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Schooling and journey went hand-in-hand on this thrilling Touro summer season journey led by Professor Simcha Fishbane. College students earned three school credit whereas visiting 9 cities and quite a few villages. We skilled diversified cultures in every locale, from a tour of Rabat to a panoramic tour of Casablanca and the historic sights of Fez, together with the house of the Rambam and quite a few kevarim (grave websites) and shuls. I used to be joined by my esteemed colleagues, Touro President Dr. Alan Kadish and school and lecturers Dr. Israel Singer, Michael Newman and Dr. Stanley and Professor Esther Boylan.   

Along with lectures and excursions, the group bonded over camel, ATV and boat rides and BBQs within the desert.

Judaism in Morocco Right now

Upon arrival in Rabat, we had been welcomed by Andre Azoulay, a pacesetter of the Jewish neighborhood and senior monetary advisor to King Mohammed VI. Azoulay briefed us on the standing of the native Jewish neighborhood, which now consists of 1,800 Jews whose common age is 70, and roughly 40 school-age youngsters who’re primarily offspring of the Rabbis and mashgichim who stay in Morocco. We later realized that Morocco is the one financially viable nation in North Africa, largely due to this Jewish finance minister, who can also be a daily shul-goer.

The present Jewish neighborhood members residing in Morocco, similar to Rabbi Sebbag and Rabbi Banon, impressed us with their religiosity, spirit and optimism, and their stunning prayer service. They don’t take flippantly their position as gatekeepers to the 2000-year-old Jewish conventional life in Morocco, previously house to over 350,000 Jews, together with among the most revered rabbis and tzaddikim.

Visiting the Previous

Whereas a lot of the Moroccan Jewish neighborhood relocated to Israel after the 1967 struggle, our tour took us again in time to the primary Jewish settlements over 2,000 years in the past. Curiously, Jews got here to Morocco even earlier than the Moslems, whose origins date a lot later, within the seventh and eighth centuries. We felt as if we had been strolling within the footsteps of our holy ancestors.

School and college students, younger and outdated, had been deeply impacted upon viewing the deserted shuls, cities and colleges that when brimmed over with Jews at prayer or going about their day by day routine.  

As we traveled from one metropolis to the subsequent over lengthy rural stretches of dry, stony dusty areas often peppered with withered bushes, I shared Morocco’s Holocaust historical past. When confronted with having to show over Jews by order of the French Vichy authorities, the 30-year-old Moroccan sultan, Mohammed V, refused, stating, “There aren’t any Jews in Morocco, there are simply Moroccan residents.” The sultan needed to adjust to among the anti-Jewish legal guidelines, however Jews weren’t pressured to put on a yellow star nor had been they eradicated from professions or pressured to surrender their property. Not a single Jew was deported. Briefly, like King Christian X of Denmark, Mohammed V protected the Jews of his nation.

One other very important part of our journey was connecting to the nice rabbis of Morocco. By way of lectures given by Dr. Stanley Boylan, together with “The Rambam and the Rif residing in Fez,” we had been capable of achieve context and really feel deeply rooted to our Jewish previous. Once we prayed on the grave websites of our most revered leaders, we understood their world views and the lives they led. 

All through the tour, our Moroccan information and creator of Jews Below Moroccan Skies, Raphael Elmaleh was capable of make Moroccan historical past come alive. College students requested in regards to the lasting legacy of Maimonides in addition to the contributions of on a regular basis Jewish laborers, retailers, artisans and craftsmen to Moroccan society and in regards to the mass emigration of Moroccan Jewry. Solutions weren’t given from textbooks, however slightly by visiting, seeing and experiencing.

A Trendy Monarchy

Dr. Singer shared his evaluation of the range of Morocco’s political and spiritual make-up all through the ages. He defined that as a constitutional monarch, King Mohammed VI extends a powerful arm within the governance and policymaking of Morocco. As a result of he has devoted assets to enhance the lot of the poor and promote ladies’s rights, he seems to be nicely cherished by the plenty. King Mohammed VI additionally established funds for the restoration of Jewish websites and has mandated Holocaust schooling. Like his grandfather Mohammed V, Mohammed VI is well-liked with the small Jewish inhabitants who view themselves as protected by his royal authority. Dr. Singer defined that his favorable perspective towards Jews is predicated on a large number of things together with economics, particularly trade and tourism, given the 1000’s of Jews who sojourn to Morocco annually.  

“King Mohammed VI regards Jews as cultured and educated and appears upon Israel as a profitable nation with 1000’s of startups and a booming tech sector. He sees Jews as vital to the relationships he desires to forge and keep with Israel,” mentioned Singer.

Based on Dr. Singer, tolerance slightly than persecution accords Morocco a really excessive place within the Moslem world. Right now, Jews take pleasure in full rights as Moroccan residents.

The promotion of girls’s rights was evident as we visited the Amazigh (Berber) Village within the desert, the place ladies have began a rising enterprise of harnessing argan oil from nuts and procuring a singular, worthwhile and transportable beauty trade. Whereas the older Amazigh ladies produce the oil, their daughters do the advertising and gross sales. 

An Expertise of a Lifetime

Esther Boylan, professor of Jewish Research at Touro summed up the journey as “certainly one of contrasts, placing variations and shut associations. From the impoverished Amazigh villages to the opulent edifices within the imperial cities, from the stench of the tannery to the scent of the spices and gardens… from the minarets to the winding allies of medinas, from the majestic mountains to the dry desert, from the holy locations to lodges and palaces, Morocco taught us how the traditional and trendy coalesce.”

Tamar Levine, a graduating senior who’s majoring in psychology at Touro’s Lander Faculty for Girls echoed Professor Boylan’s remarks: “It was fascinating to expertise a singular tradition and society that I might not in any other case have had the chance to discover. It was uplifting to be taught in regards to the historical past of the Moroccan Jewish neighborhood. It was additionally an important alternative to spend high quality time with different Touro college students and school. This journey was really an expertise of a lifetime.”

As we return to the classroom within the weeks forward, we are going to all absolutely apply the hands-on studying expertise we had in Morocco to our research as lecturers, college students, lifelong learners and doers. The relationships cast exterior the classroom will little doubt join us and improve our studying. As one scholar acknowledged, “we started the journey as a Touro College group and ended it extra like a Touro household. “

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