in the 1940s, Morocco's Jewish population exceeded
250,000, but due to the migration of Moroccan
Israel and other
Operation Yachin from 1961 to 1964, this number has
been reduced to approximately 5,000. The vast majority of Moroccan
Jews now live in Israel, where they constitute the second-largest
Jewish community, approximatively half a million. Other communities
are found in France, Canada, Spain, the
United States and South
America, mainly in Venezuela,
Brazil and Argentina.
2 Communities today
4 Religious observance
4.2 Religious customs
5 Notable Moroccan Jews
7 See also
Main article: History of the
Jews in Morocco
Etching of Jewish home in Mogador,
Jews constitute an ancient community, immigrating to the
region as early as 70 CE. Until the 1950s the majority of Morocco's
Jews were still living in Morocco. In accordance with the norms of the
Islamic legal system, Jewish Moroccans had separate legal courts
pertaining to "personal law" under which communities (Muslim sharia,
Canon law and Jewish halakha law abiding) were allowed to
rule themselves under their own system. After Israel's independence in
1948, and due to domestic strife in the 1950s, the next several
decades saw waves of Jewish emigration to Israel,
France and Canada.
Jews emigrated for a variety of reasons. Some have emigrated
Israel for religious reasons, some faced persecution, and others
left for better economic prospects than they faced in post-colonial
Morocco. With every Arab-Israeli war, tensions between Arabs and Jews
would rise, sparking more Jewish emigration. By the time of the Yom
Kippur War in 1973, the majority of Morocco's Jewish population had
As a protectorate of France, parts of
Morocco were heavily influenced
by French culture, while the same is true of the portions of the
country that belonged to Spain. Traditionally, the
classified as being French-Moroccan or Spanish-Moroccan depending on
Morocco they lived, and remnants of these classifications can
be felt today. These differences are reflected in language, foods,
last names and even liturgy.
Early photographs of Moroccan Jewish families, taken in the early 20th
century by German explorer and photographer Hermann Burchardt, are now
held at the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.
A small community of around 2,000–2,500
Jews live in
However, in a rapidly increasing trend, young men from the community
are emigrating to
Israel and France. As of 2017, according to The
Economist, "No Arab country has gone to the lengths of
revive its Jewish heritage." The country has restored 110
synagogues and has the Arab world’s only Jewish museum. More
than 50,000 Israelis visit
Old Jewish quarter, Essaouira
Jewish cemetery, Essaouira
Morocco: In 2012 it was estimated that 2,000–2,500
Jews still lived
in Morocco, mainly in Casablanca. Other towns are said to have
smaller, aging populations.
Israel: The 1950s saw large waves of Jewish emigration from
Israel. Many Moroccan
Jews were transferred to peripheral development
towns while others settled in larger, established cities. Today, Jews
of Moroccan descent can be found all across Israel.
France: Large communities in
France include Paris, Marseille,
Lyon and Nice.
Argentina: Mainly in
Buenos Aires and Rosario.
Jews mainly in
Belem (about 450 families), Manaus
(about 250 families) and
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro (about 100 families), with
small communities scattered throughout the Amazon region. In 2009 made
200 years of the first wave of immigration to Amazon region.
Canada: In the 1950s
Canada began extending visas to
Morocco. Large communities developed in Montreal and Toronto.
Moroccans were attracted to
Canada because of its high quality of life
and to Montreal in particular because of the French language. Toronto
is known for its significant Moroccan population originating from
cities such as
Tangiers and Tetouan. In the recent past, however, an
emergence of French-Moroccan musical liturgy and customs has been
noticed even in this dominant Moroccan city. For example, the
traditional Moroccan Bakashot, classical music sung by
in the winter months across countries in the Middle East on Friday
night, has come to life in recent productions by Magen David
Congregation and Abir Ya'akob Congregation.
Venezuela: Concentrated mainly in Caracas.
