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The Jews of Morocco. 369 


While so much righteous indignation is being stirred up 
among us with regard to the barbarities daily chronicled 
in Russia, we are apt to overlook the condition of the Jews 
in Bai*bary itself. From time to time statements are made 
on behalf of the Jews of Morocco, and momentary interest 
is aroused, but ere long they seem again forgotten. Shall we 
wait until the treatment meted out under the regime of the 
Czar is imitated under that of the Sultan of the Maghreb ? 
Or shall we, by united effort and by timely zeal, prevent the 
arrival of such a crisis ? Which were better, to be snatched 
from drowning or to be kept from danger ? It is seven- 
and-twenty years since the mission of Sir Moses Montefiore 
to Marrakesh obtained some slight concessions to the 
Jewish subjects of the Sultan, for which they have been 
ever thankful ; but there is much more to be done. Bad 
as the position of the Moor himself is, under a rotten 
Government, that of his Israelitish neighbour is much 
worse, and ever will be till the Morocco rulers learn that 
even Jews have friends, and powerful ones, and that many 
of themselves are powerful. With a new generation the 
memories of the Montefiore Mission have passed away, and 
though the whole policy of the Moorish Government and 
its attitude towards foreigners have undergone changes for 
the better during the past quarter of a century, there is 
still much to be done. At the same time, the fact must 
not be overlooked that no royal or imperial rescripts, no 
Shereefian firmans, can afford the Morocco Jews the friend- 
ship or respect which they would fain experience. Nothing 
but their own behaviour can secure them these, and it will 
be long before the evil impressions of ages can be removed. 
For a right appreciation of the present position and 

370 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

future prospects of these communities some idea of their 
past history is needful. Though of course of one common 
stock, they are divided into two distinct classes, the one 
being formed of the descendants of those who first settled 
in Morocco, now to be found in their unmixed state only 
in the interior, chiefly in the Atlas. The other class con- 
sists of those who emigrated to Morocco when in the 
fifteenth century zeal-mad Spain expelled her Jewish 
subjects. Those who took refuge on the Moorish coast 
soon absorbed their co-religionists in their neighbourhood, 
and gave rise to what is to-day the more cultured and im- 
portant section of the two. It will be well, therefore, to 
consider them separately before drawing any general 
conclusion applicable to the whole, though it is as one 
body that after all they appear to their rulers and the 
outside world. The main distinction has ever been the 
language, for while the one has spoken Berber and Arabic, 
the other has spoken Spanish and Arabic. The proportion 
who speak both Berber and Spanish — always with the 
intermediary Arabic — is microscopic, if it exists at all. As 
in other countries, the Jews of Morocco have shown them- 
selves apt linguists, ever ready to master French or 
English in addition to their mother tongues, but the special 
facilities aflbrded in favour of the former in some towns 
enable it to be spoken the more correctly. The lads in the 
Tangier schools put the majority of English boys to shame 
with their assiduity and perseverance in this respect. The 
merest smattering is turned to the best account in practice 
upon visitors, till the progress made is often astonishing. 


How far back to date the first arrival of Israelites in 
that part of Barbary which we call Morocco, I am at 
a loss to say, though no doubt some of the diligent his- 
torical delvers, who bring so much of interest to light 
through the pages of this Review and kindred publications, 

The Jews of Morocco. 371 

may be able to inform us. My researches have lain rather 
among such materials as during six years on the spot have 
come to hand in daily intercourse with my subject, than 
among dusty tomes and worm-worn pages. The people 
themselves have no intelligent idea of their past, beyond 
that at some stage or other their ancestors hailed from the 
Holy City. Some have opined that one of the earlier dis- 
persions sent them forth, and doubtless there are in 
Morocco a few descended thus ; but from the completeness 
of the teachings in their possession, it is evident that the 
bulk of the immigrants belonged to a later period. 

