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This book was made possible with support from the Fondation Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech.


Bleu Reflex

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Fondation Jardin Majorelle reconnue d’utilité publique Décret N° 2.11.647 du 4 novembre 2011 - B.O. du 15 décembre 2011. Jardin Majorelle, Rue Yves Saint Laurent, 40090 Marrakech, Maroc.

© Somogy Éditions d’Art, Paris, 2014 © André Goldenberg, 2014 This book was produced under the direction of Somogy Éditions d’Art and André Goldenberg. Editorial coordination: Astrid Bargeton, assisted by Anne Malary Translation from French to English : Sharon Grevet English editing: Bronwyn Mahoney Graphic design: François Dinguirard Graphic adaptation: Cathy Piens/Pays Production: Michel Brousset, Béatrice Bourgerie and Mélanie Le Gros ISBN 978-2-7572-0893-9 Copyright: December 2014 Printed in Italy (European Union)

AndrĂŠ Goldenberg

Art and the Jews of Morocco



p. 170

Ceramics and stone work

p. 176


p. 181

Main jewish symbols THE METAL ARTS p. 35

Precious metals, gold and silver

p. 36

Urban jewelry p. 38 The silversmiths’ religious work p. 60 The diversity of rural jewelry p. 76 Non-precious metals p. 94 Copper and brass p. 94 Iron p. 106 TEXTILE ART p. 111


p. 112 Weaving p. 114 Passementerie p. 118 Silk and gold thread p. 122 Silk embroidery p. 140


p. 151

Dyeing and weaving p. 151 THE JEWS AND ART IN OTHER CRAFTS

p. 153

Hides and leather

p. 154 Leather treasures p. 154 Parchment and illumination p. 160 Musical instruments p. 168

p. 184

The menorah p. 186 The tree of life p. 189 The Tablets of the Law p. 190 Jerusalem p. 191 The columns of the Temple p. 192 Hands p. 194 The crown p. 195 Miscellaneous ornamentation Geometric figures, plants, objects Arches and arcades in Jewish art

p. 196 p. 196 p. 218

The animal kingdom, place of freedom

p. 222

Anthropomorphic decorations

p. 230


Notes Map of Jewish communities in morocco c. 1950

p. 234


p. 236

Selective bibliography

p. 237


p. 239

Photo credits

p. 240

p. 235


Where the


Jews come



t present, the Jewish population of Morocco has dwindled to only a few thousand. They live in towns, are relatively affluent and westernized; it is hard to imagine them fifty or sixty years ago.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

p. 6 Young Jewish woman from the Beni Sbih community in Tagounite, Drâa Valley, south of Zagora. She wears the large cast silver fibulae characteristic of her community. The cap that covers her hair, required by Jewish tradition, is decorated with a silver headpiece..


Right page Raymond-Jean Crétot-Duval, Mellah Gate at Salé, 1925. Oil on canvas. 37 x 47 cm. Private collection. Old “sea gate” that allowed privateer boats to enter the port inside the city walls. After the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which diverted the Bou Regreg riverbed, the old port was converted to a mellah.

The communities that existed in Morocco for centuries, with varying levels of affluence over the years, in time reached significant numbers, the largest in a Muslim country in the early twentieth century, bearing no relation to the residual group still present: their place and their role in the Moroccan national landscape were unique. Their almost total emigration toward new horizons in the mid-twentieth century took place within a relatively short timespan. The main catalysts for this movement were the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the end of the French and Spanish protectorates in 1956. By the early 1960s, within around fifteen years, the social structures, economic activities, and cultural heritage—both tangible and intangible—of the Moroccan Jews, the vast majority of which were traditional, had disappeared altogether. In this rush, and in the unexpected vacuum that was created at the time, preservation of the remaining traces of age-old places and lifestyles did not seem important. And later, when concern for such things began to emerge, the time elapsed and the dispersion of objects and witnesses constituted obstacles and revealed irreparable gaps. Admittedly, written documents gradually made​​ contributions, but the lack of illustrations is apparent. Images and objects could have been far more eloquent than long descriptions.

Historical context is essential for gaining an idea of the diverse origins of the Moroccan Jewish population. The self-expression of Moroccan Jews reflects the rich sources on which they drew over time, while they were adjusting to the Muslim country where they had settled. The scattering of the Jewish communities outside Palestine, began in the ninth century BCE, and the exiles’ initial arrival areas were often temporary. Only archeology might have provided accurate dating, while local legends that have survived the centuries cannot be relied upon.1 The first indisputable evidence of a Jewish presence in Morocco was brought to light in the excavations at Volubilis (near Meknes) from a funerary inscription in Hebrew on a stone slab,2 and a bronze lamp decorated with a characteristic Jewish symbol, a seven-branched candelabrum (menorah), dating to the fourth and fifth centuries.3 Later, in documents identified by Maurice Eisenbeth in his historical essay,4 mentions can be found of long-ago dispersed settlements, from the Rif to Fez and further south in the Tafilalet oasis and the Drâa Valley. The Jews with the longest presence on Moroccan soil retained the distinctive features of a Judaism characterized by their Eastern origin; they had otherwise adopted the housing and lifestyle of the local populations. The reactions of these populations varied over time, and tolerance was mixed, as is generally the case toward minorities, with more or less pronounced discrimination, which at times went so far as to jeopardize the very existence of entire communities.

Gravestone found at the site of Volubilis. The inscription in square Hebrew characters, which are found in inscriptions from the early centuries of the Christian era, reads: “Matrona, daughter of Rabbi Yeshua Nouah.” Bronze oil lamp of Roman manufacture, 4th–5th century. Height: 11.4 cm. Rabat Archaeological Museum. This lamp displays a Jewish symbol, a menorah. Discovered in the ruins of Volubilis (a Roman city near modern Meknes), it bears witness to a Jewish presence in the area at that time.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Main street of the new mellah of Fez. The Jewish architecture is distinguished by opening windows and the presence of balconies on the outside.


Right page Ketubah, the marriage contract between David Abouhsira and Simha Levy, Essaouira, 1859. 31.5 x 45.5 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection.


Where did the Moroccan Jews come from?

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Detail of a necklace with gold cylinders decorated with cloisonné enamel and filigree, Tetouan, 18th century. Musée de l’Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris. The enameled elements, called qannuta, faithfully reproduce those on necklaces from the Nasrid period (13th–15th centuries) in Muslim Spain.


Lebba necklace. Classic wedding adornment from Fez. It has seven drops, each composed of several elements, separated by hollow gold beads. Musée des Oudayas, Rabat.

A major wave of Jewish immigration to Morocco came from Spain in the late fifteenth century. Jews established within the Muslim population of Andalusia had already emigrated to Morocco, but it was the Catholic monarchs’ publication of an Edict of Expulsion in 1492 that had a profound impact on Jewish Spain. In a very short time, tens of thousands of immigrants dispersed, mainly to Mediterranean countries.

Right page Francisco Lemeyer y Berenguer, Jewish Wedding in Tangier, 1875, detail. Oil on canvas. Height: 128 cm. Private collection.

In Morocco, they settled in Tetouan, empty since the previous century, but also in cities with existing Jewish communities, such as Fez and Tangier, and in cities on the Atlantic coast, such as Larache, Azemmour, El Jadida, and Safi;

a small number of new arrivals went beyond the Atlas Mountains and settled in the coastal regions of the Souss. In most major cities, Jews were gradually confined to neighborhoods called mellahs, where they could be better protected by fortifications. This was not the case in other cities such as Tangier, Nador, and Essaouira. The business activities most open to urban Jews were trade and crafts, which many of them practiced.5 The newcomers, proud of the renown of the brilliant al-Andalus period, had difficulty integrating


Art and the Jews of Morocco

when they arrived among the Jews already settled. It is certain that the Sephardic (Spanish) Jews brought with them particular characteristics that broke with the traditions that had previously existed in Morocco.6 In the material realm, the imprint of their cultural legacy is often visible. Jews who settled in rural areas lived in isolated villages or or in separate hamlets in conurbations that dotted the oases. These areas were indistinguishable by their architecture, but as they were inhabited only by Jews, they were also

called mellahs. The vast majority of these small communities were found in the valleys of the Atlas and, in the south, in the pre-Saharan oases and the Anti-Atlas. The villages were usually located along a thoroughfare, so as to be easily accessible to a fairly wide-ranging population. In certain mellahs, the Jews specialized in crafts useful to all the families in the region; naturally their clientele

Left page Engraving of a Jewish woman in bridal attire, published by Oskar Lenz in his book Timbuktu. Reise durch Marokko, die Sahara und den Sudan. Ausgef端hrt im Auftrage der Afrikanischen Gesellschaft in Deutschland in den Jahren 1879 und 1880. This type of gorgeous velvet gold embroidered dress was introduced to Morocco by Sephardic Jews.

