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


Sylvia said...

It would be helpful to specify that "Joint" here refers to the Joint Distribution Committee and not to any substance.

The year was 1943. The Jews of Morocco were forced to abandon the suburbs and reintegrate the Mellahs as stipulated in Vichy imposed dahir of August 8 1941.
We're talking of the very same Nazi racial law that herded the Jews of Warsaw suburbs into the Waesaw ghetto and that's how they came to be 400 000 in that ghetto in 1942.
Yet, no one in their right mind would dream of describing the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 without mentioning that tiny detail that they're in Nazi occupied Poland at the height of WWII.
Why do they allow themselves to cut those corners when it comes to Moroccan Jews I wonder.

bataween said...

Good point, I have added a mention

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

The Germans and Vichy French applied the preliminary stages of the Holocaust in North Africa. The Italians in Libya were not eager to go all the way with the Germans but eventually the Italians in Libya were overwhelmed and the Germans took more or less complete control and imposed labor camps, racial laws (passed in Italy actually circa 1938), etc. But the Germans were driven out of North Africa in 1943 before they were able to complete the planned extension of the Holocaust.