world jewry

Event in Morocco touts Afro-Jewish heritage


Representatives of Jewish communities from more than 20 countries gathered in Rabat, Morocco, to sign a declaration calling for “individuals, civil society and governments” to recognize Jewish ties to Africa and undertake educational and cultural initiatives to raise awareness of African Jews’ experiences.

A five-point resolution urged collaboration in the “preservation, rehabilitation and renovation” of African Jewish historical sites and underscored the need to grant Jewish voices in Africa more opportunities.

Beginning in Rabat at the Policy Center for the New South and ending two days later at the Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca, the conference featured delegates from the United States, Cape Verde, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa.

A highlight of the summit was presentation of the Moses African Jewish Leadership Awards. Notable recipients included Trabelsi, Cape Verde’s Minister of Communities Jorge Pedro Mauricio dos Santos, and Israel’s first ambassador of Ethiopian descent Belaynesh Zavadia.

The Mimouna Association, a Moroccan nonprofit dedicated to preserving Moroccan Jewish heritage, and the American Sephardi Federation organized the event with support from USAID and Moroccan state-run chemicals company Office Chérifien des Phosphates.

“African Judaism is ancient, rich and diverse. Despite the insignificance of the Jewish population, especially after the establishment of modern-day Israel in 1948, the Jewish African population is way more ethnically, culturally and ritually diverse than any other Jewish community,” a representative for Mimouna told JNS.

“Throughout history, Africa has been a place of refuge and rebirth for the Jewish people. The Sephardi astronomers and artists, travelers and traders, publishers and philosophers who pioneered today’s cosmopolitan world were frequently from or found in Africa,” said American Sephardi Federation executive director Jason Guberman.

“As a Jewish Namibian businesswoman, I am greatly encouraged by this action to bring the preservation of an often-overlooked aspect of Africa’s heritage to the world stage,” said Strategic Director of the Pupkewitz Group Andrea Berry.