Saturday, May 09, 2015
From darkness to light: The Joint in Morocco
With thanks: Imre and Janet
This rare publicity video from the Israel State Archives is an advertisement for the underrated but essential work of the American Joint Distribution Committee in Morocco. The Joint celebrated its centenary last year.
Until the Joint in Casablanca brought forth 'light' by beginning operations in 1943, Jewish life in Morocco was in darkness. It had not changed for centuries. Jews were confined to ghettoes *- cities within cities. Some 60,000 Jews were crammed into the Mellah in poverty. They were uneducated and suffered trachoma and other endemic illnesses.
Interestingly, the video dates the beginning of the end of the Moroccan Jewish community to 1955, when the French protectorate came to an end and Morocco declared its independence: "each man asked what future lay in store for his child". The video thus lays the blame for the demise of Moroccan Jewry at the door of decolonisation.
While it is true that Morocco did not enforce state-sanctioned discrimination against Jews (unlike other Arab states) Jews were squeezed out of economic and social life by arabisation and the hostility of Moroccan nationalists. Then there was the constant threat of, or actual, violence.
*The Joint video omits to specify that in accordance with anti-Jewish rules Jews were made to move back into city mellahs in Vichy-occupied Morocco in 1941.
How Morocco's Jews became shadows