The utmost I can attempt to do is to bring together 
a few scattered data gleaned from various sources, which, 
with no pretence at completeness, may serve as beacon 
lights along their history. The earliest authentic references 
I have come across are in connection with the invasion 
of the Arabs cir. 670 C.E., who found Jews already estab- 
lished in Morocco. Several references to this fact occur 
among the native historians, but one of the most curious 
is by Ibn Khaldoon, who says that in the year 688 the 
Berbers were allied against the Arabs under a queen 
named Dhimmeeah el Kahanah, or the Tributary Sooth- 
sayer, who belonged to the Jewish tribe of Jerooa, of the 
Aures mountains. Where these are I know not, but the 
designation "tributary" is that always applied to a Jew in 
Moorish legal documents, instead of the national appel- 
latives, Yahoodi or Hebrani, the former of which is in 
conversation applied to the people, and the latter to their 
language. Similar allusions in various quarters show that 
a goodly number of Jews must even at that early date 
have found their home in Morocco. In one of the legends 
which recount in so many ways the founding of Fez, 
about 807 O.E., a native Jew plays his part, and as soon 
as the town began to rise, a number of Jews took refuge 
there, and were allotted a quarter to themselves, on the 
payment of tribute of 30,000 dinars a year in lieu of 
military service. This tax continues to be levied, not 

372 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

only in Fez, but throughout the kingdom, though of course 
the sum has increased very many times during these 
centuries. Owing to the present Sultan's generosity this 
tax has been paid very irregularly, and is much in arrear 
in some parts. 

In 1275 the mob rose against the Jews of Fez, and 
fourteen had already been slain when the Ameer, riding 
to the spot himself, succeeded in quelling the tumult. He 
forbade any Moor to approach the Jewish quarter, and 
next morning laid the foundation stones of New Fez, in 
which he accorded them the district they still inhabit. 
Previous to this time it would seem from the record called 
Raod el Kartas (the Garden of Documents) that their 
home was in the centre of the old town, for in 1133, when 
the famous Karuee'in Mosque was enlarged, the adjoining 
property of certain Jews had to be seized and paid for at 
a valuation. The quarters thus allotted to their Jewish 
subjects by the Moorish Sultans after a time became known 
either as the Mellah (place of salt), or as the Missoos (the 
saltless place). The former designation is explained by 
the fact that the Jewish butchers are forced to pickle the 
heads of rebels which are to be exhibited according to 
custom above the gates of the towns as a warning to others. 
The latter name is given in derision, saltlessness and worth- 
lessness being terms proverbially synonymous. 

It is probable that the Jewish inhabitants of Morocco 
have never been free from a certain amount of oppression, 1 
and that from the first they have had to suffer indignities 
which have long been regarded from both sides as matters 
of course. Under the heading of the present condition 
of the Moorish Jews an opportunity will be afforded of 
dealing further with these indignities, of which too many 
still exist, as also with the causes or excuses for some of 

1 For the persecutions of the Jews of Moiocco and of North Africa 
generally, during the reign of Abd Allah bin Toomert, cir. 1146, see 
Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, VI. 170. 

The Jews of Morocco. 373 

Whether any of the Jews expelled from Italy in 1342, 
from Holland in 1350, from France and England about 1400, 
found refuge in Morocco, with most of those expelled from 
Spain in 1492, 1 and from Portugal two years later, I must 
leave others to determine, but it is very likely that to them 
some of the Moroccan families owe their origin. Those 
who sought shelter with the Moors from the outset suffered 
treatment hardly better than that which had driven them 
forth, and the story of their sufferings is a harrowing one. 

Pages of Honour. 

