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Sefarditas:

The Jews of North Morocco

by Vanessa Paloma & Peter G. Svarzbein


The Jewish community in Tangier, cultured, refined, cosmopolitan, international and educated is quite distinct from other Jewish communities in Morocco. The members themselves historically have had a clear sense of distinction and a self-perception of cultural and social superiority. This diamond of the Spanish-speaking Moroccan Jewish community, Tangier, separated by the physical and psychological border around the International Zone, celebrated community and life cycle events with ritual and song. Many of these Romances and wedding songs are the same as those found in the other cities of the North. However, there are some that belong more specifically to Tangier’s repertoire and that recount stories that happened in the community. The predominance of Haquetía (Moroccan Judeo-Spanish) as a language of communication and cultural transmission is the most obvious marker that establishes the complex identity that combines Moroccan Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish within one language.


Synagogue, Tangier


Jews & North Morocco: A brief timeline

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Jewish Cemetary. Tangier


Synagogue, Tetouan


Jan Ben Gualid Tangier We would say, so what does that one know anyways? He only knows what’s written in the book. Because, every synagogue and every family has minhagim. As you see, for instance Birkat Hamazon (Grace after the Meal), I say it differently that what’s in the book. The first Harajaman (The merciful) I say ‘al kise kevodo ve’al kise tifartó’(To his honored throne and his beautiful throne). It was something that impressed me quite a bit. We were sitting in the sukkah with some people and my uncle was there and he recited the Birkat HaMazon out loud. And when he added al kise tifartó, I asked, what is it that he said? And they told me. That is the difference between people that know and people that don’t know.


Shmoli Halevy Tangier

We would say, so what does that one know anyways? He only knows what’s written in the book. Because, every synagogue and every family has minhagim. As you see, for instance Birkat Hamazon (Grace after the Meal), I say it differently that what’s in the book. The first Harajaman (The merciful) I say ‘al kise kevodo ve’al kise tifartó’(To his honored throne and his beautiful throne). It was something that impressed me quite a bit. We were sitting in the sukkah with some people and my uncle was there and he recited the Birkat HaMazon out loud. And when he added al kise tifartó, I asked, what is it that he said? And they told me. That is the difference between people that know and people that don’t know.


Chaim Bitbol Tangier

We would say, so what does that one know anyways? He only knows what’s written in the book. Because, every synagogue and every family has minhagim. As you see, for instance Birkat Hamazon (Grace after the Meal), I say it differently that what’s in the book. The first Harajaman (The merciful) I say ‘al kise kevodo ve’al kise tifartó’(To his honored throne and his beautiful throne). It was something that impressed me quite a bit. We were sitting in the sukkah with some people and my uncle was there and he recited the Birkat HaMazon out loud. And when he added al kise tifartó, I asked, what is it that he said? And they told me. That is the difference between people that know and people that don’t know.


Perla Assayag Tangier

Independence did not affect us so much, because we were considered to be Moroccan, even though we are of Hebrew nationality. Mohammed V said we were Moroccan subjects and that there was no difference between Muslim and Hebrew. There was no distinction between them, everyone spoke Arabic and Spanish... in the old city, Spanish, Italians, Moroccans and Hebrews lived together. The United Nations had an ad in the newspaper saying they were going to open an office in tangier and they needed bilingual personnel. My mother encouraged me to write a letter and apply. Then I asked my father’s opinion and he said I should try and see how it went. I applied, and took the language exam and did well. They hired me and I worked for the United Nations in Tangier for 33 years until I retired ten years ago.


Jan Ben Gualid Tangier

We would say, so what does that one know anyways? He only knows what’s written in the book. Because, every synagogue and every family has minhagim. As you see, for instance Birkat Hamazon (Grace after the Meal), I say it differently that what’s in the book. The first Harajaman (The merciful) I say ‘al kise kevodo ve’al kise tifartó’(To his honored throne and his beautiful throne). It was something that impressed me quite a bit. We were sitting in the sukkah with some people and my uncle was there and he recited the Birkat HaMazon out loud. And when he added al kise tifartó, I asked, what is it that he said? And they told me. That is the difference between people that know and people that don’t know.


Don Salomon Tangier

Independence did not affect us so much, because we were considered to be Moroccan, even though we are of Hebrew nationality. Mohammed V said we were Moroccan subjects and that there was no difference between Muslim and Hebrew. There was no distinction between them, everyone spoke Arabic and Spanish... in the old city, Spanish, Italians, Moroccans and Hebrews lived together.


