.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in Hebrew. Click [show] for important translation instructions. Machine translation, like DeepL or Google Translate, is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Consider adding a topic to this template: there are already 417 articles in the main category, and specifying|topic= will aid in categorization. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing Hebrew Wikipedia article at [[:he:יהדות מרוקו]]; see its history for attribution. You should also add the template ((Translated|he|יהדות מרוקו)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.
Moroccan Jews
יהדות מרוקו (Hebrew)
اليهود المغاربة (Arabic)
Jews of Fez.jpg
Jews of Fez c. 1900
Total population
> 1,000,000
Regions with significant populations
472,800 (born in Morocco or with a Moroccan-born father)[b][3]
 United States~25,000[7]
 United Kingdom567[13]
Hebrew, Judeo-Moroccan Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Haketia, Judeo-Berber, French, Spanish.
Related ethnic groups
Other Jewish ethnic divisions, particularly Maghrebi Jews and Sephardi Jews

Moroccan Jews (Arabic: اليهود المغاربة, romanizedal-Yahūd al-Maghāriba Hebrew: יהודים מרוקאים, romanizedYehudim Maroka'im) are Jews who live in or are from Morocco. Moroccan Jews constitute an ancient community dating to Roman times. Jews began immigrating to the region as early as 70 CE. They were later met by a second wave of migrants from the Iberian peninsula in the period which immediately preceded and followed the issuing of the 1492 Alhambra Decree, when Jews were expelled from Spain, and soon afterward, from Portugal. This second wave of immigrants changed Moroccan Jewry, which largely embraced the Andalusian Sephardic liturgy, to switch to a mostly Sephardic identity.

The immigration of Moroccan Jews to Israel has occurred throughout the centuries of Jewish history. Moroccan Jews built the first self-made neighborhood outside the walls of Jerusalem (Mahane Israel) in 1867,[15] as well as the first modern neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Tiberias.[16]

At its peak in the 1950s, Morocco's Jewish population was about 250,000-350,000,[17] but due to the migration of Moroccan Jews to Israel and other nations, including Operation Yachin from 1961 to 1964, this number has been reduced to approximately 5,000. The vast majority of Moroccan Jews now live in Israel, where they constitute the second-largest Jewish community, approximately half a million.[3] Other communities are found in France, Canada, Spain, the United States and South America, mainly in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina.

The affection and respect between Jews and the Kingdom of Morocco is still palpable. Every year rabbis and community leaders across the world are invited for the Throne Celebration held every 30 July in Rabat. During the celebration in 2014, Rabbi Haim A. Moryoussef of Canada dedicated his book "Le Bon Oeil - Ben Porath Yossef" to the King Mohammed VI and offered him a handwritten blessing on parchment wishing him a healthy, long and successful life.[18]


Main article: History of the Jews in Morocco

Etching of Jewish home in Mogador, Darondeau (1807–1841)
Etching of Jewish home in Mogador, Darondeau (1807–1841)

Moroccan Jews constitute an ancient community, immigrating to the region as early as 70 CE. Emily Gottreich contends that Jewish migration to Morocco predated the full formation of Judaism, as the Talmud was "written and redacted between 200 and 500 CE."[19] In accordance with the norms of the Islamic legal system, Jewish Moroccans had separate legal courts pertaining to "personal law" under which communities (Muslim sharia, Christian Canon law and Jewish halakha law-abiding) were allowed to rule themselves under their own system.