In spite of the subservient position enforced upon these 
" Tributaries " by their cousins, the Arabs, their inherent 
cleverness was no less manifest in Barbary than elsewhere, 
and those who oppressed them also took care to avail 
themselves of their business qualities. At times the rulers 
of the Empire drew their chief advisers from this race. 
The influential posts once held by Jews under the Moorish 
dominion of Spain, and the renown of many of their 
learned men during that period of comparative enlighten- 
ment, are sufficiently known to need no recapitulation 
here ; but it may be well to recall the names of some of the 
famous Israelitish diplomats of the Moorish Empire in 
Africa. Their most prosperous time in Morocco itself 
would seem to have commenced soon after the expulsion 
from Spain, and it was doubtless the arrival of so many 
men of higher training and superior ability which secured 
them these posts. Shoomel-el-Barensi was one of the first 
to rise to power, as Minister of the Ameer Sa'id-el-Watas, 
who reigned during the first quarter of the sixteenth cen- 

1 Prof. Oraetz, ibid., VIII. (ed. 3, 1890), p. 360, seq., gives a full account 
of the Jews who found an asylum on the Berber Coast in 139], as also in 
1492. In Fez exiles at the latter date were well received by MulaY Sheikh, 
though the populace at first was unfavourably disposed to them. A 
general survey of the Jews in Morocco is given in the opening chapter of 
Graetz's ninth volume. 

374 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

tury ; and his influential position opened the court of Fez 
to many a co-religionist. This was the hey-day of the 
Moorish Jews, as one after another of their number became 
a sort of privy councillor, notably during the reign of 
Mohammed VIIL, in 1576. As controllers of finances the 
successive Sultans had the same experience of them as have 
European potentates, but they also employed them as 
ambassadors. In 1610 Shoomel-el-Farrashi was sent by 
Mula'i Zeedan as his representative to the United Provinces, 
and he was succeeded in 1675 by Yoosef Toledano, whose 
brother Haim was Ambassador to England. Few ever exer- 
cised more power in the Moorish Court than did the 
favoured Maimaran at the close of the seventeenth cen- 
tury, without whose money and influence the brutal Mulai' 
Ismail would never have reached the sultanate. Though 
he virtually ruled his poorer brethren, he had a formid- 
able rival in Moses Ben Attar, whose inhumanities 
rivalled those of his master. It is this man's signa- 
ture which appears as Moorish plenipotentiary at the 
foot of the treaty with Great Britain of 1721, which was 
the basis of every subsequent agreement with European 
nations, and also laid the foundation of the Protection 
system. It is a curious and interesting fact that a 
Jew should have, on the Moorish side, permitted the 
entrance of the thin end of a wedge which has since 
entered so much further as to have become not only the 
sine qua non of intimate European relations with Morocco, 
but also the one hope of the Jews in the country almost 
ever since that time. But Ben Attar's competitor Maimaran 
offered the Sultan so many coins for his head, and the 
millionaire Moses of those days, being informed of the bid, 
offered twice as much to reverse the bargain, which then 
became his ; but the Sultan, having pocketed both sums, 
commanded the two he could so ill spare to become friends, 
Maimaran to give his daughter to Ben Attar, who hence- 
forth stood supreme. An instance of both his power and 
his cruelty was afforded on the occasion of the British 

The Jews of Morocco. 375 

Embassy of 1720, when he had his Gibraltar agent brutally 
maltreated and all but strangled for cheating, without the 
interference of any other authority, or the semblance of a 

In 1750 the Morocco Ambassador to Denmark was a 
Jew, and thirty years later Yakoob ben Ibraheem, of Bent 
Idder, came to London in the same capacity, being succeeded 
in 1794 by one named Zumbal, who had been in charge of 
the Sultan's finances, and was high in favour. St. Olon 
had found him thus when he went to Marrakesh as envoy 
from France just afterwards. Yakoob Attar, who acted as 
secretary to Mohammed X., had the credit of speaking 
English, French, Spanish and Italian — presumably in an 
original style — and of being a great rogue. In 1859 an 
English Jew from York was captain of the port at Mogador, 
and it is stated that one Sultan had a Jewish cook. 

To-day, though no son of Israel holds office of note 
under the Sultan, many of those whose parents enjoyed 
European protection, and who have become to a greater 
or less extent Europeanized, occupy positions of influence, 
both among natives and foreigners, such as hardly a single 
Moor has attained. 