Where did the Moroccan Jews come from?

Detail of a Jewish wedding dress plastron from Rabat, embroidered with gold thread. Width: 27 cm. Sonia Azagury collection.


was Jewish, but obviously primarily Muslim. They thus handled much of the production of jewelry, leatherwork, woodwork, and dyeing of textile fibers. Many offered their services at weekly markets, doing minor repair work, and their living situation was insecure. As a whole, the Jews of Morocco were a segment of the population with relatively modest incomes, aside from some exceptions that had met with success. In another vein, it should be noted that, in rural areas, before the Protectorate—which did not take hold south of the Atlas Mountains until the early 1930s—strife among tribes was common, making it dangerous to travel in areas that separated two notoriously opposing villages. While the inhabitants of the mellahs primarily devoted themselves to commercial and craft activities, their role at the local level was particular because as “elements of society, alien to the tribe, the Jews lived outside the political

system of alliances and rivalries. The Muslims therefore relied on them, as neutral members of society, able to cross tribal boundaries and perform important tasks as itinerant traders, peddlers, and artisans.”7 When Jewish families left in the last century, it was not simply a matter of moving. The emigrants were forced to leave behind almost all of their possessions, which were then found in the bazaars. The creations, whose disparate and selective images—pieces with a certain material or religious value—are collected in this book, are merely the tip of an iceberg floating in an unfathomable sea where the passive and inanimate witnesses of Jewish life in Morocco are forever beneath the surface. Local museums did not dwell on Jewish heritage and rare were the residents who showed interest in such curiosities at the time. Most of the Jewish objects from Morocco that have been saved belong to private collections, now held in several foreign countries.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MOROCCAN JEWISH COMMUNITIES • A long history involving more or less continual relocations, with a Near Eastern point of origin.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

• Always minority communities with, as a necessary corollary, staunch cohesion of Jewish groups around their religious beliefs and traditions.


Passementerie ribbon woven on a card loom. Width: 3.8 cm. Sonia Azagury collection. In the decoration, six-pointed stars are intertwined.

• Business activities consistent with an environment where there was little opportunity to own and work land, at least in recent centuries—resulting in a very sharp demarcation of the business sectors open to them.

Large open bracelet adorned with filigree and enamel. Width: 4.4 cm. Zette Guinaudeau collection. Made by Jews from the region near the Sirwa mountain range, this bracelet was worn by people from the AĂŻt Ouaouzguit.

Where did the Moroccan Jews come from?

Jewish wedding at Tiilit in the Dadès Valley. The bride wears the tiara and costume particular to the region.


SOUKS In the sparsely populated rural areas of Morocco, including the Atlas Mountains and further south, supplies necessary for sustenance, in fact almost all business and human relations, centered around the souk, the weekly market held in certain communities, taking turns within a region over the course of the week, or even occasionally in an isolated location simply encircled by a wall.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

The inhabitants of surrounding villages sometimes had to travel long distances to this vital meeting place. It was usually the men who went, on foot or on modest mounts, alone or in small groups, where turbaned Muslims and Jews from neighboring mellahs with their black skullcaps once mingled. In the morning, on market day, improvised stalls were set up in tents, roughly grouped into quarters depending on the business activities; artisans came with the tools of their trade and provided both merchandise for sale and minor repairs.


Top Small group of residents of Irhil n’Oro (two Jews and a Muslim) going to a souk in the Taliouine area. Bottom A Jewish cobbler at the Demnate souk, Central High Atlas.

RURAL MELLAHS The mellahs (inhabited only by Jews) were built exactly like other villages in the vicinity. In the Dadès Valley, the material used was rammed earth: moist clay packed into forms, piled up to achieve a certain height. Facing the street, the windows were very small, away from the gaze of passersby. The local style is identified by very attractive geometric decorations, achieved by a particular arrangement of mud bricks, made ​​of clay and chopped straw, molded and then dried.

Top A Jewish village in Berber country, 1952. The mellah (Jewish village) of Tissent in the Aït Bou Oulli tribal area, east of Demnate (Central High Atlas). Built of rammed earth, it is no different from the surrounding Berber villages. The small dome visible on the median in front of the houses is a bread oven, built to bake matzah for Passover. Bottom Street in the mellah of Ouarzazate, c. 1950.

Where did the Moroccan Jews come from?

The mellahs were frequented by Muslims from nearby communities for business, relationships, or convenience.


Artistic expression among Morocco’s Jews


Art and the Jews of Morocco

he artistic expression of Morocco’s Jews has not previously attracted any systematic research, even though this is a population of ancient origin, with strong traditions and a rich history. These same catalysts are also the ingredients of the birth of civilizations.


p. 20 Detail of chased, tooled, openwork silver mezuzah cover on blue velvet background, Marrakech, 1950. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, Paris. The inscription includes the last name of the bride: Halakhmi, and a wish for happiness: “Mazal tov.”

Artistry is a universal attribute of human beings, and art is an expression of their aesthetic ideals. The profound difference among countries in what the word “art” evokes when it is connected to the word “object”, depends on the function fulfilled by that object. In Morocco’s ancient civilization, placement of objects in the personal or collective environment for the sole purpose of providing visual pleasure was not a common practice. Nothing was created to be just a work of art or, in other words, art for art’s sake did not exist. As a matter of principle, creativity was necessarily artisanal under living conditions that were still rustic, and had a utilitarian purpose: for religious observance, for the needs and occupations of everyday life, for adornment and clothing, or as an addition to household goods.

One of the characteristics of traditional handicrafts is how similar they are when fulfilling the same function. As noted, the Jewish communities worked hard at preserving their traditions and saw it as a guarantee of their endurance, of their survival as a community constantly defining itself as immutable Various types of shapes were naturally dictated, and a tendency to show individuality by making many partial but visible changes or by creating new models was, by definition, the very opposite of traditional. Few items used for the same purpose offered a real variety of models. Thus beauty and creative talent could be expressed solely in decoration; art was decorative, without any pejorative connotation. Furthermore, generally speaking, individual handiwork, which is the source of artisanal creation, imparts a uniqueness—that of one-of-a-kind pieces.1 It is undeniable that tradition, like all rigid conditioning, is reductive. By the same token, it is by definition in conflict with innovative tendencies toward creativity and artistic expression recognized elsewhere.

in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship”; and He defined the key areas in which he was to exercise his craft: “to devise skillful works, with fabrics, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of workmanship.”3 And the name of this artisan was Bezalel (in Hebrew, “in the shadow of God”).

When there were still many Jews in Morocco, beauty was born here and there, in the narrow streets of the mellahs, in the mostly cramped and dark workshops where various categories of artisans worked. Their religion positively influenced their turn toward artisanal work, made more attractive by examples set by certain rabbis. Rabbis were not only spiritual leaders; some made their living by practicing a manual occupation.2 Talmudic literature praises apprenticeship, and contains numerous exhortations to learn crafts.

We will naturally focus on the work of artisans whose creations, in their shapes and especially in their decorations, allowed a particularly wide scope of artistic expression.