Gibraltar: The Jewish community in
Gibraltar originates from Tangiers
United States: In 1972 the Moroccan Jewish Organization (MJO) was
founded. Founding Members created Moroccan Services & a Synagogue
in Forest Hills, NY named Shaar Hashamayim
Members and Participants of MJO went on to create other Moroccan
Synagogues and Batei Midrashot / Houses of [Torah] Study in Manhattan
Sephardic Cong.), Brooklyn (Netivot Yisrael), Fort Lee, NJ,
Cedarhurst (HaChaim veHaShalom) and Philadelphia, PA.
Moroccan Jewry has developed as a hybrid of the many cultures that
Morocco itself, namely Jewish, Arab, Berber, French and
Jewish Festival in Tetuan, Alfred Dehodencq, 1865,
Paris Museum of
Jewish Art and History
Even before the arrival of
Sephardi Jews to Morocco, Moroccan Jews
performed and developed the traditions of the Andalusian classical
music and introduced it into their Liturgical music. In his book "Jews
of Andalusia and the Maghreb" on the musical traditions in Jewish
societies of North Africa,
Haim Zafrani writes: "In
Spain and Morocco,
Jews were ardent maintainers of Andalusian music and the zealous
guardians of its old traditions ...."
Traditional Henna parties usually take place within the week before a
special occasion, such as a wedding, Bar and Bat Mitzvah, or baby
showers. During pre-wedding Henna parties, the Matriarch of the family
(often the grandmother) smudges henna in the palm of the bride and
groom to symbolically bestow the new couple with good health,
fertility, wisdom, and security. The henna is believed in Moroccan
tradition to protect the couple from demons. The grandmother covers
the henna, a dough-like paste produced by mixing crushed henna plant
leaves with water, in order to lock in body heat and generate a richer
color. Normally, the henna will dye skin orange for up to 2 weeks. In
Moroccan folklore, the bride is exempt of her household duties until
the henna completely fades. After the bride and groom are blessed with
the henna, the guests also spread henna on their palms to bring good
Although most Moroccan
Jews tend to dress in styles of their adopted
countries, traditional Moroccan clothing is sometimes worn during
celebrations (Mimouna, weddings, Bar Miṣvas, etc.) or even during
more intimate gatherings, such as Shabbat dinner. Men usually wear a
white jellaba (jellabiya) cloak while women wear more ornate kaftans.
Mimouna is celebrated by many Moroccan
Jews on the night following the
last day of Passover. It has spread to be an almost national holiday
Israel where it is particularly prevalent in the city of Haifa.
Main article: Minhag Morocco
Many Rabanim have passed through and sojourned in
behind great influence. In 2008, a project to preserve Moroccan Torah
and the words of its Ḥakhamim was initiated. DarkeAbotenou.com was
created by a few members of the Toronto
Sephardic Community; devoting
their time and effort to increasing global awareness of the customs
and laws that
Morocco live with every day. Daily emails are
sent in both English and French containing the customs, laws, and
traditional liturgy of both the French and Spanish parts of Morocco.
This daily publication is currently broadcast in both English and
The observer of a typical Moroccan Jewish prayer service will note the
presence of Oriental motifs in the melodies. However, unlike the tunes
of Eastern rites (Syrian, Iraqi, etc.), which were influenced by
Middle Eastern sounds, Moroccan Jewish religious tunes have a uniquely
Andalusian feel. Furthermore, just as Eastern liturgical melodies are
organized into Maqams, Moroccan liturgy can be classified by Noubas.
The Moroccan prayer rite itself is also unique among Sephardic
customs. The Moroccan nusach has many unique components but has also
incorporated numerous Ashkenazic customs due to the country's
proximity and exposure to Europe. Some customs of the Moroccan nusach
Two blessing for Hallel: One blessing (ligmor et ha'Hallel) is said
when the full
Hallel is recited, while the other blessing (likro et
ha'Hallel) is said when the abridged
Hallel is recited. Other
Sephardim omit the latter.
Yiru Enenu: The blessing commencing with the words Yiru Enenu
(translation: Our eyes shall see) is recited after Hashkivenu in the
Arvit service after the Sabbath. Many Ashkenazim say this passage on
every weekday night after Hashkivenu. This custom is discussed in
Tosafot of Tractate Berakhot 4a.