Folk Lore and Fact. 
There exist among the Moors a number of curious tradi- 
tions concerning tribes among the Berbers who are affirmed 
to have once been Jews. Unfortunately these are too frag- 
mentary and too scattered to be of any real service till 
they have been collated, compared and condensed by some 
painstaking student of Folk Lore. To such an one there 
is little doubt that they would yield abundant interest, and 
at the same time furnish historic clues of importance. In 
a similar way other tribes in the Anti-Atlas are reported to 
have once been Christian, and an entangled series of myths 
is current about them all. To unravel the most prominent 
would be a worthy undertaking, but a toilsome labour of 

376 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

This question as to the presumed Jewish origin of certain 
tribes is of itself most interesting, and there is probably 
some foundation for it. One writer states that Mulaii 
Edrees, the founder of Fez, was considered a saint because 
he secured the conversion of so many Jews to Islam. The 
unfortunate Davidson, who rashly attempted to cross the 
Atlas unprepared, half a century ago, and lost his life in 
consequence, was told of such a tribe who betrayed their 
origin by their features, and who, according to the Arabs, 
had a Jewish odour about them. They engaged in com- 
merce only, or acted as clerks, and although Mohammedans, 
never attained to high civil or religious positions, nor did 
they observe the Friday as the " Day of the Congregation." 

Side by side with these rather doubtful reports of con- 
versions is a series of accounts of advantage taken of some 
thoughtless word to inflict punishments for presumed 
apostasy. In 1820 a Jew, in a tipsy condition, was caught 
entering a mosque, and was induced to testify belief in the 
Divine mission of Mohammed. Realising, when sober, next 
day, what he had done, he went to the governor to explain 
the matter, but word being sent to the Sultan that he had 
recanted, the answer came, " On the arrival of the courier, 
off with the Jew's head and send it to me." Within half 
an hour after the message arrived the head was on its way 
to Court in a leather bag. 

The story of Sol Hachuel is far more touching, and is, 
indeed, one of genuine heroism. Two Moorish women 
swore, in 1834, that this Hebrew girl, who had fled to them 
on account of domestic troubles, had agreed to " resign 
herself" to the will of God as taught by Mohammed. 
After imprisonment for some time, she was sent to Court, 
and her extreme beauty obtained for her a promise of the 
imperial hareem with every honour, if she would but con- 
firm her presumed change of creed. But her noble courage 
brought her to a martyr's death, for she was beheaded out- 
side Fez. 

It is hardly possible that this sort of thing should be 

The Jews of Morocco. 377 

repeated now, though theoretically the same threats exist 
for the pervert from the faith of Islam. Richardson, 
writing in 1859, tells a story, then fresh, of a Jewish lad, 
who went to his Kai'd and proclaimed himself Mohamme- 
dan, hut this official, with greater sense than usual, sent 
him to prison till next day, when he had him beaten and 
sent back home. In reply to King John of England, whom 
a well-known ecclesiastical historian l states to have ap- 
pealed to Morocco for help against Louis and the Pope, 
— offering to hold his kingdom in fief from Morocco, and to 
embrace Islam — the Sultan En-Naser expressed a similar 
sentiment. " I have read a book in Greek by a Christian 
sage named Paul," he told one of the ambassadors, 2 " whose 
words and doings greatly pleased me, but what displeased 
me was that he left the religion in which he was born. I 
say as much to the king, your master, who now wishes to 
leave the Christian law, so holy and so pure. God knows 
— He who is ignorant of nothing — that if I was without 
religion I would choose it in preference to any other." 
But Mulai' En-Naser overlooked the fact that Paul accepted 
Jesus as the promised Messiah because he was born and re- 
mained a Jew ; that to become a Christian one must become 
a Jew by religion first, and that to become Mohammedan 
great portions of the teachings of both must be accepted. 
Mohammed held his creed to be the natural outcome of 
Christianity as we Christians consider our creed the fulfil- 
ment of Judaism. 