In the Bible, the Lord drew an ideal portrait of the artisan, by introducing to Moses the one who would erect the desert Tabernacle: “I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and

Like all residents of the mellahs, these artisans had in their hearts and minds very deep feelings that bound them to God and family. This was reflected to varying degrees in the aesthetics of the objects they made. To confer beauty, even unconsciously, on their creations that were intended for religious use, was first and foremost to participate in celebrating the glory of God, to honor Him in His Temple, the synagogue, and in each household during the weekly Shabbat, as well as on religious festivals.

Brass-worker in his workshop in Marrakech in the 1950s. Page of an illuminated manuscript for Passover, Outat el Haj, 19th century. 10.5 x 18 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv. The book contains the Haggadah, prayers and piyyutim in Judeo-Arabic. It was written in Hebrew characters for Jacob ben Messaoud ben Zenou by the scribe Moshe ben Itzhak ben Maman.

Artistic expression among Morocco’s Jews

But these tendencies are too compelling, too universal to be completely obscured; they find ways to manifest themselves, most often by seeking refuge in details of ornamentation, outlets for individuality, stubborn marks and anonymous signatures, while remaining within the confines of the beaten path. Change slips in, more or less surreptitiously, through an accumulation of small innovations that are acceptable to the group.


Art and the Jews of Morocco


Pair of tappuhim (ornaments for the staves on which the Sepher Torah is wound). Height: 30 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv. Parcel-gilded silver and blue champlevĂŠ enamel characteristic of Meknes.

DECORATION OF COMMON OBJECTS In rural areas, simple everyday objects, crafted of humble materials, were also vehicles for the decorative expression of artisans. A harness buckle from the Middle Atlas was thus enhanced with a bronze plaque bearing champlevé enameling, characteristic of the work of the Zaiane jewelers who drew their inspiration from an urban technique well known in Meknes. A weaver’s comb, a common object, offers a surprising decoration created by the blacksmith who, in the countryside, was a Jewish artisan.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Brass tray tooled and engraved with a fine decoration of foliated and floriated motifs. Diameter: 50 cm.


Pair of leather shoes from the central Anti-Atlas, Ida Ou Nadif, and Ida Ou Kensous tribal areas. Frieda Sorber collection. Silk embroidery decoration with very high quarters (25 cm) at the top, embossed, hemstitched, dyed leather. Etched weaver’s comb. Width: 21 cm. Musée Berbère, Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech.


metal arts

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Page 34 Circular element with synagogue suspension chains attached. Cast brass embellished with blue enamel. Diameter of circular part: 12.5 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv.


Right page Necklace of emeralds and baroque pearls, adorned with openwork gold elements, and decorated with cloisonné enamel and gemstones. Probable origin: Meknes. Diameter of pendant: 6.3 cm. Musée des Oudayas, Rabat. The large gold pendant with fine openwork is adorned with various gems.



silver or gold objects for a price higher than the worth of their weight is usury (which Islam forbids). But the sultans give the Jews permission to do so.”1

The monopoly that was granted to Jews apparently dates back to a very ancient period and had been legitimized by religious reasoning. In his description of sixteenth-century Africa, Leo Africanus states: “In Fez one can work . . . neither gold nor silver in the old town and no Mohammedan may practice the profession of gold or silversmith for they say that selling

All urban dwellers’ traditional jewelry and most Berber jewelry was thus made by ​​ Jewish artisans until the emigration of practically the entire Jewish community in the mid-twentieth century. Only a few small clusters of Muslim jewelers were long established in the Berber regions southwest of the Atlas Mountains, between Tiznit and Tafraout, and in Tagmout.

he important role played by the Jews in jewelry making in Morocco was due to the fact that occupations using fire were once avoided by Muslims, because of reasons related to religious restrictions.

Urban jewelry

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Gold was the urban metal par excellence. In towns, Jewish goldsmiths crafted adornments that were valued by the Muslim and Jewish haute bourgeoisie, primarily in Fez, Meknes, Tangier, and Tetouan.


A wealthy collector of gold jewelry from Fez, Abderrahman Slaoui, in his book Parures en or du Maroc, trésors des cités impériales,2 recounts that “weddings, baptisms, and circumcisions were, for women, the sole opportunity to show off their rich fabrics and, especially, the gems of their gold finery . . . . In these holy places of my childhood, I already gazed in wonder at the treasures contained in those chests: tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and pendants whose warm golden light seemed to gain radiance from the sparkling of the diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and garnets. I still see those women dressed like idols, covered with all those gems created by an appointed jeweler. Like all jewelers from Fez at the time, ours was Jewish and from a line of artisans. His name was Israel Bensimon and he had the privilege of working for the Royal Palace. I remember him coming to the house, even in the absence of my father, which was a sign of great trust.” Woman from Tangier. Watercolor by José Tapiro y Bara (1836–1913). 70 x 49 cm. Headbands and earrings are typical jewelry. This necklace is quite remarkable: in the center, it incorporates a gold or silver casting of a rural fibula.

The elite Jewish jewelers clustered in the largest cities, where a rich clientele afforded a broad expressive range to their creativity; their creations glorified a city like Fez quite far into the countryside. The taste for costly adornments is nothing new. In the mid-sixteenth century, Leo Africanus

was already providing eyewitness testimony on the “noble” women of Fez: “(they) have in their ears large gold rings with very beautiful stones. They also have gold bracelets on their wrists, one on each arm, bracelets that commonly weigh 100 ducats [about 350 g]. Women who are not nobles have them made with silver and wear similar ones on their legs.”3 There are no pictures to illustrate these forebears of today’s museum jewelry, but the imposing earrings and anklets already had their place. While every town had its permanent jewelry souk, usually very close to the mellah, it retained the rustic appearance of small medina workshops. It was not the place for major transactions. Trade in more costly gold jewelry was conducted away from the common folk. When the daughter of a wealthy citizen was to be married, he went to the home of the jeweler, who kept a treasure chest worthy of the Arabian Nights in a well-hidden safe, as described by Doctor de Lens: “Pearls and precious stones brought from India and Mecca, huge rubies, emeralds; there shimmered rings adorned with diamonds, glittering openwork tiaras, necklaces with multiple drops . . . It was a highly discrete trade.”4 And Henriette Célarié wrote in 1923 that, “When a rich merchant or a wealthy official from Maghzen wants a jewel, he has the master craftsman come to his home and provides him with the raw material . . . . He orders the piece he wants and watches while it is made.”5


The metal arts

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Large earrings in gold, gemstones, and baroque pearls. Hollow chased rings, and chased openwork anterior plates and suspension hooks. Tetouan or Tangier, late 18th century. Height: 11 cm. Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.


Pair of fibulae. Openwork gold, emeralds, rubies, and baroque pearls. Tangier or Tetouan, 19th century. Height: 10.5 cm. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, Paris.

The metal arts

Pair of gold fibulae enhanced with gemstones and baroque pearls. Large emerald set in gold inserted into the chain. Fez. Early 20th century. Fibula height: 11.5 cm. MusĂŠe des Oudayas, Rabat.


Earring with gold suspension hook, decorated with gemstones and baroque pearls. Northwestern Moroccan city, 18th or 19th century. Musée des Oudayas, Rabat. Necklace pendant in gold and precious stones (emeralds and rubies). Meknes. Diameter: 7 cm. Musée des Oudayas, Rabat. The pattern of interlacing eight-pointed stars and borders are adorned with blue and green champlevé enamel.

Fulet hamsa pendant in gold and blue enamel, with 5 cabochon emeralds. Height: 16 cm. Dar Belghazi Museum, Sidi Bouknadel, Salé.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Embossed silver-gilt earring, adorned with champlevé enamel and glass beads. Fez, early 20th century. Diameter of main element: 3.5 cm. Jean-Louis Thau collection.


Right page Engraved, openwork bird-shaped pendant from Tangier in gold, emeralds and rubies. Late 18th century. 9.5 x 7.5 cm. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, Paris. Note the small birds in the wings. Popular object for Jewish wedding ceremonies.


The metal arts

Hamsa, hand-shaped openwork chased gold pendant decorated with precious stones. Height: 9 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv. Khit er-Rih (the thread of the wind), chased gold ferronière adorned with stones. Abdelfatah Kabbaj collection, Aladdin’s Lamp, Semmarine Souk, Marrakech.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Openwork gold forehead jewelry decorated with stones. Early 20th century. Height: 12 cm. Abdelfatah Kabbaj Collection, Aladdin’s Lamp, Semmarine Souk, Marrakech.


