Jewish Morocco: A History from Pre-Islamic to Postcolonial Times

Jewish Morocco – The history of Morocco is unable to be written effectively without the stories of its Jewish inhabitants. They are present all over Northwest Africa pre-dates the rise of Islam and continues to be present to this time, mixing elements from Berber (Amazigh), Arab, Sephardi and European culture. 

Emily Gottreich examines the history of Jews in Morocco from the pre-Islamic period until postcolonial times. She bases her research on the latest evidence from the archives of Rabat. An important reassessment of the impact of this of Morocco’s French protection of Morocco

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Jewish Morocco – The author challenges widely accepted beliefs about Jews taking part in Moroccan nationalist movements, something that is frequently neglected in the Zionist in addition to Arab nationalist ideologies. The author also explores new territories in her study of Jewish engagement of Isiqlaland and its consequences. 

In a growing body of research trying to integrate Jewish into the fields of both Middle Eastern studies, Emily Gottreich provides a unique perspective by placing the urgent questions of today’s Moroccan society in their historical and also their Jewish historical and cultural contexts.

Street signs typically are trilingual, comprising Arabic, French, and Amazigh and written with the Tifinagh alphabet. This kind of sign is the most well-known part of a rising trend to include non-Arab components of Morocco into normative state-sponsored educational and identity-related initiatives. This slow process began with the reign of King Mohammed VI. 

However, the most well-known initiatives to officially recognize multiculturalism have concentrated on the country’s often-cited Jewish heritage. The primary differentiator is that, whereas non-Arab Amazigh (more commonly called in the United States by English people in the United States as “Berbers”) make up approximately 50 percent of the nation’s 36 million people, Moroccan Jews constitute little less than a few elderly people living in cities. The only thing that is missing from the multicultural or “multicultural” signage is the Hebrew alphabet, which was used for Moroccan Jews in writing the their own language of Judeo-Arabic.

It could be the most exact example of a single fact : the Jews who are prominently represented on the cover of Morocco’s national narrative Moroccan nation’s narrative are not real Jews in the sense that they represent an concept about Jews. The former requires recognition from an official and are able to assert their own beliefs but the latter are free to utilize it to signify an image floating to signify something without the need to be a the symbol.

Emily Benichou Gottreich notes in the introduction of her enthralling volume Jewish Morocco where she says that in the case of Jewish Morocco historians have the rare chance to not be forced to decide between context and text, or between telling a story that tells the tale of “Jews” or “Moroccans.”

They are so interconnected stories that she suggests it’s inadvisable to separate them , no matter how you wish to. This is the basis of her argument both in regards to methodological rigor as well as from the point of view of textual content. It’s not simply declaring that scholars of Jewish Morocco isn’t required to choose between text and context but the historian isn’t able to make that choice because there’s no option for him to choose . 

This book isn’t a historical record on the history of Jews from Morocco and is not an account of the history of the religion or Judaism that is the religion of Moroccan Jews. It’s more of a narrative about Morocco in which the reader is introduced to the tale of the Jewish community and from the Jewish community perspective.

It is enough to prove the reality the term “Jewish Morocco” constitutes both an interpretive subject and also the focus of the narrative work by Gottreich. The term is used to analyse and classify the diverse aspects of Moroccan life andsimply refers to the more intimate relationship with those of the Moroccan Jewish communities. 

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Jewish Morocco – The book traces what the author terms “the pillars of Moroccan-ness”–Malikism, Amazighity, Sharifism, Europeanization, and Arabness– from the pre-Islamic period up until the post-colonial present, focusing on the ways Jewishness is deeply enmeshed in the historical experience of each of these Moroccan “pillars.” Each pillar is a separate individual chapters and each chapter is distinct historical periods.

What’s the purpose behind this? Should we consider Morocco as so deeply Jewish that its story must be told and be told in the manner of the traditions of its own Jews? This is an ancient method one that “retains an investment in the formative power of place” and considers the formation of an identity of community by considering it from a constructivist and multi-cultural perspective.

 Gottreich does not be afraid to acknowledge that the current issues are always present in her mind. The 2011 constitution, specifically, which emphasizes “the attachment of the Moroccan people to the values of openness, of moderation, of tolerance and of dialogue,” is particularly important. Gottreich is influenced by the manner in which the Moroccan Jewish tradition is reinterpreted to reflect the unique perception of a multicultural Morocco which the state, or the Makhzan attempts to portray it as a distinct entity within and within the “Muslim world.”

 Her study aims to dispel the ambiguity generally it is about examining how the Moroccan Jewish identity “is being recast to suit the requirements and values of today’s world.” Yet when it comes in Jewish Morocco matters, it isan extraordinary situation according to the researcher. This is not limited to the “Islamicate World” but also within the Jewish world as a whole.