A set of traditions, perhaps more curious than those of 
desertions from the Jewish ranks, exists to account for the 
earliest peopling of the country itself. Authors, too many 
to quote, tell of legends that Morocco welcomed the nations 
whom Joshua drove out of Canaan, and from Procopius 
downwards they have offered proofs in the shape of pillars 
with inscriptions, and stories handed down without them, 
but hitherto all these have failed to prove their case, 

1 Matthew Paris. * Robert of London, a priest. 


378 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

although it may nevertheless have some foundation in 

Present Condition. 

Morocco is an absolutely non-statistical country ; for 
this reason it is altogether impossible to arrive at any 
conclusion as to the actual numbers of the Moorish Jews, 
or even as to the proportion which they bear to the popula- 
tion of the country. Even if one endeavours to mentally 
form an idea, it is an impossibility to do so without an 
intimate acquaintance with every town of the Empire, for 
they are much more numerous in one part than in another, 
and even their agglomeration in one town often means their 
sparsity in its immediate neighbourhood. In Tangier, the 
advantages afforded by the presence of so many foreigners, 
by the opportunities for trade, and, above all, by the com- 
parative immunity from the indignities inflicted further 
inland, have all tended to allure considerable numbers, and 
to keep them there. For these reasons it is probable that, 
out of some 25,000 inhabitants, of whom some 5,000 are 
Europeans (there are 3,500 Spaniards and 500 British sub- 
jects on their respective Consular registers), as many as 
7,000 or 8,000 are Israelites. Mogador, which ranks 
second to Tangier as a busy port, takes the same posi- 
tion with regard to its Jewish population. It has been 
estimated by men well able to judge that the average pro- 
portion of the Jewish inhabitants of the towns is one- 
fourth ; though out in the country, with the exception of 
the Atlas district, it is only under the protection of powerful 
governors, few and far between, that little colonies of the 
peculiar people thrive. The largest settlement is naturally 
found in the largest city, Fez, the dwellers in which are 
reckoned at 150,000, including, perhaps, 30,000 Jews. 

With the exception of the ports of Tangier, Arzila, 
Casablanca, Mazagan, and Safri, every town, and almost 
every hamlet, has its Jewish quarter, wherein alone, en- 
closed by gates at night, the sons of Israel are allowed to 

The Jews of Morocco. 379 

live. The sacred city of Zerhdn they and all foreigners 
are prevented from even approaching, and in Wazzan they 
live in rookeries on sufferance. It is curious that, in 1834, 
they were not to be found in Saffi or Agadeer. Perhaps 
the fanaticism concomitant with the veneration in which 
the rabat, or camp, of the former port is held had some- 
thing to do with that case. It was only in the end of the 
last century that Chenier, when representing France there, 
broke the spell, as it were, by boldly riding through on 
horseback, where Jews and foreigners were previously 
compelled to stumble bare-foot. It should be remembered 
that, till within the last fifty years, " Christians " — a term 
which in Morocco is equivalent to " foreigners " — and Jews 
were classed together and treated alike. It is only awe of 
the superior power of the former which has secured them 
the privileges they now enjoy. Even to this day, un- 
recommended foreigners are forced to dwell in the Jew- 
ries of the interior and some of the ports, no Muslim 
daring to take them in without an order. In certain 
places, Jews who can afford it dwell outside the Mellah, in 
the portion allotted to Europeans, but this is not possible 
everywhere. In the country, several districts are reported 
to be without Jewish inhabitants, such as the Berber tribes 
of Beni M'teer, Beni M'gild, Beni Waghain, Ait Yoossi, 
Zemmoor Shilh, and Zai'r. 

The Atlas Jews. 