Necklace of baroque pearls and precious stones, hamsa, hand-shaped gold pendant enhanced with gemstones. Height of hand: 12 cm. Musée des Oudayas, Rabat. Right page Lebba necklace from Fez in gold and emeralds and rubies, 19th century. Length without attachments: 35 cm. Musée des Oudayas, Rabat. The ribbed oval beads and drops are hollow, in repoussé gold.

Brass artisan in his shop hammering a brass tray.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Hammered, engraved brass hand washbasin. Parts cast. Diameter: 35.5 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection.


Right page Engraved cast brass Shabbat lamp composed of several welded or riveted elements. Suspended from the chains, tongs for placing the cotton wicks and a scraper for cleaning the nozzle. Tangier, 19th century. Height: 40 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection.

NON-PRECIOUS METALS Copper and brass Copper mines were once active in the High Atlas, the Souss, and the Sarhro; that metal was always widely worked by Jews in Morocco, although in the cities there were “seffarin” souks where the artisans were Muslims. The involvement of Jews in the brass-working trades is attested as early as the eighteenth century by a rabbinical ordinance dealing with the “oath of the members of the braziers guild.”23 In the cities, they engaged primarily in the production and decoration of brass objects. Their workshops were adjacent to mellahs, notably in Marrakech, Fez, and Meknes. Jane Gerber confirms that, in Fez “in the early eighteenth century, the Jews worked brass, producing trays, candlesticks, tea boxes, etc.”24

In the south, they especially fashioned brass jugs with which the women fetched water and which Jewish families used to keep water hot on Shabbat. Several techniques were used for the ornamentation of pierced and shaped brass sheets. The artisan created decorative designs, usually freehand, by striking the surface with a chasing tool, lightly tapping with careful little hammer strokes, as brass is relatively hard. An exceptional engraving was achieved on thicker trays by removing material. Some decorations were stamped with steel punches that made it possible to directly achieve simple embellishments, such as flowers, crescents, etc.


The metal arts

Brass artisan in his shop engraving sheet brass. Marrakech, c. 1950. Hammered copper qenqom jugs for collecting spring water. South of High Atlas. In Jewish homes, they were used for keeping Shabbat tea water warm, on a stove with hot embers. Hammered and engraved brass hammam (Turkish bath) bucket. Cast feet and handle. Height: 22.5 cm.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Detail of chisel engraving on brass for tea tray.


The aesthetic sense of the braziers was especially expressed in very ornate pieces. The chaser’s trade allowed an artisan “to sometimes take a risk with certain creations . . . The key elements: chasing, arabesques, stars embedded in moons and intermingled with crescents, these constellations that the brass discs reflected as if they had captured pieces of the sky, were unlocked by the graver.”25 Well liked by both Muslims and Jews, brass objects had a place in every home; not just trays and tea boxes, but also teakettles on footed burners, hand-washing basins, cups and buckets for the hammam, incense burners, etc.

However, by the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century, “in Fez, wives of notables had already expressed their disenchantment with mosaics, wood carvings, embroidered leathers, and chased brass.”26 This class was starting to turn toward European products. The souks of the braziers also included workshops for casting mortars and candlesticks. The artisans used either brass or bronze (a mixture of copper and tin). The candlesticks were in such demand that Jews from Essaouira who settled in Great Britain manufactured them for export to Morocco.

From left to right and top to bottom Lidded conical box for storing bread and pastries. Engraved openwork brass. The handle is cast. Largest diameter: 34 cm. Dar Si Saïd Museum, Marrakech.

Container for distilling rose and orange blossom water composed of two nested elements. Surface entirely decorated in a botanical style. Hammered copper with traces of tinning. Fez, 18th century. Height: 32 cm. Musée du Quai Branly, Paris. Engraved brass tea service box. Height: 20 cm.

The metal arts

Large, chased, openwork, hammered copper incense burner, affixed to a tray resting on four cast feet that hold a candlestick each. Diameter of ovoid element: 21.5 cm. Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.


Textile art

Page 110 High-end embroidery on fine lawn (detail). Above Artisan winding silk thread on reed spools. Spools of silk thread in a shop in Fez.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Part of a brocade belt from Fez. Width: 15 cm. Isabelle Denamur collection.


Right page Hanging to cover Elijah’s chair, a ceremonial seat in the synagogue. Pink and purple silk, passementerie braid and fringe, and gold lamé embroidery. Buatois-Guérin collection. This was lent out to families for the circumcision ceremony.



he textile sector involves a wide variety of occupations, ranging from thread making to the production of clothing and other utilitarian objects, as well as decoration. In Morocco, many Jews worked in these crafts, even holding a sort of monopoly in some activities. In the past, there were once vast areas of mulberry trees in northern Morocco, including the famous Chaouen plantations. In that region, Jews raised silkworms and were specialists in silk work. They may have brought this expertise from Spain during the Expulsion of 1492. Jane Gerber wrote that, “During the early Middle Ages, Spain was the leading producer of silk

[and] many prominent Jews of Spain derived their fortunes from the silk business.”1 And Roger Le Tourneau specifies, speaking of Fez during the Mar nid Empire, that “the city was home to many weavers in the sixteenth century. Fez had around five hundred workshops weaving wool, silk, and linen.”2 Once the cocoons were unwound, the silk was reeled in skeins and dyed in bright colors, then wound onto reed spools and sold throughout the country to embroiderers, passementerie makers, and tailors. Foreign imports finally won out over local production, but demand remained very high.


Textile art

Rabbi David Ben Baruch, amine (guild representative) of the jewelers of Essaouira, 1930. On his long coat, he wears a silk sash folded several times. Part of a man’s silk belt. Width: 40 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Part of a man’s silk belt, woven in Tetouan or Ouazzane. Length of entire belt: 330 cm. Sonia Azagury collection.


Jewish bridal scarf, worn in Tetouan, Tangier, and Fez. Raw silk dyed red, and weft of gold thread. Width: 53 cm. Sonia Azagury collection. Right page Jewish bridal scarf in red silk and gold thread, Tangier, late 19th century. Width: 57 cm. Dar Belghazi Museum, Sidi Bouknadel, Salé.

Weaving The Jews of Tetouan, Chaouen, Ouazzane, and Fez were still weaving these soft and shiny threads in the early twentieth century. They subtly juxtaposed colors to make the shimmering striped belts worn by the men, surprising accessories that broke up the severity of the rest of the Jewish male attire. For brides’ garments, they fashioned long, vibrant scarves of red silk and gold thread, which covered the head and trailed down to the lower back. They also made special fabrics worn only for ritual ceremonies in the synagogue or at home: “the

products made ​​by the silk weavers were highly coveted.”3 “Fez brocade belts” are justly famous, since their weaving requires very complex looms. The beginnings of their use and the degree of Jewish involvement are not precisely known. During his diplomatic mission to Morocco in 1889, Pierre Loti observed the dress of the Muslim women in Fez and remarked, “Those high gold lamé silk belts, stiff as strips of cardboard, [which] support their breasts.”4 The Jewish women had in turn adopted this uncomfortable fashion.


Textile art

Jewish women from Ouazzane or Chaouen. They wear wide “Fez” belts.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Young woman from Tetouan in traditional indoor attire with brocade belt from Fez, postcard, 1908. Gérard Lévy Collection.


Right page Ends of a silk and gold thread belt from Tetouan, 19th century. Width: 21 cm. Warp threads mixed with strands of silk of other colors are braided to form long fringes enhanced with gold threads and small beads.

Each belt was wound several times around the waist. By folding it in half lengthwise, its appearance could be varied according to the arrangement of the motifs. “Most of the belts have four main motifs, allowing them to be worn in four different ways.”5

with which they then formed braids: “sometimes they added to each braid small tassels of metallic thread, embellished with sequins or glass beads.” 7 The pleasant effect of these tassels was typical of Tetouan.