Particularly after the Alhambra Decree, many Sephardi Jews migrated from al-Andalus to the Maghreb as refugees fleeing the inquisition in Spain and Portugal.[20] They are referred to as the Megorashim,[21] while the Jews already in Morocco are referred to as the Toshavim.[22] Many Iberian Jews settled in Fes and Marrakesh.[20] In the following centuries, Conversos who had been banished to Iberian colonial possessions in the Americas and the Atlantic reclaimed their Judaism and also resettled in Morocco.[20]

In the mid 19th century, Moroccan Jews started migrating from the interior of the country to coastal cities such as Essaouira, Mazagan, Asfi, and later Casablanca for economic opportunity, participating in trade with Europeans and the development of those cities.[23] The Alliance Israélite Universelle opened its first school in Tetuan in 1862.[24]

Balconies in the Mellah of Fes, an old Jewish neighborhood, distinguish the homes from homes of Muslims at the time.[25]
Balconies in the Mellah of Fes, an old Jewish neighborhood, distinguish the homes from homes of Muslims at the time.[25]

After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and due to domestic strife in the 1950s, the next several decades saw waves of Jewish emigration to Israel, France and Canada. Shay Hazkani found that of the 20,000 who performed aliyah in 1948-1949, 1,000 served in the IDF, of which 70% wished to return home. Only 6% managed to do so, given various bureaucratic obstacles like the Israeli confiscation of their passports and Moroccan resistance to their repatriation.[26][27] Moroccan Jews emigrated for a variety of reasons. Some have emigrated for religious reasons, some faced persecution, and others left for better economic prospects than they faced in post-colonial Morocco. With every Arab-Israeli war, tensions between Arabs and Jews would rise, sparking more Jewish emigration. By the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the majority of Morocco's Jewish population had emigrated.[28]

As a protectorate of France, parts of Morocco were heavily influenced by French culture, while the same is true of the portions of the country that belonged to Spain. Traditionally, the Jews were classified as being French-Moroccan or Spanish-Moroccan depending on where in Morocco they lived, and remnants of these classifications can be felt today. These differences are reflected in language, foods, last names and even liturgy.[citation needed] Early photographs of Moroccan Jewish families, taken in the early 20th century by German explorer and photographer Hermann Burchardt, are now held at the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.[29]

Most Jews in Morocco lived in desolate areas during the late 1930s. This was in part due to increased taxation by the French protectorate. In 1936, Léon Blum, a Jewish man, was appointed as prime minister of France. This gave some Moroccan Jews hope that they may be able to become French citizens at some point, as Algerian Jews gained French citizenship with the Crémieux Decree. Algerian Jews were granted right of passage to France, and this only furthered the desire of Moroccan Jews to embrace French culture to the extent of the Algerian Jews.[30]

During the Moroccan struggle for independence in the 1950s, several promises were made to ensure equal rights to the Jewish community in a future independent Morocco, in part due to lobbying efforts of Morrocan nationalists in the US.[31]

A small community of around 2,000–2,500 Jews live in Morocco today. However, in a rapidly increasing trend, young men from the community are emigrating to Israel and France.[32] As of 2017, according to The Economist, "No Arab country has gone to the lengths of Morocco to revive its Jewish heritage."[33] The country has restored 110 synagogues and has the Arab world’s only Jewish museum.[33] More than 50,000 Israelis visit Morocco annually.[33]

Communities today

Beth-El Synagogue in Casablanca in 2017
Netivot Yisrael congregation in Brooklyn.
Netivot Yisrael congregation in Brooklyn.
Jewish cemetery, Essaouira
Jewish cemetery, Essaouira

Jewish quarters in Morocco

The Jewish quarters in Morocco were called mellahs. Jews in Morocco were considered ''dhimmis''' under Muslim law, meaning that they were a protected religious minority, that were distinguished from the Muslim majority, and were prevented from participating in certain activities.[37] However, dhimmis such as Jews were tolerated, following the Pact of Umar in the 7th century, unlike the policy of intolerance that the Christians practiced with the Jews at that time in Europe. Sultans put Jews in the mellahs, as what most see as an attempt to ostracize the Jews, and keep them from being exposed to insurgents.[38] The Jewish quarters in Moroccan cities were called Mellahs. The Sultans also wanted the Jews to be protected for political reasons. An attack on minorities was seen as an attack on the Sultan's power. The Sultan put the Jews in the Mellah for their safety, as well as to protect the Sultan rulings from being tested by insurgents.[37] The word mellah is similar to the Hebrew word for salt, melach (מלח). The term mellah refers to the salty, marshy area where the Jews of Northern Morocco were originally transferred and gathered.[39] The mellah was not a ghetto and was not structured in a way similar to Jewish quarters in Europe.[39] By the 1900s, most Moroccan cities had a mellah.[39]


Moroccan Jewry has developed as a hybrid of the many cultures that have shaped Morocco itself, namely Jewish, Arab, Berber, French and Spanish.