Gottreich’s claim of Jewish Morocco’s distinctiveness isn’t just a technical. Social researchers (mainly Anthropologists and historians) have for some time claimed it was the fact the Jews in Morocco were continuous and vital part of part of the Moroccan population, which comprised an enormous portion, and frequently the majority of towns in cities even though they comprised only 35 percent of Morocco overall. 

In describing what can be described by the term “Jewish Morocco,” Gottreich is able to blend different types of categories into one. She claims that she’s writing about Morocco in the eyes of the viewpoint of the Jewish community, but she doesn’t distinguish between the events and processes which resemble the Jewish experiences, or the events and processes Jews are experiencing, or the processes and events in which Jews play an important role in. 

Jewish Morocco – However, her writing is an original book and makes a significant contribution to research. In the end, she fails to distinguish between real Jews and symbolic Jews (i.e. the idea the existence of Jews) Gottreich ends up advocating an official recognized Moroccan multi-culturalism, which is in essence similar to.

It is a challenge to divide a large amount of historical facts into a concise interpretive book like Jewish Morocco will be an enormous undertaking. This is why it is more important to break down the arguments that make up the book’s main argument, possibly even more than an informative volume as well as a “general history.”

The idea of the idea of a Moroccan historical narrative told through the Jewish viewpoint is a feasible however, it is certainly an ambitious goal. What is the reason it is so important to distinguish between the events and processes that contain Jewish analogies, the processes and events in which Jews have a major role or are involved, and those that Jews are not involved in? Do they not fall into the same category that is “a Jewish perspective”?

An analogy, a thing that can be described as “like” something else, is not always a causality, but rather similarity. A similarity in appearance doesn’t require an identicality in contents. Gottreich describes, for instance, about the chronological overlap between “Maraboutic Crisis” of the 16 17 the 17 17 century in Moroccan historical context and the development of Moroccan Sabbateanism. 

Gottreich states that, contrary to the traditional historiographical account of the Sabbatian movement in Morocco the correct explanation for these events can be traced back to the context of Moroccan political and social climate, specifically “sharifism and its relationship to mysticism.” What it means is that there must be a reason.

The Maraboutic Crisis is a term used to describe a significant political tense that occurred between the demise of the Marinid Dynasty in the late fifteenth century , and the rising of the Alaouite monarchy in the middle of the seventeenth century. At the time, several long-standing rural lodges that were inhabited by followers ( marabout-s) to an ascetic and spiritual Muslim practice referred to as Sufism established alternative power centers, which challenge the authority of the makhzan. 

In Weberian terminology it was the case that there was a time when the makhzan was not able to assert supremacy on the use of force legally authorized. In fact “maraboutic crisis” is something of a misnomer. This period is more accurately described as an issue of authority in the state. “Sharifism” refers to the belief that the only legitimate authorities for the Muslim nation and the umma are those who descend from Muhammad, the Prophet. Muhammad.

 In this sense it is referring to the Alaouite family’s legitimacy as being the direct descendants of the closest relative of Muhammad. Maraboutic Crisis Maraboutic Crisis was brought to its conclusion by the two first Alaouite Sultans, Al-Rashid (r. 1666-1672) and his son Ismail (r.1672-1727) who had succeeded not by disliking the mystical practices that was practiced by marabout-s and their tribal defenders however, but rather taking it on and integrating it into the state-approved Islam. 

They were assisted in this process because the predominant religion of the muslims in Morocco The Maliki madhhab, also known as known as the Maliki madhhab, permits local customs (‘ urf) and public interest ( al-maslaha al-‘amma) to be used in the form of legal norms.

Sabbatianism on the other side, was a prophetic movement started through Shabbtai Zvi, the son of a prominent family of rabbinic rabbinic ancestors in Ottoman Izmir and declared himself to be the messiah in 1648. His followers spread rapidly throughout the Jewish world and a millenarian movement that was certainly aided by the aggravating tragedies that had happened in recent times, such as the Spanish Expulsion of 1492 , and the Khmelnitsky Massacres of 1648-1657 together with a series severe droughts that struck Morocco. To draw a comparison between the solution to the Sabbatian Crisis and that of the Maraboutic Crisis, Gottreich notes two key aspects. 

First, the central point of Moroccan Sabbatianism was located in the southern part in the nation, the same as it was the central point of the rebellious Marabout-s. Secondly it is the same like the Alaouite dynasty and Sufi practices, Moroccan rabbis were able to depress the enthusiasm from the Sabbatian movement, but not by taking it down it completely, but rather by incorporating certain aspects of the traditional Moroccan Judaism. 