The finishes were particularly meticulous. “When detaching the completed belt from the loom, long warp fringes were left dangling . . . which were woven in other workshops.”6 The Jewish passementerie makers added threads to create thicker fringe,

Apart from fabric weaving, the uses for silk thread in urban Jewish communities—and sometimes even in rural areas—were always very diverse, and each of these uses gave rise to remarkable and very specific products.


Textile art


Jews and in


other crafts

HIDES AND LEATHER Leather treasures

Art and the Jews of Morocco



Page 152 Cut-out leather haiti wall hanging, Marrakech, 1920. Height: approximately 120 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection. At the center of the piece a little bird is nesting, a motif that reveals the work of a Jewish artisan.

everal traditional manual trades not yet discussed were shared between artisans from the Muslim population and others belonging to the Jewish communities. Most of the time, their products were similar, and their customers were both Muslims and Jews. Attribution of the manufacture of an object more than half a century old—and therefore most often discovered in a collection—to either of these groups is far from obvious. To address Jewish art and the artistic tastes of the Jews, we limit ourselves here to examples whose provenance is unequivocal because they have indisputable marks of their origin or have been attributed to Jewish society by reliable records. These requirements have the effect of providing only a partial picture of what may have existed, as no systematic itemization was made at the time. However, this does not seem a valid reason for not undertaking an inventory, albeit belatedly. Hides and leather are materials used since time immemorial and are still important despite the flood of substitutes. Tradition and the little evidence in the literature credit Jews with an ancient role in working them. Thus, in her study of Fez between 1450 and 1700, Jane Gerber says that: “Crafts connected with leather were also found in the mellah. Jewish tanners produced hides for local and foreign markets, and Moroccan leathers were held in high esteem in Europe.”1 More recently, as an aside, we learned that tanneries were located, for example, in the mellah of Rabat.2 There is no need to look for other locations of this type, because they were only for obtaining the raw material. The objects that were made and ​​

decorated were rarely identified and preserved; at most, their manufacturers were mentioned. In his book Au cœur du Maroc (1912), Louis Botte provides this description of Rabat: “[In] the street in the mellah, on either side, are the shops of kherrazin or manufacturers of babouche slippers, chekaïriyin or manufacturers of saddlebags, and serradjin or saddlers.”3 While this quote confirms the involvement of Jews in these trades, it should be noted that these professions were also carried out by Muslim artisans. The main decorated leather products were babouche slippers and shoes, saddlebags, wall hangings or haitis (which, as we have seen, are more often made of fabric), and horse tack.

Leatherwork was practiced everywhere in the country. In the cities, Jewish artisans made beautiful babouche slippers topped with embroidered silk or, for the most luxurious, gold thread, worn by Muslim women. Pierre Flamand notes that Jewish artisans “entrust embroidery work to Jewish women who work at home. They prepare templates for them made of thin cardboard cut out to follow the design that the women will have to reproduce with gold or silver thread on the leather or velvet sections that form the top of the babouche slippers.”4 It was the epitome of elegance when the leather used to make the babouche slippers disappeared completely under a thick layer of colored velvet embroidered with gold threads. The paper patterns with the various drawings that guided their placement reflected the fertile, refined imagination of the babouche slipper makers.

Cut-out paper used as a guide for gold or silver thread embroidery to adorn a babouche. Pair of Jewish woman’s babouches from Fez, 1930. Gold embroidered leather. Length: 22 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection. The babouches are lower cut than those of Muslim women, their sole is thicker, and they have a small heel.

The Jews and art in other crafts

Leather town babouches covered with gold embroidered velvet; decorative silk cords. Length: 26 cm. MusĂŠe Bab el Oqla, Tetouan.


Underside of a horse saddle embroidered with silver thread. Width: 33 cm.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Horse saddle embroidered with gold thread. Dar Belghazi Museum, Sidi Bouknadel, Salé.


In centuries past, the manufacture of babouche slippers was divided among the town artisans in an unexpected way, according to the testimony of Jane Gerber: “It is curious that Muslims should have produced the distinctive Jewish footgear since Jews also engaged in this occupation.”5 These Jewish babouche slippers were distinguished from the others by the presence of a small heel and a slightly thicker sole. The city of Marrakech was known for producing haiti in solid-colored filigree leather. In this type of work, the leather is first cut into the thickness of the grain with a sharp chisel, following the image traced on the leather; then, the portions of the leather grain thus delimited are pulled off. Jews were among the specialists in this unique technique that once supplied pieces with extremely refined decoration of subtle delicacy. These anonymous pieces can sometimes be attributed to a Jewish artisan when, for example, a small bird slips in among areas filled with a profusion of foliage, flowers, and stars (see page 152). The artistic talent that led to the making of the object can be seen in the composition and finesse of the decoration that covers the entire surface of the haiti, and in the choice of motifs. Sometimes, parts of the leather are not only cut out on the surface, but completely cut through

and silk cloth is placed behind these openwork embellishments. In some town saddleries, Jews made lavish harness pieces for Muslims horsemen, in which the leather could disappear beneath the embroidery. Such pieces were ordered for Fantasias that were held on special occasions, such as moussem (saint festivals). Among the Berber tribes in several areas of the mountain ranges, leather goods were the subject of strong attention to ornamentation, reflecting the population’s aesthetic tastes in products that were nevertheless strictly utilitarian. This was the case for the babouche slippers and satchels manufactured in the Zaiane tribal area of the Middle Atlas, by Jewish shoemakers from Khenifra. More complex than those of cities like Marrakech, the Zaiane satchels included flaps adorned with tabs and interior pockets that could be closed with a clever system of pulls. But their most recognizable feature was based on a thorough knowledge of how to assemble small pieces of leather in various colors, cut and incorporated into rugged goat leather called filali, because it was tanned with a substance derived from tamarisk gall from the Tafilalt oasis, and quite dark in color.

Babouche from the Zaiane tribal area (Middle Atlas), adorned with fabric appliquĂŠs and sequins. Frieda Sorber collection.

The Jews and art in other crafts

Old filali leather satchel from Zaiane, Middle Atlas, inlaid with small motifs of variously colored leather. Width: 33 cm. Dar Belghazi Museum, Sidi Bouknadel, SalĂŠ. The seams are hidden by windings of gold thread.


Art, signs, and symbols

F Art and the Jews of Morocco

Page 180 Detail of the decorated parocheth shown in its entirety on page 127.


Detail of a ketubah from Tetouan, 1852. Gouache on parchment. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv. Turkish influenced botanical decoration. Stone Hanukkah lamp in pyrophyllite from the High Atlas. Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.

or traditional objects, the relationship between form and function is crucial, since it is function that dictates form. However, we can distinguish between vessels whose form is strictly dictated by their use from those that have additions with no apparent utilitarian role. It is the latter that present greater opportunities for artistic intervention. This was the case in Morocco for the vertical plaque placed behind the row of wells for holding oil on Hanukkah lamps. That plaque was used to affix the lamp to the wall and to hang the detachable “servant” used to light the different wicks. But primitive cut stone lamps do not have a high back piece. They are the very image of bare necessity. Thus the rear plaque of the lamps did not play an essential role. It can be considered primarily decorative and, in any case, its motifs represent an aesthetic choice, both of the artisan and the purchaser.

Color is a major and even essential element of ornamentation. In silk weaving, the use of color can have different effects. A proliferation of colors in intricate floral motifs visually places the predominant emphasis on the design, as can be seen, for example, in the belts from Fez or Jewish embroidery from Rabat. In contrast, color plays a predominant role when a small number of contrasting colors is used in a simple geometric pattern. In belts and scarves made o ​​ f thin silk fabrics, the art resides in the juxtaposition of colors. The depiction of enlarged details focuses the eye on the component parts, which, on another scale, would merge into the whole. It is the presence of decorations and how they are arranged that give handicrafts their characteristic features. Ornamentation constitutes a sort of cryptic language, in which one may allow oneself to find meaning. Studying its components help us progress toward a definition of the Jewish particularism of Moroccan art.