Le'David: Before the Arvit service after the Sabbath, three psalms are
recited in a unique tune said to be the same tune that King David's
soldiers recited them in. The psalms are Chapters 144, 67 and 44 (in
that order). Some congregations begin this service with Chapter 16 in
a tune that leads up to the other three psalms.
Pesukei Dezimra: The opening verse of
Psalm 30 ("Mizmor Shir Ḥanukat
Habayit LeDavid") is added to the remainder of the Psalm during
Shaḥarit of Hanuka. Other Sepharadim begin with "Aromimkha" even on
Shir HaShirim: This is usually read between
Mincha and Kabbalat
Shabbat on the Sabbath eve. Other
Sephardic groups tend to read it
before Minḥa. Moroccan
Jews chant Shir HaShirim with a unique
cantillation. A common practice is for a different congregant to sing
Before the repetition of the
Amidah in Shaḥarit and
Musaf of Rosh
Hashana and Yom Kippur, the hymn "Hashem sham'ati shim'akha yareti"
(Translation: Hashem, I have heard your speech and was awed) is sung.
The origin of this verse is
The Moroccan tune for Torah Reading is unique to the Moroccan
tradition, unlike all other
Jews who merely utilize
different variations of the Yerushalmi tune.
Some of the Moroccan Piyutim / Jewish Prayer Melodies and Songs - are
said to come from the songs of the Leviim / Levites - that were sung
on the steps leading to the Beit HaMikdash / Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Psalm 29 and
Lekha Dodi are recited sitting down in the Kabbalat
Packets of salt are distributed to congregants on the second night of
Passover, marking the first counting of the 'Omer. The significance of
salt includes the commemoration of the sacrifices in the Temple and
other Kabbalistic reasons.
Pirke Avot is read during the
Musaf service of Shabbat between
Passover and Shavuot. As well, the custom is for pre-Bar Miṣva boys
to read each chapter, and this is usually performed with a special
After reciting the hamotzie blessing over bread, there is a custom to
dip the bread into salt while reciting "Adonai melekh, Adonai malakh,
Adonai yimlokh le'olam va'ed" (Translation: God reigns; God has
reigned; God will reign for ever and ever). This "verse" is actually a
compilation of three verses taken from Psalms and Exodus. The validity
of this custom has been disputed among Moroccan
Poskim since it may
constitute an interruption of a blessing.
Before the Magid section of the Passover Seder, the
Seder plate is
raised and passed over the heads of those present while reciting
"Bibhilu yaṣanu mi–miṣrayim, halaḥma 'anya bené ḥorin"
(Translation: In haste we went out of Egypt [with our] bread of
affliction, [now we are] free people). It can be heard here.
Notable Moroccan Jews
Linor Abargil, Israeli model, and both a Miss
Israel and Miss Universe
Reuven Abergel, founder of Israeli Black Panthers
Michel Abitbol, scholar
Yaakov Abuhatzeira, 19th-century rabbi
Yisrael Abuhatzeira (Baba Sali), 20th-century rabbi
Amram Aburbeh, chief rabbi of Petah Tikva
Zohra Al Fassiya, classical singer from the 1950s
Shlomo Amar, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel
Richard Attias, businessman
Pierre Assouline, journalist
André Azoulay, senior adviser to Mohammed VI of Morocco
Audrey Azoulay , Director-General of the UNESCO and French Ministry of
Yigal Azrouël, fashion designer
Moshe Bar-Asher, linguist, president of the Academy of the Hebrew
Zehava Ben, Israeli singer
Baruj Benacerraf, immunologist, Nobel Prize laureate
Elena Benarroch, fashion designer
Isaac Benayon Sabbá, businessman
Yossi Benayoun, Israeli footballer
Samuel Benchimol, businessman, professor, scientist and economist
Marc Bendavid, Canadian actor
Omri Casspi, Israeli basketball player, the first Israeli in the NBA
Amram ben Diwan, 18th-century rabbi
Daniel Benlulu, politician
Aldo Bensadoun, founder of
ALDO Group footwear
Daniel Ben-Simon, journalist, writer, politician