Of these, who speak only Berber, we have yet very much 
indeed to learn. There are stories current about asrricul- 
tural colonies dwelling beyond the Atlas, which, if true, 
would add a further interest to an already fascinating 
subject. The man who has given to the world the most 
complete account of the peoples of that district, meagre 
as it is, is De Foucauld, the prince of Morocco explorers, the 
only one worthy of the name. From him we know that 
the customs observed in comparatively well-known dis- 
ci c 2 

380 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

triefcs with regard to them extend to the whole of the vast 
area embraced by the Great and Lesser Atlas. Their condi- 
tion there varies between that of serfs and slavea Some- 
times they are practically the property of the local sheikh, 
and at others they belong to private individuals, who have 
the right to sell them. They are not only compelled to do 
much without payment, but they are imposed upon at every 
turn. They may not marry, nor remove their families, till 
they have, to all intents and purposes, re-bought them- 
selves. All this is inflicted in the name of protection, 
without which they would not be safe for a day. Yet 
some five-and-twenty shillings has been considered suffi- 
cient blood money for one of these unfortunates. On the 
other hand, outsiders are permitted to do them no injury, 
which would be considered as inflicted upon their pro- 
tector, who makes the duty of revenging it a point of 
honour. Disputes of this nature between powerful men 
not infrequently lead to intertribal quarrels. In travelling 
it is sufficient for the protege" to bear some article belonging 
to his master to ensure his safety, written documents being 
scarce up there, with few to understand them. The treat- 
ment that individuals receive depends entirely on the 
temper and the pleasure of their masters, for their chance 
of redress for injury is practically nil, so that their position 
is in some respects worse even than that of negro slaves, 
who, being Mohammedans, may benefit from certain rights in 
law, denied to those who spurn their Prophet. Centuries 
of this oppression have naturally had a very deleterious 
effect upon the characters of the victims, who are cringing, 
cowardly creatures, never daring to answer back, and 
seldom even standing erect — a people demanding our utmost 

Daily Indignities. 

From the day of his birth till all trace of his last resting- 
place has disappeared, the Hebrew of Morocco is despised 
and scorned. " Dog of a Jew ! " is a very mild term to be 

The Jews of Morocco. 381 

employed in abusing him, and the soubriquets of " ass ! " and 
" swine ! " stand in equal favour. But the various indig- 
nities to which his race is exposed in daily life differ too 
much in one district from what they are in another for any 
complete list to apply universally. I shall, therefore, only 
attempt to take notice of the chief, with the exception of 
those specially connected with the serfdom of the Atlas, 
dealt with already. The enforced collection in Mellahs, 
except round Tangier, outside which they may acquire no 
lands or property, has been noted. As at times the Moors 
have made raids upon the riches concentrated in these 
Mellahs, the gates are strictly shut and watched at night 
for their protection. In the day-time, in most towns, except 
on the coast, they can only leave their quarter barefoot, and 
until recently they could not ride in towns, and outside only 
on mules, with the exception of the Hazzan (Rabbi). Before 
certain Mosques they must always remove their shoes, and 
formerly this was incumbent also upon the women, till 
Mulaii Sula'iman exempted them, in the words of a quaint 
writer, " because it was indecent and disturbing to devotion 
to see their tremendous calves." To leave the country, the 
men used to have to pay $4 and the women $100, and 
sometimes the departure of the latter is still prohibited. 
The compulsory dress is considered also an indignity, 
which is fast being laid aside in favour of European 
ugliness, when foreign protection is obtained. Mula'i 
Abder Rahman objected to this, and once ordered all 
dressed as foreigners to be stripped and put in black 
again, a colour no Moor ever wears in any garment. It is 
most unfortunate that the younger ladies on the coast are 
so misinformed as to reject their own becoming costumes 
to such an extent as they do, in favour of hideous Parisian 
fashions, not to be compared for beauty or grace with that 
worn by their mothers. Many of the elder members of the 
community are conservative enough to retain the time- 
honoured style, but their juniors think they know better. 
For an unprotected Jew to lift his hand against or curse 

382 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

a Moor would be to bring down untold vengeance on his 
head. Yet in the Muslim Courts they may tender no 
evidence on oath — nor may the foreigners — so that they 
are obliged by force majeure to put up with whatever is 
inflicted on them. At one time the slightest retaliation 
meant death to the avenger, however he might have been 
provoked, except by violation of domicile. While in Tan- 
gier considerable laxity of these restrictions is allowed, in 
other parts they are much more severe, and every day un- 
lucky Jews are punished for imaginary offences or out of 
pure spite. Lack of civility to a Moor, or outbidding him 
on the market becomes an offence, and an attempt to seek 
the aid of strangers an unpardonable crime. 