Art, signs, and symbols

Engraved, cast brass Hanukkah lamp. The back plate is made of two riveted parts, the cups are cast and welded. Height: 31.5 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv.


Art and the Jews of Morocco


Torah mantle used as a parocheth (curtain of the Ark of the Law). Silver embroidered velvet. 68 x 190 cm. Itzhak Einhorn collection. Donated by Aicha Perez in memory of her husband. Numerous Jewish symbols: menorah, Tablets of the Law, Jerusalem (Dome of the Rock), lions of Judah, roosters, floriated decoration (tree of life?).

MAIN JEWISH SYMBOLS The strong religious faith of the artisans is naturally reflected in the decoration of objects related to worship and life in the mellahs. Jewish symbols were omnipresent and were among the aesthetic components, without being the exclusive elements.

They were naturally requisite in the synagogues and incorporated into the decoration of personal religious objects, such as tallith or tefillin bags. They also had their place in every home, on Shabbat and Hanukkah lamps.

Art, signs, and symbols

Hamsa (hand-shaped pendant) in planished, engraved silver, decorated with a large cast silver appliquĂŠ in the shape of a menorah and two daggers. Height: 13 cm.


The menorah

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Menorah (bookmark), 19th century. Parchment, colored, gold, and silver inks, sewn sequins. 23.5 x 17.5 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection. Dedicated to the saint Rabbi Abraham Ouariaour from the village of Muallin Dad (between Azemmour and Safi).


Detail of a mizrach placed on the synagogue wall to indicate Cut paper. Wolfson Museum, Heichal Shlomo, Jerusalem. Detail of a gold embroidered velvet parocheth. Height: 70 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv.

The menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum, is the object that is both the oldest and most representative of Jewish identity, because the details of its making were specifically dictated by God to Moses for His Temple.1 According to Nadine Shenkar, “of pure gold and of a single piece, it implies the absolute unity of matter and spirit (gold and light being inseparable).”2 The menorah figures first among the most important objects in the synagogue, the others being the parocheth and the Torah mantle. The same name designates a sheet of parchment (or paper) on which the candelabrum is drawn, which serves as a bookmark in prayer books. It is sometimes called by the Ashkenazic name shiviti. The text of Psalm 67 is inscribed on the seven branches. Next to the candelabrum, the depiction of several accessories from the Temple contributes to the evocation of that sacred place. This may be,

for example, the sacrificial altar, the censer, the three steps, and the oil jug, whose nature is specified in the Bible: “And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.”3 The panel (called mizrach) that is affixed to the eastern wall of the synagogue, as well as in homes of the devout or in the sukkah (Sukkoth booth or shelter), is a large image of a menorah displaying the same psalm. The mizrach (meaning east) is used to orient the worshipper toward the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The depiction of a flame, often linked to the menorah, symbolizes faith, the light of the Torah. Thus, “lighting the menorah means studying the Torah and observing its precepts.”4

Art, signs, and symbols

Menorah (bookmark). Paper and vegetable dyes. 14 x 21 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection. Five flames in the shape of birds and various Temple accessories.


Art and the Jews of Morocco

Arches and arcades in Jewish art


Detail of a megillah of Esther. Height: 14 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv. Illuminated parchment. Arches frame the text.

Arched openings were in nearly universal use. In Morocco, they were used as decorations in some Jewish crafts. Their arches came in various shapes: pointed, horseshoe, and cusped. Several arches could be combined in an arcade.

Flyleaf of a Kabbalistic manuscript by Chaim Vital, written and illuminated by the scribe Aaron Corcos, Marrakech, 1752. 14 x 18 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv.

Scribes used arches as designs in some manuscripts to frame the written portions. In a ketubah, the text of the contract was very often inscribed in an arcade. Arab Andalusian tradition led to the use of arches—horseshoe, cusped, or sometimes gothic at the top—in several very different categories of products, such as Hanukkah lamps, tappuhim, and haiti. Jewelers could use arch shapes for good-sized pendants and drops appended to some jewelry.

Right page Ketubah from Essaouira, 1848. Ink and paint on parchment. Height: 48 cm. Israel Museum, Jerusalem.


Art, signs, and symbols

Planished silver filigree temple adornment, Ouarzazate area. Height of drops: 12 cm. Dar Si Sa誰d Museum, Marrakech.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Brass tea service box. Height: 21 cm. Engraved decoration of intertwined arches.


Silver Hanukkah lamp cast in several pieces. Height: 29 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv. Flexuous decoration of branches, rosettes, and openings in horseshoe arches. Right page Part of a haiti panel, a tall silk velvet wall protection adorned with splendid gold thread decoration. Ouda誰as Museum, Rabat.


Art, signs, and symbols

Frieze of birds engraved on the side of a brass bowl, Marrakech, early 20th century. Height of decorated part: 6 cm.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Lion of Judah on a cover for the chair of the Prophet Elijah, Fez, AM 5716 (1956). Gold thread embroidery on velvet. Height of lion: 16 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection.


Right page Chased and stamped brass tray, the work of a Jewish artisan from Marrakech, 1932. Diameter: 53 cm. This is a veritable cosmogony. The lion and the horse represent life on earth, the birds suggest the sky with the moon, sun, and stars, while the fish, boat, and shells symbolize life in the sea.

THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, PLACE OF FREEDOM The formal prohibition against representations of living beings is clear in the Bible: “Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”13 But since ancient times, in different countries, these prohibitions have been violated by Jewish artists. In Morocco, in the popular view, certain animals are thought to be a baraka, and traditional beliefs and magical practices explain why their representations have been considered lucky charms or means of protection against jnoun, the jealous evil eye, and maleficent spells.14 We must carefully distinguish between uses conditioned by superstition and truly meaningful symbols to the Jewish communities.

In ancient times, tribes of the children of Israel chose animals as emblems and those are found in Morocco on Jewish objects. The lion represents the tribe of Judah, which lent its name to Judaism and thus the word Jew. The kings of Judah were descendants of King David, and it was from that family that, according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will come. Thus, for Jews, that animal is a symbol of radiant royalty and quiet strength, while also providing protection. Two erect lions are face to face in gold embroidery on fabric covering Elijah’s chair or the parocheth in synagogues.


Art, signs, and symbols

Detail of a plastron of a Jewish bridal costume from northwestern Morocco. MusĂŠe du Quai Branly, Paris. Gold thread embroidery on velvet depicting a double-headed eagle. Chased silver hamsa. Height: 13.4 cm. The Gross family collection, Tel Aviv. The presence of a cast and welded eagle gives added baraka to this amulet against the evil eye, which the daggers also combat.

Right page Central element of a necklace in the shape of a two-headed eagle. Silver gilt, emeralds, and rubies. Height: 9 cm. Jean-Louis Thau collection.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Two roosters on the top part of an openwork, chased silver Hanukkah lamp. Detail shown: approximately 12 cm in height. Wolfson Museum, Heichal Shlomo, Jerusalem.


Rooster embroidered in gold thread on a tallith bag from Fez. Decorated height: 14 cm. Dahan-Hirsch collection. The name of the owner, Dahan, is embroidered on it. Rooster embroidered in gold thread on a new-mother’s bag. See the entire bag on page 131. Dahan-Hirsch collection.

The tribe of Dan chose the eagle,15 the image of strength and prestige. When it has two heads, it is a mark of this duality. A gold eagle pendant, with one or two heads, adorned with emeralds and rubies, was one of the richest jewels of Tetouan and Tangier, popular for weddings. Today, Jewish families who emigrated to Canada, Spain, Israel, and South America, try to find one of the rare examples that still exist to borrow for weddings. Eagles were also used to decorate the hamsa (silver hand) and in gold embroidery on the plastrons of town Jewish brides. A peacock pendant was seen on some wedding necklaces and that bird was often incorrectly called an eagle.

