The Mimouna is a holiday celebrated by Moroccan Jewry. Jews have lived in Morocco, located in the Western part of North Africa, since Roman times. They were ruled by a variety of different peoples, including, during the past few centuries, the Arabs and the French. During all that time, Moroccan Jews maintained the customs of their forefathers and lived a life of Torah and mitzvot.
The Jewish community was dispersed throughout the country, although most lived in the larger cities. They were well-integrated in commerce, various trades and crafts and lived in harmony with their Arab neighbors. Some Jews were simple farmers in villages in the Atlas Mountains. Nonetheless, the Jews of Morocco still felt they were in exile and longed to make aliyah to Israel.
Over the generations, the community produced many important leaders and halachic scholars. A prominent sage, who lived in the city of Fez during the 11th century, was Rabbi Yitzhak Alfasi, the Rif.
Many books were published in Morocco, including books of poetry and Jewish law, kabbala, Biblical exegesis and the Talmud. The Jews of Morocco were meticulous in always setting aside time for Torah study.
The Rabbis occupied a central place in the community. They had widespread influence among members of the community, whom they encouraged to observe the Torah and mitzvoth.
In Morocco, a special emphasis was placed on education.
At the age of four, children were sent to a heder called “Salah.” They began by learning by alphabet, and soon moved on to reading the Bible. Once the children finished studying in heder at the age of fourteen, they moved on to yeshiva.
During the mid-19th century, the “All Jews are Brothers” (Kiyach) organization established modern schools, where youngsters learned French, as well as scientific and technical subjects. Many of the graduates of these schools went on to earn university degrees in Rabat or in France.
Occupations of Moroccan Jews
Many Jews worked in jewelry making. This was very delicate work and the Jews of Morocco became famous for creating gold and silver jewelry as well as Jewish holy objects.
In the small towns and villages, many Jews made their living from weaving. They were also employed in leather processing, wood engraving and copper work. In the large cities, Jews worked in the wholesale trade and import-export business, and established factories which provided a living for the town’s inhabitants.
Pictures reproduced with permission from the Bengio Family Web Site ©