Don Salomon Tangier

The relationship between the Jews and the Muslims was perfect, truly perfect. Most of the Jews spoke Arabic. Back then the Jews spoke more Arabic than now. Now people hardly speak Arabic. Tangier was an International Zone and everyone was together, everyone. Moroccans and Spanish were together. My mother was very religious, but she never went to synagogue. She would only go on Kippur. But she did keep different plates for milk and meat and light the Shabbat candles and separate the challah, but she never went to synagogue‌ When they (the women) had some problem they would pray, in front of the Mezuzah, so that God would have mercy on them. I also do this, and I light candles to the Jewish saints.


Purim, Tangier


Rachel Pinto Tangier

Some of the Jews started to have ideas about problems in Morocco. There were others that were optimists, they decided to stay and gamble on the Moroccan card. Thank G-d it has gone quite well for them, because time showed that the optimists were right. Those that stayed have been able to live here quite well and have raised their families nicely. We only know the Northern area, Alcazar, Larache, Asilah, Tangier, Tetouan and that’s it. We have only gone once in a while to Casablanca. Because there really is quite a difference between us and the people from there. I don’t know how to speak Arabic, here we speak Spanish. I feel myself to be Spanish.


Jewish Community Offices, Tangier


Elias Benchimol Tetouan

There’s a story about the Tefilá de Hermanita (Sister’s shul) that on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), right at the moment of the Selihot the Bima became illuminated. Basically, the sun came out right on the Bima, and people would say, careful because that Bima was illuminated on Yom Kippur with a ray of sunlight that came directly on it. I lived in Tetouan my whole life, we lived in the Judería. First, during the Spanish Protectorate and then after independence in [19]56 we were together with Spanish, Moroccans and Hebrews. Actually, my parents said that after Independence we had everything. Before, during the Protectorate, for example, we might not have tomatoes for a whole year.


Sonya Rada Tangier

There’s a story about the Tefilá de Hermanita (Sister’s shul) that on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), right at the moment of the Selihot the Bima became illuminated. Basically, the sun came out right on the Bima, and people would say, careful because that Bima was illuminated on Yom Kippur with a ray of sunlight that came directly on it. I lived in Tetouan my whole life, we lived in the Judería. First, during the Spanish Protectorate and then after independence in [19]56 we were together with Spanish, Moroccans and Hebrews. Actually, my parents said that after Independence we had everything. Before, during the Protectorate, for example, we might not have tomatoes for a whole year.


Rofildo & Suzanna Azoulay, Tetouan


Boris Toledano Larache/Casablanca In Larache we had the Talmud Torá, but the classes were held in the military precinct. This was how we were able to take our Hebrew classes. There was no Jewish school when I was young. We would have skits on Purim and we would sing the ancient Spanish songs like Rachel Lastimoza. Also songs with Tango music. We sang one that went like this: When all the Christians leave Morocco Never to return, The Jews will rest and we won’t be perverted anymore. Now we don’t even think to pray Nor in making business, We only think about dancing. We don’t wear the Djoha anymore That the Jewish girls loved to look at… But the Jews of Larache all went to Spain after Morocco’s independence. They moved to Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia… it was easier for them to find work, also because the Spanish government gave them all Spanish passports without any trouble.


Momo Hayone Tetouan

There’s a story about the Tefilá de Hermanita (Sister’s shul) that on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), right at the moment of the Selihot the Bima became illuminated. Basically, the sun came out right on the Bima, and people would say, careful because that Bima was illuminated on Yom Kippur with a ray of sunlight that came directly on it. I lived in Tetouan my whole life, we lived in the Judería. First, during the Spanish Protectorate and then after independence in [19]56 we were together with Spanish, Moroccans and Hebrews. Actually, my parents said that after Independence we had everything. Before, during the Protectorate, for example, we might not have tomatoes for a whole year.


Momo Hayone Tetouan

There’s a story about the Tefilá de Hermanita (Sister’s shul) that on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), right at the moment of the Selihot the Bima became illuminated. Basically, the sun came out right on the Bima, and people would say, careful because that Bima was illuminated on Yom Kippur with a ray of sunlight that came directly on it.


www.mongovision.com vanessapaloma.blogspot.com


The Jews of North Morocco