Date of Award
Union College Only
Bachelor of Arts
moroccan, community, jewish, french, jews
Moroccan Jews, who can trace their heritage in Morocco over 2000 years back, boasted a flourishing population of over 340,000 in 1940. As a result of French colonialism, Vichy French laws, the pull of Zionism, and a wave of Arab Nationalism, the population became extremely diminished by the end of the 1970’s. By the time of Moroccan Independence, the popularity of emigration, both for religious and secular motivations, the reality of the existing isolation amongst a French-influenced but Arab-governed state, and the overwhelming crisis identity had intensified and the community continued to decrease. The trends observed by the Moroccan Jewish community between the years of 1940-1973 would only prove as a pre-cursor to the remainder of the 20th century and continue to plague the extremely diminished community of approximately 4,000 Jews in 2008. Throughout this time the community has lost 296,000 people due to emigration outside of Morocco, leaving the shrinking existing population to pick and choose around their religion, ethnicity, and nationality in finding a community identity. This is the backdrop of what I have explored throughout my research in Morocco. I wanted to understand why so Jews chose to leave, why the remaining 4,000 chose not to leave, and what the treatment and status of the community was along the way. Most importantly, I wanted to discover how Moroccan Jews defined themselves; how they chose an identity with so many competing forces, both local and international, pulling their allegiance. Would the community, linked closely to the French colonial state leading up to World War II, choose a French identity? Or, after over 2,000 years on Moroccan soil, would they be purely Moroccan? With the aid of literature by Laskier, Stillman, and many others, in addition to five primary sources from interviews which took place in December 2007, I aimed to unveil the many motivating factors of Jewish emigration from the Maghreb to France, Israel, and beyond. I found that these questions are still plaguing the Moroccan Jewish community today. Many younger Moroccan Jews consider themselves to be primarily Moroccan while also a part of the Jewish faith, while some of the older generation say they can never be fully Moroccan and are Jewish first. I discovered that in many scenarios it would depend on the particular family to understand one’s incentives for staying or leaving. Nevertheless, I hope to demonstrate the complexities, both past and present, of the Moroccan Jewish community.
Hissong, Kristin L., "Immigration, isolation, and identity : investigating modern Moroccan Jewry" (2008). Honors Theses. 1472.