The consideration given the peacock was due to the fact that it was a bird of Paradise. A peacock figure could be incorporated into paper cutouts that served as decorations in synagogues. Due to its aesthetic appearance, the peacock was sometimes depicted in the decoration of a brass tray or sqalli embroidery on velvet caftans, babouche slippers, or cushions, and this fashion persists even now. In the popular view, it had a beneficial image. When its tail is fanned, spots are revealed, a multiplicity of eyes that gave it, in the Muslim and Jewish traditions, a reputation for effectiveness against the evil eye.

Notes Chapter 1 1 Flamand, Quelques manifestations de l’esprit populaire dans les juiveries du sud marocain, [c. 1952a], pp. 23–32. 2 Eisenbeth, 1948, p. 9. 3 Boube-Piccot, 1999, p. 115. 4 Eisenbeth, 1948. 5 A trace of Moroccan Jews’ professions can be found in their name: Nejjar or Anidjar (carpenter),Niddam, Assayag, or Amzallag (jeweler), Hayat (tailor), Sebbag (dyer), Haddad (blacksmith), Harrar or Harrari (silk weaver), Altaraz (embroiderer), and Scalli (merchant or manufacturer of gold thread). 6 They were called Megorachim (exiles) in contrast to the Tochavim, who had settled in Morocco earlier. 7 Schroeter, 1999. Chapter 2 1 However, one exception is cast objects, because the products were then identical. 2 These include, for example, Rabbi Yehudah ben Attar, a famous jeweler in Meknes; Asher Knafo, a scribe and calligrapher; Rabbi David Elkaim, a carpenter, stone carver, and calligrapher known for his ketubah work, both in Mogador; Makhlouf Ohayon, the amine of the jewelers in Marrakech and leader of the Talmudic studies center at his synagogue; and Rabbi David ben Baruch, the amine silversmiths in Mogador. 3 Exodus 31: 1–5. All biblical references in English are from the JPS Tanakh (1917) —Trans.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

Numbers of chapters and verses given in these notes refer to the French translation of Louis Segond version 21, pubished in 2007 by the Geneva Bible Society (SG21). www.


Chapter 3 1 Leo Africanus, 1956. 2 Slaoui, 1999, p. 6. 3 Leo Africanus, 1956. 4 Lens, 1917. 5 Célarié, 1923. 6 Gilding techniques: see Rabaté and Goldenberg, 1999, p. 34. 7 Song of Songs, 8: 5. 8 Toledano, 1989, p. 128-129. 9 Deuteronomy, 6: 4–9. 10 Exodus, 20: 8, “Remember the Sabbath day”; Deuteronomy 5:12, “Observe the Sabbath day.” 11 Goudard, 1928, pp. 285–332.

Jacques-Meunié, 1962, p. 62. Flamand, Diaspora en terre d’Islam, les communautés israélites du sud marocain, [c. 1952a], p. 164. 14 Slousch, 1913, pp. 221–69. 15 Flamand, op. cit., [c. 1952a], p. 47. 16 Coon, 1931. 17 Flamand, Diaspora en terre d’Islam, pp. 50–51. 18 Besancenot, 1953. 19 Besancenot, 1986, p. 184. 20 Morin-Barde, “Coiffures, maquillages et tatouages” in Splendeurs du Maroc, Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, Tervueren, 1998, p. 346. 21 Gonzales, 1994. 22 Camps-Fabrer, 1982. 23 Zafrani, 2002 [1983], p. 154. 24 Gerber, 1980, p. 149. 25 Tazi, 2009, p. 17. 26 Massignon, 1925. p. 181. 27 Interview with a damascene artisan in Meknes, in 2002.

Ibid. p. 181. Ibid., p. 77. 26 Viola, lecture at the ICOC meeting in Marrakech (1997), published online at the time. 27 Rabaté and Sorber, 2007, p. 183.





Chapter 4 1 Gerber, 1980, p. 154. 2 Le Tourneau, Fès avant le protectorat, 1949, p. 651. 3 Ibid., p. 155. 4 Loti, 1990, p. 152. 5 Sorber, “Ceintures de Fès,” First International ICOC, Morocco, 1987, p. 98. 6 Ibid., p. 100. 7 Ibid. 8 Eisenbeth, 1948, p. 88. 9 Le Tourneau, 1949, p. 651. 10 Gerber, 1980, p. 155. 11 Vicaire and Le Tourneau, 1937, p. 67. 12 Ibid., p. 85. 13 Ibid. 14 Eisenbeth, 1948, p. 33. 15 Gerber, 1980, p. 154–155. 16 This can be assumed; it seems that the word shekel, of very ancient origin, given to modernday Israeli currency, has the same root as the word sqalli (“Sicilian”). 17 See Chapter 6, “Art, signs, and symbols,” p. 224. 18 Holy society in charge of funeral rites. 19 Three tunics, three spirals, the symbolism of the number three reflects body, mind, and spirit. It is also part of the Muslim tradition. 20 Ben Ami, “Decorated Shrouds from Tetouan, Morocco,” in Israel Museum Journal 8, 1987. 21 Interview with Mimoun, antiques dealer on the Rue des Consuls in Rabat, in 1970. 22 Interview with Abdelali Belghazi in his museum at Sidi Bouknadel-Salé in 1982. 23 See Denamur 23, 2003, p. 155, where a doorway from Rabat called “The Gardens of Rabat” was published.

Chapter 5 Gerber, 1980, p. 145. 2 Chastel, 1997, p. 225. 3 Ibid., cited p. 148. 4 Flamand, [c. 1952a], p. 160. 5 Gerber, 1980, p. 156. 6 Joly, 1906, Vol. 8, p. 262. 7 Interview with Rabbi Claude Sultan. 8 Rabaté, 2013, pp. 102–11. 9 Eisenbeth, 1948, p. 89. 10 Flint, 1967, p. 39. 11 Ibid., p. 38. 12 Rabaté, 2013, p. 235–36. 13 Naji, 2001, p. 117. 14 Flamand, [c. 1952a], p. 82. 15 Study of deposits and occurrences of pyrophyllite rocks in Morocco in Caïa, Dietrich, and Mazéas, 1968, pp. 37–92. 1

Chapter 6 Exodus 25: 31. 2 Shenkar, 1996, p. 88. 3 Exodus 27: 20–21. 4 Klagsbald, 1997, p. 125. 5 Genesis 3: 22. 6 Shenkar, 1996, p. 87. 7 Deuteronomy 4: 13; Exodus 24: 12. 8 Shenkar, 1996, p. 90. 9 Kings, 7, 21. 10 Shenkar, 1996, p. 88. 11 Some “grand costumes” have twenty-six circles (twenty-six is the numerical value of God’s name in Hebrew). 12 Rabaté, 2013, pp. 233, 235–36, and 257. 13 Exodus 20: 4; Deuteronomy 5: 8. 14 Goldenberg, Bestiaire de la culture populaire, 2000, p. 7.  15 For the tribe of Dan, the serpent is also alluded to (Genesis 49: 17), as well as the young lion (Deuteronomy 33: 22). 16 A Jewish proverb asserts that “Never did a snake or scorpion do harm in Jerusalem.” 17 See Rabaté and Goldenberg, 2004, pp. 297–98. 18 Rabaté, 2013, pp. 214 ff. 1

The red circles indicate the central regions where other dispersed settlements were located (see list below).

From north to south and west to east: SOUK EL ARBA DU RHARB Sidi Slimane, Sidi Kacem (Petitjean), Mechra Bel Ksiri. OUAZZANE Zoumi, Teroual, Arbaoua. OUJDA Ahfir (Martimprey du Kiss), Jerada Aïn Bni Mathar (Berguent), El Aïoun. RABAT Tiflet, Khemisset. FEZ Sefrou, Azrou, Aïn Leuh, Imouzer du Kandar, El Hajeb, Boulemane. MOHAMMEDIA (Fedala) Ben Slimane (Boulhaut), Rommani (Marchand), El Gara (Boucheron).

KHENIFRA El Kbab, El Ksiba, Arbala, Toulal. BENI MELLAL Aït M’Hamed, Azilal, Taounza, Bzou, Ouiouizert, Aït Taguella.