In addition to the poll-tax, it has always been customary 
for the Jewish subjects of the Sultans to present them with 
specially valuable offerings on the occasions of family 
festivals. Though these continue, they are not now the 
irksome impost which they once were. A century ago, the 
usual thing was, on the birth of a son to the Emperor, to 
contribute gold pendants and earrings set with pearls, with 
gold plates bearing as inscriptions prayers in favour of 
mother and child. The value of this jewellery was 
estimated in 1715 at £15, a much more considerable sum 
in those days and in that country than it represents to us 
— and as Mulai Ismael was credited with some 900 sons, 
and received this amount for each, as well as similar 
articles in silver (minus the pearls) for some 300 daughters, 
he must have reaped a considerable harvest in this field 
alone. Forced labour, and the most unreasonable levies of 
manufactured goods, have also been frequently inflicted on 
this much-suffering people. In public works, such as the 
building of the walls of Mequinez and Tetuan, we have it 
on record how they, by the side of the European slaves 
were compelled to toil unpaid. When Mulai" Ismael was 
besieging Ceuta during a space of many months, he was 
wont to make the Jews supply the powder used on Fridays, 
when they did the chief cannonading. 

The Jews of Morocco. 383 


The peculiar dress to which unprotected male Jews in 
Morocco are confined, consists outwardly of a dark blue or 
black gaberdine of a sort of felt cloth, embroidered with 
narrow silk braid of the same hue, in which is worked on 
the right-hand side a distinctive badge almost identical 
with that once worn in England. Below this garment 
are visible the ankles — bare or clad in white stockings — 
thrust into black slippers, while the Moors wear yellow, a 
colour which, in common with all other bright hues, is 
strictly forbidden to the sons of Israel. At the throat 
a bit of white, or what was so once, is visible, and the 
sleeves, tight when buttoned, may be flapping loosely 
open. The face, a characteristic one, often pox-marked — ■ 
though not so often as among the Moors — will be sur- 
mounted in the North by a proverbially greasy skull-cap, 
black, of course, while abundant locks crop out all round, 
left long, and forming a most unintellectual-looking fringe 
in front. Mourning customs are in this respect most 
strictly adhered to. In the south, peculiar bunches of 
curly, almost " frizzly " hair, adorn each temple, and this is 
a distinctive feature of one of the tribes of alleged Jewish 
origin, the Ooda'ia, now the royal body-guard. Here, 
also, the cap is replaced by a blue cotton handkerchief 
spotted with white, which is folded corner- wise, with the 
ends tied under the chin, giving a most " old-womanish " 
appearance, far from prepossessing. This costume is 
varied considerably in the Atlas, where a hooded cloak of 
one piece, identical with that worn by many Moors, is 
much in vogue, thrown back over the left arm, and, of 
course, everywhere there are deviations from these cos- 
tumes, down to shirt and drawers alone, or rags and 

The dress of the women affords the most extreme of con- 
trasts. At home, in the morning, it is of the dirtiest and 
most slovenly — skirt and bodice, not unlike the European 

384 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

equivalents, but the latter often very low and loose. On 
high days and holidays the gorgeous attire worn by the 
same individual will be overwhelming in value and bright- 
ness. Kich dark velvets, loaded with gold braid, form the 
costume, while the hair of a married woman, which the 
public may never see, is enveloped from the forehead in 
an expensive Lyons silk kerchief, bedizened with costly 
jewellery, as also are neck and wrists. A whole fortune is 
sometimes invested in these inalienable chattels, which, 
from their value, often develop into heirlooms. The free 
use of antimony to darken the eyelashes far from enhances 
their undisputed good looks in European eyes. 

Among the Berbers, the dress of the women sometimes 
so nearly resembles that of Muslimhas as to deceive even a 
native when a stranger. I have a lively recollection of the 
sudden change of my servant's language from courtesy to 
vituperation When he discovered one day in an Atlas village 
that he was addressing Jewesses instead of Mooresses, as 
he had supposed. 