In parallel, Gottreich argues that the connection between state institutions and the Jewish community was being formalized which allowed those rabbis opposed to Sabbatianism to take advantage of the power to Alaouite the state to degrade their adversaries. It is also important to note that all of these significant events occurred simultaneously with consolidating the power of the family, which is still the ruling dynasty of Morocco to the present day lets Gottreich to claim that the creation of Jewish Morocco was “parallel with and contingent to the birth of the Moroccan state itself.”

Jewish Morocco – This is a very unique and plausible interpretation. Particularly when you consider that historians have usually recognized the source of what is called a singular Moroccan Jewish community much later after the establishment to power of the French Protectorate in 1912. However, Gottreich fails to make a causal connection with and the Sabbatian Crisis and the Maraboutic Crisis. 

What is shown is an eerie similarity in shape, not substance. It is not impossible to consider any possibility of causality may be established. While Gottreich documents the development of similar themes and events there isn’t any evidence to support a study of the history of Morocco from the viewpoint from the perspective of Jews. To claim that this is an historical period that Jews played a major role is to attribute an enormous causal responsibility to a small, yet important minority.

The problem in not distinguishing the different categories that define Jewish involvement or absence from various historical events is that we often forget what kind of Jewish subject is being portrayed as being. Are we dealing with of an active or passive subject? or a non-active subject or an added-on to the primary historical plotline or even a minor or character? Most important, is it an actual Jewish subject or is this a story about the concept about Jews?

Two incidents that stand out in Gottreich’s writing further underscore the importance of this distinction: the 1907 death of French doctor Emile Mauchamp in Marrakesh and the Fez Riots in 1912. In 1907, Emile Mauchamp, the director of the French pharmacy in Marrakesh was killed by an angry mob that believed that he was spying for the French government. This was used as a pretext by the French to enter Morocco through Oujda, the capital city. Oujda near the Algerian border and to bombard Casablanca with a sea attack. The place that Moroccan Jews fall into these instances is important. 

Mauchamp had been staying close to the mellah of Marrakesh, the Jewish quarter, and had also been known to associate with circles of French-speaking Moroccan Jews involved with the educational-philanthropic enterprise known as the Alliance Israelite Universelle (A.I.U.). 

Following the murder of Mauchamp, violent and anti-European sentiments spread across the city, leading Europeans to seek refuge in the Mellah which was historically the only location they were permitted to remain. The next chapter is along the similar to the typical guilt-by-association charge in which Moroccan Jews were assumed and were accused of being in league with Europeans. 

This, in turn, speeded the process of “social isolation” and an increasing sense of fear within the Jewish community. This is a story of a situation that didn’t need any type of action or require any involvement that was played by current Jews. Instead, the Mauchamp incident shows how the notion of Jews can become a reality on its own and have results that did not originate from the actions of real Jews were actually doing or didn’t do. One could argue that this event is “Jewish history” but only when we specify that the subject isn’t Jews but rather is spectral or figural Jews.

Similar to 1912, after the 1912 Treaty of Fez was signed in secret and the French Protectorate was established, some military bases in Fez discovered the strict military rules in the treaty and, in rage, responded by killing Frenchmen living in Fez city. The French military swiftly attacked Fez with the European “Ville Nouvelle” and as a result, Moroccan soldiers retreated to the Mellah situated at Fes Jadid, as well as in the ghetto where the royal palace was. 

The question of whether or not the Moroccans were planning to perpetrate violence against this Jewish community or picked the area because of its proximity to and connection to the royal seat is a issue of debate in the past. Whatever the case, what transpired was a tense two-day war against soldiers from the French with Moroccan soldiers, in which a number of lost their lives and all of the 10,000 Jewish inhabitants of the Mellah fled the city. 

The incident became famous by the Moroccan Judeo-Arabic in the form of altritl (“the pillage”). tritl (“the pillage”). Similar to five years ago the significance of Jews in this event wasn’t due to something Jews really did however, it was because of how they were portrayed, where they resided and how their place was viewed by other people. When it comes to Jewish history and not just a matter of fact, it’s Jewish history told in a passive voice. 

The truth is that Jews were not able to so much, or at least as is believed, have the lead role here. They were rather playing a role in the game of another. It is not an account of the history of Morocco in the eyes that of the Jews but rather an account of the Jewish concept in Morocco.

