Welcome to Rabat

Jewish participation in Moroccan society goes back a very long way. When the Arabs arrived in the 9th century, many Jews were silversmiths. When the Arabs arrived, they introduced gold, and the silversmiths became goldsmiths. Thanks to their metalworking abilities, they were commissioned to mint the money. When they asked what symbol should be on the back, they were told, “something lucky,” so they put the magen David, the six-pointed star. This “lucky symbol” was part of the Moroccan flag until the French colonialists insisted on removing it. Today the flag has a five-pointed star, representing the pillars of Islam

Under most – though not all- Moroccan dynasties, Jews have fared well, or at least better than in other Arab countries. The Jewish quarter in most cities, the melah, was next to the palace. Here in the capitol, Rabat, the area still exists, but all of the city’s 110 Jews live in a newer part of town, near their synagogue.

During WW II, Morocco fell under the collaborationist Vichy government. The Nazis had two labor camps built near Rabat to gather Jews, and they delivered a shipment of yellow stars. King Mohammed V was told that they were for his Jewish citizens. He said, “we have no Jewish citizens; in our country we have only Moroccans.” When pressed further he said, “however many yellow stars you have, make fifty more for me and my family.” The Jews of Morocco never wore stars, and none were deported. His grandson, Mohammed VI requires school children to learn about the Holocaust, and students in Casablanca visit the Jewish museum (the only one in any Arab country) to learn of the 2000 year-old Jewish presence. We made that visit today, and saw artifacts from 62 different communities, including a Torah scroll from an 1100 year-old synagogue in the Sahara!
All this evidence of Jewish-Muslim co-existence gives me hope that one day it could be recreated throughout the Middle East.

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Hello from Morocco!

After an uneventful flight on an aging Royal Air Maroc plane, we arrived early this morning. Once settled at the hotel, we went out for a stroll, and ended up in the Ancienne Medina (the Old City). Wandering in the souk (market), my eye caught this sign (below) down a small alleyway, marking the home of a 19th century rabbinic scholar. It’s evidence of the long-standing relationship between Jews and Muslims here in Morocco. More about that tomorrow. The Jewish community here dates back 2000 years, and now includes descendants of Berber tribesmen who were attracted to Judaism. A second major wave of immigration – about 40,000 people – came from Spain with the retreating Muslims in the 1480’s. It should surprise no one that there was conflict between the original Jews and the new immigrants, and the separation between the two remains.

From a high of about 350,000, the current Jewish population of Morocco is 5000, of whom 3500 live in Casablanca. This city boasts 28 functioning synagogues, 6 kosher restaurants, 18 kosher butchers, a network of Jewish schools, and old-age home and more. I’ve been here only 14 hours, and I’m very impressed!

 

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New Windows in the Sanctuary

No rest for the dusty! The renovation of the sanctuary continued this week, and you can see the progress, particularly the creation of windows on the back wall, in the photos below. The carpet and asbestos tiles have also been removed, so we’re safe and sound moving forward!

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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – July 6

Wherever we have lived throughout our wanderings, Jews have been extraordinarily loyal citizens of our adopted countries.  In part it is to combat the frequent charge of dual-loyalty that followed us from country to country.  But even more it has been out of love and appreciation for our adopted homelands.  The Jewish love affair with America goes all the way back to our arrival in New Amsterdam over 350 years ago.  America has been very good to the Jews.  So it is fitting that we take some time on the Shabbat closest to July 4 to acknowledge all that America has meant to us.  Tonight we will be outdoors, and tomorrow we’ll be in the chapel.  Celebrate Shabbat and America with us!

One other note:  on Sunday I leave for a familiarization tour of Jewish Morocco.  If the hotel wifi works, I hope to post photos and thoughts on the blog at our new website.  Please take a look beginning Monday evening at http://www.tba-ny.org/blog-page/.

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Our Sanctuary Renovation Begins!

Here we go, the first week of renovation work in the sanctuary has begun! Here are a few photos of the demolition work that began on Monday. Glad it’s not in my house!

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Welcome to Our New Website!

Hi, everyone, welcome to our new Temple Beth Abraham website! We are enormously grateful to Robert and Leah Shiffman and family for their generous donation that made this site possible.

It’s a work in progress, if you see something that you think should be changed, just shoot us an email at info@tba-ny.org and we’ll do our best to fix it or add to it or change it or build it.

It’s going to be a very exciting summer at temple with the renovation of the sanctuary (thanks to Judy Cohen and her family!) starting on June 25th. We’ll be using this blog to provide updates and photos of the renovation as it happens.

Here are some rudimentary drawings of the changes to come:

I hope you have a lovely and relaxing summer and we look forward to celebrating the new year with you in our new sanctuary!

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