David Bensoussan, engineering professor, Montreal Jewish communal
leader and historian of the
Jews of Morocco
Raquel Bitton, singer, actress, playwright, record producer
Simone Bitton, filmmaker
Emmanuelle Chriqui, actress
Ralph de Toledano, politician
Aryeh Deri, Israeli politician
Patrick Drahi, billionaire and founder of Altice
Gadi Eisenkot, Chief of Staff of the
Israel Defense Forces
Alber Elbaz, fashion designer
André Elbaz, painter and filmmaker
Ronit Elkabetz, Israeli film maker
Samy Elmaghribi, singer
Edmond Amran El Maleh, writer
Gad Elmaleh, comedian
Arthur Essebag, television presenter
David Guetta, French DJ, record producer, remixer, and songwriter
Samuel Hadida, film producer
Serge Haroche, physicist, Nobel Prize laureate
Maguy Kakon, author and politician
Marc Lasry, billionaire hedge fund manager
Moses Elias Levy, 19th-century international businessman and reformer
Shlomit Malka, Israeli model for Intimissimi
Paul Marciano, fashion designer
Ya'akov Margi, politician
Jacques Morali, producer, creator of
Village People and the Ritchie
Ze'ev Revach, Israeli actor
Agam Rudberg, Israeli model and actress
Abraham Serfaty, politician
Bechor-Shalom Sheetrit, politician
Avi Toledano, Israeli singer
A.B. Yehoshua, an Israeli author
Haim Zafrani, scholar and writer
Main article: Genetic studies on Jews
Over the years the Moroccan Jews'
DNA was examined and studied by
numerous studies, the general image of it showed that in terms of
DNA it was mainly from the same Levantine source as the vast
majority of the world's Jewry, meaning that they too are descendants
of the Ancient Hebrews/
Israelites from the Biblical times. In the case
Sephardi Jews (in particular Moroccan Jews), who are
apparently closely related, the non-Jewish component is mainly
Genetic research shows that about 27% of Moroccan
Jews descend from
one female ancestor. Analysis of mitochondrial
DNA of the Jewish
North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Libya) was the subject
of further detailed study in 2008 by Doron Behar et al. The
analysis concludes that
Jews from this region do not share the
haplogroups of the mitochondrial
DNA haplogroups (M1 and U6) that are
typical of the North African Berber and Arab populations. Similarly,
while the frequency of haplogroups L, associated with sub-Saharan
Africa, are present in approximately 20–25% at the Berber
populations studied, these haplogroups are only present in 1.3%, 2.7%
and 3.6% respectively of
Jews from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.
Behar et al. conclude that it is unlikely that North African
significant Arab, or Berber admixture, "consistent with social
restrictions imposed by religious restrictions," or endogamy. This
study also found genetic similarities between the
Ashkenazi and North
Jews of European mitochondrial
DNA pools, but differences
between both of these of the diaspora and
Jews from the Middle
Jews in Israel
Migration of Moroccan
Jews to Israel
The Jewish Community of Fez
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Morocco film searches out
Jews who left". YnetNews.com. Retrieved
22 August 2017.
^ Jewish couple in
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during the Feast of Tabernacles on the roof of their house; Moroccan
Jews in 1905, by Hermann Burchardt; Jewish family, 1905; The Saba
Synagogue, 1905; Jewish family in their home; The Ibn (Aben) Danan
Synagogue, in the Mellah of Fès (click to enlarge); Jewish family in
Morocco, early 20th century (click on photo to enlarge); Family
Jews study high-tech in Israel". YnetNews.com. Retrieved
22 August 2017.
^ a b c "Morocco's little idyll of Jewish-Muslim coexistence". The
Economist. 2 November 2017.
^ Judaica, Amazonia. "Blog do Amazônia Judaica: Linha do Tempo da
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Demographics of Morocco
Modern Standard Arabic
Standard Moroccan Berber