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Jan. 3, 2023

"Exploring the Rich History of the Jewish Community in Morocco"

Morocco, located on the northern coast of Africa, is a country with a rich and diverse history. One aspect of this history is the presence of a thriving Jewish community, which has lived in Morocco for thousands of years.

Historical records and traditions suggest that the Jews of Morocco can trace their roots back to ancient times, with some sources even linking the community to the time of King Solomon. The Talmud, a central text in Judaism, mentions that one of the ten exiled tribes of Israel was exiled to Africa, and it is believed that some of these exiled Jews eventually made their way to Morocco.

In more recent history, Morocco was a hub of Jewish life, with over 400,000 Jews living in the country at its peak. Jews could be found in nearly every village in Morocco, and they played a significant role in the country's cultural, economic, and social life.

However, in the mid-20th century, the situation for Jews in Morocco changed dramatically. Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the Arab-Israeli conflict, many Moroccan Jews emigrated to Israel, Europe, and other parts of the world. This mass emigration, combined with other factors such as economic challenges and political instability, led to a significant decline in the Jewish population in Morocco.

Today, the Jewish community in Morocco is a shadow of its former self, with only a few thousand Jews remaining in the country. However, despite this decline, the echoes of Jewish life can still be heard throughout Morocco. Synagogues, cemeteries, and other historical sites testify to the once-thriving Jewish community and serve as a reminder of the important role that Jews have played in Moroccan history.

One such site is the village of Ufran, located in the small Atlas Mountains. Ufran has a long history of Jewish settlement, with some traditions dating the community back to the time of King Solomon. The village's synagogue, which is over 500 years old, has been restored and preserved, and serves as a testament to the long history of Jewish life in Ufran.

Another important site is the cemetery of Ufran, which is believed to be the oldest Jewish cemetery in Morocco, dating back around 2,000 years. The cemetery is a sacred and important pilgrimage site for Jews, and among the rubble of stones, one can find grave stones with Hebrew lettering, including the oldest grave in the cemetery, that of Yosef ben Maimon, with the date 3756 inscribed on the stone.

In addition to Ufran, there are other important Jewish historical sites throughout Morocco, including the building of the renowned and saintly Rabbi Jaimpinto in Essaouira, and the cave of the burnt, Maharat Hanis Rafim, in Ufran, which contains the ashes of 50 Jewish martyrs who were killed for their faith in 1790.

The film Jewish Morocco documents and captures these sites and tells the story of the Jewish community in Morocco, both past and present. It offers a glimpse into the rich and diverse history of the country and serves as an enduring legacy for the descendants of Moroccan Jews and for future generations.

In conclusion, the Jewish community in Morocco has a long and vibrant history that stretches back thousands of years. Despite the significant decline in the size of the community in recent decades, the synagogues, cemeteries, and other historical sites throughout the country serve as a reminder of the important role that Jews have played in Moroccan history and culture. The film Jewish Morocco will provide a valuable resource for understanding and preserving this history for future generations.