One of the episodes Gottreich describes that can be considered to be Moroccan history from an Jewish community view is called”the Battash Affair. In 1464, the last Marinid Sultan Abu Mohammed ‘Abd El-Haq appointed an unmarried Jew, Aaron b. Battash as his chief minister. Both Aaron as well as his brother Shaul were then confronted by important Muslims in Fez the Marinid capital of the city, of violating the seventh century’s document known as the Pact of ‘Umar that stipulates the responsibilities, limitations and rights that are owed to religious minorities that were not Muslims ( dhimma). 

The subsequent popular uprising claim the lives of Aaron and Shaul as well as that of the Sultan ‘Abd El-Haq. It was the time when the Marinid Dynasty was ended with the revolt of 1465 and seven years afterward, the briefly-lived Wattasids were elected to power.

This is an obvious case where Jews are, in fact play a significant role within Moroccan history. In simple terms the story of this particular incident can’t be told without Jews. We’re not dealing with the notion of Jews or an analogous situation happening within the Moroccan Jewish population, but the full extent of Moroccan story from the Jewish viewpoint.

Apart from the Battash incident and a few other isolated incidents There are only a few clear instances that Gottreich provides in which Jewish history as well as Moroccan historical events appear connected are Jewish political and political organizations in the latter decades of the protectorate, as well as in the beginning of independence. 

She expertly demonstrates the variety of opinions within members of the Moroccan Jewish populace and the possible futures they envisioned. What is it that means that in a lengthy attempt to create a history of Jewish Morocco the only sustained account of what could be called an Jewish Moroccan history is when the history is drawing to the end at least in terms of territoriality? What exactly does it mean when active Jewish subjects will only be seen on a regular basis as the idea of a Moroccan Jewish history outside of Morocco begins to be imaginable?

There isn’t a obvious telos in the story of Gottreich there is no preposterous belief the Jewish communists were ignorant nor that Zionists were particularly prescient. A lot of developments can be attributed to the unforeseen events of historical events.

 However, even if the genesis of the eventual Moroccan Jewish deracination can be discovered a century before to independence, Gottreich provides no evidence that the mass movement that a majority Jewish Morocco in Israel was unavoidable or even absolutely required. 

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Jewish Morocco – This is an uplifting read. It is not often that the story of Moroccan Jews in particular, and Middle Eastern and North African Jewry generally been told in a manner that has the potential telos Israel and Zionism never on the edge. Yet, to avoid this crucial issue is to omit the most significant issue that needs to be addressed in a study of the history of Morocco from the Jewish standpoint, that is to say why did they quit? 

Gottreich lists the usual suspects–international Jewish organizations, the Moroccan government, the American government, Israeli intelligence services–but in this author’s estimation downplays the complicity of the Moroccan state and monarchy. The Moroccan Jews themselves become the protagonists in their own deracination that was not even imaginable just a few decades ago. Yet, that’s where current portrayal of Moroccan Jewish history falls short as they were not always the main characters in their own narrative.

What all this amounts to is an innovative interpretational historical account of Jewish Morocco which charts new ways forward and offers interesting information for specialists and non-specialists alike. The author is intent on writing a historical account of Morocco from the perspective of a Jewish community viewpoint, Gottreich strays at key points in a historical study of the Jewish concept, or Jews as symbols.

 Both are crucial matters that merit careful examination. These aren’t, however, Moroccan histories told from the Jewish viewpoint. Like the road signs of Morocco do not have Jewish representation, despite official narratives that extol Jews and a story of Jewish Morocco is a nebulous potential at pivotal moments in this work. We do know however, is a story that describes Moroccan Jews and not just as invaders and migrants on the move, or an alien element rather, as unambiguous residents of Moroccan space and time. This is not a small achievement and deserves praise.

Ilan Benattar is a Doctoral Candidate in the Skirball Department of Hebrew & Judaic Studies and the Department of History at New York University. His dissertation research focuses the study of Ottoman Jewish cultural politics surrounding the Chief Rabbinate in 1902-1909. He tweets @IlanBenattar.

Product details

  • Publisher : I.B. Tauris
  • Language : English
  • Paperback :264 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0755644360
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0755644360
  • The item’s weight is13.3 ounces
  • Dimensions :6.14 x 0.55 9.21 inches 9.21 inches

Emily Gottreich

Emily Gottreich (1966-) was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin County. Her graduation was from her school, the Urban School of San Francisco in 1966, and was then accepted into UC Berkeley for her B.A. in History and Harvard University for her M.A. as well as her M.A. Ph.D..

The historian is who specializes on Moroccan Jewish history and Muslim-Jewish relations within the larger Islamicate globe and at UC Berkeley, where she was chair for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies as well as the undergraduate major with a major in Middle Eastern Studies, and the minor in Jewish studies. Her current role is as an adjunct professor in Global Studies and the Department of History.

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