Jewish Festival in Tetuan, Alfred Dehodencq, 1865, Paris Museum of Jewish Art and History
Jewish Festival in Tetuan, Alfred Dehodencq, 1865, Paris Museum of Jewish Art and History

Even before the arrival of Sephardi Jews to Morocco, Moroccan Jews performed and developed the traditions of the Andalusian classical music and introduced it into their Liturgical music. In his book "Jews of Andalusia and the Maghreb" on the musical traditions in Jewish societies of North Africa, Haim Zafrani writes: "In Spain and Morocco, Jews were ardent maintainers of Andalusian music and the zealous guardians of its old traditions ...."[40]


One of the most famous dishes of Moroccan Jewish cuisine is the traditional sabbath meal: skhina (سخينة, a literal translation of Hebrew: חמין "hot"), also called dfina (دفينة "buried").[41] There's also a kosher version of pastilla.[42]

Mahia, an aperitivo distilled from dates or figs, is traditionally associated with Morocco's Jewish community.[43]


Traditional Henna parties usually take place within the week before a special occasion, such as a wedding, Bnei Mitzvah, or baby showers. During pre-wedding Henna parties, the Matriarch of the family (often the grandmother) smudges henna in the palm of the bride and groom to symbolically bestow the new couple with good health, fertility, wisdom, and security. The henna is believed in Moroccan tradition to protect the couple from demons. The grandmother covers the henna, a dough-like paste produced by mixing crushed henna plant leaves with water, in order to lock in body heat and generate a richer color. Normally, the henna will dye skin orange for up to two weeks. In Moroccan folklore, the bride is exempt of her household duties until the henna completely fades. After the bride and groom are blessed with the henna, the guests also spread henna on their palms to bring good luck.[citation needed]


Although most Moroccan Jews tend to dress in styles of their adopted countries, traditional Moroccan clothing is sometimes worn during celebrations (Mimouna, weddings, Bar Mitzvas, etc.) or even during more intimate gatherings, such as Shabbat dinner. Men usually wear a white jellaba (jellabiya) cloak while women wear more ornate kaftans.


Mimouna is celebrated by many Moroccan Jews on the night following the last day of Passover. It has spread to be an almost national holiday in Israel where it is particularly prevalent in cities where there is a large concentration of Moroccan Jews like Ashdod, Ashkelon and Natanya.

Religious observance

Main article: Minhag Morocco

Many Rabanim have passed through and sojourned in Morocco leaving behind great influence. In 2008, a project to preserve Moroccan Torah and the words of its Ḥakhamim was initiated. DarkeAbotenou.com was created by a few members of the Toronto Sephardic Community; devoting their time and effort to increasing global awareness of the customs and laws that Jews of Morocco live with every day. Daily emails are sent in both English and French containing the customs, laws, and traditional liturgy of both the French and Spanish parts of Morocco. This daily publication is currently broadcast in both English and French.[44]


The observer of a typical Moroccan Jewish prayer service will note the presence of Oriental motifs in the melodies. However, unlike the tunes of Eastern rites (Syrian, Iraqi, etc.), which were influenced by Middle Eastern sounds, Moroccan Jewish religious tunes have a uniquely Andalusian feel. Furthermore, just as Eastern liturgical melodies are organized into Maqams, Moroccan liturgy can be classified by Noubas. The Moroccan prayer rite itself is also unique among Sephardic customs. The Moroccan nusach has many unique components but has also incorporated numerous Ashkenazic customs due to the country's proximity and exposure to Europe. Some customs of the Moroccan nusach include:

Religious customs


Relationship with the Makhzen

Moroccan Jews have held important positions in the Makhzen throughout their history. André Azoulay currently serves as an advisor to Muhammad VI of Morocco.


