The line to
enter New York City’s B’nai Jeshurun synagogue on Sunday night went around the
But the 700
people who crowded the sidewalk on West 88th street weren’t there for services.
Or for a wedding. Or a late-night bar mitzvah.
to celebrate a king — a Moroccan king, to be exact.
Morocco's Mohammed V, wearing white robes, walking with the country's Grand
Vizier Si Mohammed El Mokri after he placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown
Warrior at the Arc De Triomphe during a visit to Paris, France around July 4,
1930. (AP Photo)
ceremony, organized by the KIVUNIM: The Institute for World Jewish Studies as
part of their three-day 10th anniversary conference, celebrated the creation of
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. – Rabbi Abraham Heschel Award and its first
recipient, the late King Mohammed V of Morocco, who protected the country’s
250,000 Jews from the occupying Vichy French forces and the Nazis during World
early 1940s, Morocco was still a French protectorate controlled by the
pro-Vichy government. When, in 1941, the occupying forces attempted to enact
legislation discriminating against Jews, the king — only 32 at the time —
refused. “There are no Jews in Morocco, only subjects,” Mohammed V reportedly
the strong decision of the sovereign, [the] Moroccan Jewish community was
neither detained nor deported or murdered in concentration camps,” said Serge
Berdugo, secretary general of the Jewish communities of Morocco and
ambassador-at-large. “All Moroccans, Jews or Muslims, enjoyed his full
Berdugo continued, represents the American Jewish community’s ”recognition of
the deep convictions, the moral approach and brave policy,” of the late ruler,
who died in 1961.
Geffen, founder and executive director of KIVUNIM, a gap-year program which
allows students to travel around the world to learn about Jewish life in the diaspora,
was overjoyed by the turnout.
have a majestic story that we have all allowed to remain unknown,” he said.
“This story has the power to inspire, and challenge the entire way we view a
situation and a people.”
Lalla Hasna, Mohammed V’s granddaughter and sister to Morocco’s King Mohammed
VI (and wearing a caftan of Jewish embroidery), accepted the award designed by
Jay Greenspan. KIVUNIM alumni also presented the princess with a “khata” scarf
of the Buddhist tradition given to the organization by the Dalai Lama.
Azoulay, a Jewish advisor to the king, read out an official speech on his
to you as 2015 draws to a close, I am sure you realize that my understanding of
the honour bestowed on the Kingdom of Morocco tonight is more than a mere
reminder of an exemplary page of history written more than 70 years ago,” he
need, more than ever, to ponder the lessons and relevance of this part of
history in order to stand up more forcefully to the deadly aberrations of those
who are hijacking our cultures, our faiths and our civilizations. We are living
at a time and in a world in which the collective imagination of our societies
is too often impaired, not to say poisoned, by regression and archaism. By capitalizing
on the depth and resilience of the legacy left by my revered grandfather His
Majesty Mohammed V, we can, together, set out to recover the lost expanses of
reason and mutual respect which have vanished from many parts of the world.”
words are especially timely. In October, JTA reported that the Simon Wiesenthal
Center “expressed concern at what it described as a proliferation of
expressions of anti-Semitism in Morocco” after a pro-Palestinian demonstration
in Casablanca featured men dressed as Orthodox Jews being led away to a fake
execution. In 2013, two bills aiming to criminalize trade with Israel were
introduced to the country’s Parliament. Neither one has been passed into law.
Bouskila of Brooklyn’s Netivot Israel Congregation opened the festivities with
a traditional Moroccan prayer for the king. B’nai Jeshurun’s Rabbi Jose Rolando
Matalon then joined Imam Id Youssef Hassan of Farouk Mosque in reciting a
blessing of peace.
students travel to twelve countries each year, including India, Greece, Turkey,
Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic and, of course, Morocco. In 2011, KIVUNIM
co-sponsored the first Holocaust conference in the Arab world with the Mimouna
Foundation, their Muslim student partners, at Al-Akawayne University in Ifrane,
States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David
Saperstein, representing the government, acknowledged the program’s
honored to be here with KIVUNIM,” he said. “The hundreds of American Jews who,
through KIVUNIM, have studied Arabic, learned about the Islamic religion,
studied about and travelled to Morocco — where, most importantly, they have
built lasting relations with people who are at once so different and so much
the same as themselves. This is a message of hope to all people of goodwill
attendees included Morocco’s Ambassador to the United States Rachad Bouhlal,
U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Dwight Bush and Ambassador, Permanent Representative
of Morocco to the United Nations, Omar Hilale.
concert of Jewish and Arabic music by David Broza and Mira Awad wrapped up the
Sunday’s event summed up his organization’s mission to create a “differently
informed Jew for the future of the world.”
among the most intellectual of peoples and our diaspora has been the most
enriching experience in our people’s history,” he said. “This is not the end,
this is the beginning.”
was the Forward’s deputy digital media editor. When she’s not looking for the
secret Jewish history of Voodoo in New Orleans, or making lists about Ruth
Bader Ginsburg, she writes for The Assimilator. She graduated from the Columbia
Graduate School of Journalism with an M.S. magazine concentration in 2012.
Headline: Honoring the Moroccan King Who Saved the Jews
Source: https://forward.com/news/breaking-news/327772/honoring-the-moroccan-king-who-saved-the-jews/?fThe Forward