DEMNATE Sidi Rahal, Oulad Mansour, Foum Jemaa, Aït Imi, Aït Hkim, Rhezdama, It Kane, Tabant, Aït Bou Oulli, Tissent, Assamer, Tresal, Aït Brahim, Tazgzaout, Aït Bou Guemmez.

SAFI Chemaïa, Youssoufia (Louis Gentil).

TINGHIR Asfalou, Boumalne, Tiilit, El Kelaa des Mgouna, Goulmima, Tinejdad, Alnif.

ERRACHIDIA (Ksar es-Souk) Rich, Kerrando, Gourrama, Er Rehba, Mederhra, Bou Denib, Bou Anane.

RISSANI Sijilmassa, Alnif, Taberrhsent, Irara, Tiredouour, Amadid.

ESSAOUIRA (Mogador) Tamanar.

FIGUIG Tendrara, Bouarfa.

MARRAKECH Tahanaout, Asni, L’Ourika, Aït Ourir, Taddert, Amizmiz, Arrhen, Goundafi, Oulad Zennaguia.

OUARZAZATE Telouet, Skoura, Irhilbien, Issers, Imaoulin, Asselm, Irhris, Aït Bou Amer, Ouled Brahim,

Zerekten, Agouim, Anezal, Oulad Roha, Oulad Kboula, Igli, Timicha, Iferkane, Amerk’Soud, Oulad Abbou, Oulad Bourious, Talemt, Aït Oussi. TALIOUINE Aoulouz, Irhil n’Oro, Oulad Berhil. AGADIR Aït Baha, Biougra. TAFRAOUT Tahala, Anezi. ZAGORA Tamegroute, Amezrou, Tagounite Beni Sbih, M’Hamid. BOU IZAKARN Ifrane Anti-Atlas, Illirh.

© André Goldenberg


GLOSSARY AMULET: small object that is worn on the body to which protective properties are superstitiously attributed. ASHKENAZIC: (from the Hebrew word meaning “German”; noun and adjective): describes the Northern European Jewish cultural group (extending from northern France to Russia, thus comprising predominantly German-speaking regions). BABOUCHE: heel-less leather shoe worn in Muslim countries, whose quarter (rear part) is absent or folded inward. BAR MITZVAH (Hebrew word): ceremony celebrating the entry of a young boy (thirteen years and one day) into the religious community. BAROQUE PEARL: irregularly shaped pearl (as opposed to spherical pearls). BREASTPLATE: decorated flat piece of metal protecting and adorning the mantle shrouding the Torah scrolls, to which it is affixed. CAFTAN (word of Turkish origin): long robe worn in Muslim countries. COHEN (Hebrew word): priest of the Temple of Jerusalem; the last names of the descendants of these priests are variations on the word.

Art and the Jews of Morocco

HABDALAH (Hebrew word): Saturday evening ceremony ending the Shabbat; it marks the end of the holy day and the return to secular life. HAGGADAH (Hebrew word): religious text recounting the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, read during the Seder meal that opens the Passover festivities. HAMSA (Arabic word meaning five): type of jewelry in the form of a hand or with five decorations suggesting the number, considered protective. HANUKKAH (Hebrew word): winter Festival of Lights commemorating the victory against the Greeks who held the Temple of Jerusalem and its rededication. It lasts for eight days, during which wicks are lit on a special lamp with eight oil cups every night. The lamp is called a hanukkiah. HANUKKAH LAMP/HANUKKIAH: oil lamp used during the festival of Hanukkah*. JNOUN (Arabic word, plural of djinn): name given to the genies, beings that supposedly inhabit an unseen world, and mostly regarded as maleficent.

MEGILLAH (Hebrew word): parchment scroll containing the text of the Book of Esther, read on the festival of Purim. MELLAH (Arabic word): walled quarter where Jews in some cities were compelled to reside, and by extension, the small, isolated settlements inhabited solely by Jews. MENORAH (Hebrew word): seven-branched candelabrum, originally the one that lighted the Temple of Solomon, whence its sacred symbolism; this name is also given to any lamp evoking the shape of that object and to papers depicting it. MEZUZAH COVER: refers to a decorated object (fabric, metal) brought by ​​ the bride to the marriage (often bearing her surname below the divine name, Shaddai) to cover and adorn the mezuzah* of her new home. MEZUZAH (Hebrew word): small parchment scroll containing sacred Hebrew texts, which must be placed in a case on the right doorpost of all houses inhabited by Jews. MIZRACH (Hebrew word meaning east): synagogue decoration, often an image of a menorah, indicating the direction of Jerusalem. MOUCHARABY (Arabic word): discretely perforated wooden window screen.

DOME OF THE ROCK (improperly called Dome of Omar, Mosque of Omar, etc.): the third holiest site in Islam, it is a shrine built in the late seventh century, in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. For Jews, this place is the location of the First Temple (also known as Solomon’s Temple) and the Second Temple, both destroyed before the beginning of the Common Era. This explains the representation of the Dome of the Rock as a symbol evoking the Temple in decoration on Jewish objects.

KABBALAH (Hebrew word): set of texts offering mystical and esoteric approaches to Judaism and the world.

MOUSSEM: in Morocco, annual regional festival, originally religious (usually to honor a saint), often associated with a fair and recreational activities.

KABBALISTIC: adjective used here to mean relative to the Kabbalah, the fairly esoteric and mystical part of the Jewish religion.

PASSOVER: major spring festival commemorating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

ETERNAL LIGHT: name given to commemorative lamps placed in synagogues. Families have them made to perpetuate the name of a deceased person.

KETUBAH (Hebrew word): Jewish marriage contract.

ETHROG (Hebrew word): citron, fruit of the citron tree (a type of citrus tree), used for the rites of the festival of Sukkoth.


GHARNATI (Arabic word): Granadan. This term refers to a particular town goldsmithing motif widely used in Morocco, reflecting the Andalusian influences perpetuated in Jewish jewelry crafts.

KESWA EL-KEBIRA (Arabic words): the grand costume, the name given to the complex garment worn by Jewish brides for the wedding day and by married women on important occasions.

KIPPUR (Hebrew word meaning atonement): Jewish festival considered the holiest of the year (Yom Kippur), devoted to penance and marked by prayers and fasting.

FASSI (Arabic word): from the city of Fez.

KOSHER (Hebrew word): said of solid or liquid food prepared in accordance with the Hebrew laws (and in more limited senses, e.g. for farm animals slaughtered in a ritually proper manner for eating, or wild animals fit for consumption).

FOOD COVER: usually decorated fabric for covering the plate of bread prepared for the Shabbat dinner or other rituals dishes.

LEBBA (Arabic word): necklace of precious metal and stones worn in the cities for weddings or parties, consisting of a row of hollow beads and tiered drops.

FULET HAMSA (Arabic words): pendant with four lobes but five decorative motifs, hence the word hamsa (five) and the supposed beneficial nature of the jewelry.

MAGHEN DAVID, SHIELD Of DAVID (commonly called Star of David): six-pointed star, whose shape is obtained by superimposing two equilateral triangles in reverse.

ETZ CHAIM (Hebrew words, “tree of life*”): one of the wooden rollers on which the parchment of the Torah is wound.

PAROCHETH (Hebrew word): curtain (usually decorated) over the Ark of the Law where the synagogue’s Torah scrolls are stored. PESACH: name of Passover in Hebrew. PIYYUTIM (Hebrew word, plural of piyyut): liturgical poems. PURIM: festival commemorating the miraculous events whereby the Jews of Persia, threatened with extermination, owed their ​​ salvation to the intercession of Queen Esther RABBI/SOFER (Hebrew word): a religious leader of the Jewish community and at the same time a ritual scribe, specifically for copying religious texts and possibly decorating manuscripts with illuminations. SEDER (Hebrew word, literally, “order”): name given to the ritual meal eaten on the first two nights of Passover. SEDER PLATE: plate used for the Seder* meal, with visible cavities for the ritual components. SEPHARDIC (from the Hebrew word meaning Spanish): refers to Jews from Spain and their

Art and the Jews of Morocco (extrait)  
Art and the Jews of Morocco (extrait)