In the 20th century, there were a number of prominent Moroccan Jewish Communists including Léon Sultan, Elie Azagury, Abraham Serfaty, and Sion Assidon.[47] In the words of Emily Gottreich, "although the [Moroccan Communist Party] welcomed everyone, it held special appeal for urban educated elite; almost all of Morocco’s prominent Jewish intellectuals joined the party at one time or another."[48]

Israeli politics

All ten of the founding members of the Israeli Black Panthers—a short-lived 1970-1971 protest movement that worked against "ethnic discrimination and the 'socioeconomic gap,'" a group inspired by anti-Zionist university students—were children of Moroccan immigrants.[49][50]

Mordechai Vanunu, a whistleblower who revealed information on Israel's nuclear weapons program and was later abducted by Mossad in Rome and incarcerated in Israel, was born in Marrakesɦ.[51][52]

In Israel, many Moroccan Jews have risen to prominence in politics such as Amir Peretz, Orly Levy, Arye Deri, Miri Regev and Naama Lazimi.


Main article: Genetic studies on Jews

Over the years, the Moroccan Jews' DNA was examined and studied by numerous studies, the general image of it showed that in terms of Y-DNA it was mainly from the same Levantine source as the vast majority of the world's Jewry, meaning that they too are descendants of the Ancient Hebrews/Israelites from the Biblical times.[citation needed] In the case of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews (in particular Moroccan Jews), who are apparently closely related, the non-Jewish component is mainly southern European.[53]

Genetic research shows that about 27% of Moroccan Jews descend from one female ancestor.[54] Analysis of mitochondrial DNA of the Jewish populations of North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Libya) was the subject of further detailed study in 2008 by Doron Behar et al.[55] The analysis concludes that Jews from this region do not share the haplogroups of the mitochondrial DNA haplogroups (M1 and U6) that are typical of the North African Berber and Arab populations.[55]

Behar et al. conclude that it is unlikely that North African Jews have significant Arab, or Berber admixture, "consistent with social restrictions imposed by religious restrictions," or endogamy. This study also found genetic similarities between the Ashkenazi and North African Jews of European mitochondrial DNA pools, but differences between both of these of the diaspora and Jews from the Middle East.[55]

In a 2012 study by Campbell et al., however, the Moroccan/Algerian, Djerban/Tunisian and Libyan subgroups of North African Jewry were found to demonstrate varying levels of Middle Eastern (40-42%), European (37-39%) and North African ancestry (20-21%),[56] with Moroccan and Algerian Jews tending to be genetically closer to each other than to Djerban Jews and Libyan Jews.[57][58][59][60] According to the study:

"distinctive North African Jewish population clusters with proximity to other Jewish populations and variable degrees of Middle Eastern, European, and North African admixture. Two major subgroups were identified by principal component, neighbor joining tree, and identity-by-descent analysis—Moroccan/Algerian and Djerban/Libyan—that varied in their degree of European admixture. These populations showed a high degree of endogamy and were part of a larger Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish group. By principal component analysis, these North African groups were orthogonal to contemporary populations from North and South Morocco, Western Sahara, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. Thus, this study is compatible with the history of North African Jews—founding during Classical Antiquity with proselytism of local populations, followed by genetic isolation with the rise of Christianity and then Islam, and admixture following the emigration of Sephardic Jews during the Inquisition."[56]

See also


  1. ^ According to BBC Arabic in 2004. The World Federation of Moroccan Jewry estimated close to 1 million as of 2019.
  2. ^ As of 2010.
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  29. ^ Jewish couple in Morocco on the roof of their house; Jewish family during the Feast of Tabernacles on the roof of their house; Moroccan Jews in 1905, by Hermann Burchardt; Jewish family, 1905; The Saba Synagogue, 1905; Jewish family in their home; The Ibn (Aben) Danan Synagogue, in the Mellah of Fès (click to enlarge); Jewish family in Morocco, early 20th century (click on photo to enlarge); Family portrait, Morocco.
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