For one who has the misfortune to be classed with the 
Goi'm to attempt any detailed comparison of the method 
of performing the religious ceremonies of Israel followed 
in Morocco with the better known kindred rituals of other 
lands, would be presumption. I would rather refer those 
specially interested to accounts I published some years ago 
in The Times of Morocco, which merely set forth in order 
such facts as I had been able to observe or glean from 
inquiry. Subsequent experience would, it is true, neces- 
sitate considerable additions and some corrections, but they 
may serve to convey an intelligent idea. 

The synagogues of Morocco are, on the whole, despicable, 
but only on a par with the habitations of the worshippers. 
I have visited many, but they have a wearisome sameness. 
I speak now of the typical ones, with no reference to the 

The Jews of Morocco. 385 

tine modern buildings erected by public subscription or by- 
private liberality in some of the coast towns, as for instance 
the New Synagogue on Tangier Wall, next door to my 
home, or that of the Messrs. Nahon, close by. I may point 
out here, en passant, that the position of the former Jewry 
of Tangier is fairly well determined by the fact that the 
street into which the latter opens, tenanted entirely by 
Jews, contains no less than seven synagogues. One of 
these is the oldest in the town, on the other side of which 
are three more, and there is a small one outside the Walls. 
Most of these are merely private houses, fitted up for 
worship, which is not unusual. The segregation of the 
women in the galleries is general, and in some towns the 
women veil themselves in the streets somewhat like the 
Mooresses, but they are poor attendants of the house of 
God as a rule. Several of these synagogues are small, with 
labyrinthine entrances, some passing through dwellings, and 
are distressingly odoriferous. The accommodation on the 
great feast days is so very inadequate that numbers of the 
congregation have to stand in the street outside. In other 
towns the condition of things is often very much worse, 
the houses of prayer serving also to sleep, eat, and kill 
chicken in, not to mention cooking and trade. I never 
saw more neglected places in actual use than in Marrakesh 
(Morocco City) and Amzmiz, the latter a town on the slopes 
of the Atlas. As a rule the Shochet performs his duties 
in the poultry line at street corners and other public places, 
where the interesting preliminaries may be studied gratis. 
However carefully the slaughtered bird is handed to the 
bright-eyed maid who stands there to receive it, the final 
struggles often prove too much for her, and it is dropped 
to flap about among the passers by, or the operator holds 
it under his foot as he examines his blade, and prepares for 
action again. 

The visits of the Mohel are made occasion for the most 
prodigal feasting, and a still more prodigal display of 
female attire and jewellery, as well as of female adiposity 

386 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

and flashing eye. The chair belonging to the community 
being set up on one side of the courtyard or balcony, the 
other side is thronged with lady spectators, as the venerable 
Rabbi, who combines so many functions, initiates the scion 
of the house to Judaism, always performing the meziza. In 
some instances the birth of a daughter serves for little 
less rejoicing. It is the invariable custom for the mother 
to lie in bed in state to receive her guests, for in Morocco 
no distinction is known between bed and sitting-room. 

But the weddings! If money is foolishly wasted in 
London to make a grand affair of these, the Morocco 
brethren are not one whit behind. The Arabs are credited 
with a proverb in which there lies much truth, to the effect 
that while the Muslim squanders his substance in religious 
festivals, and the Christian in lawsuits, the Israelite does 
so in nuptial bouts. What shall I say of the days of pre- 
paration, of the breaking of a jar of corn at the door of 
the bride's room to ensure her fruitfulness, of the slaughter 
of cattle and sheep and fowls, of the synagogue service, of 
festivities at the bride's house, of the jollifications at that 
of the bridegroom, of the special bathing, of the customs 
and fun of the talamo, of the torchlight procession of the 
lady to her new home, of her induction in state by two of 
the most important male guests, of her sitting for hours 
like a waxen doll, of her stealthy tears from beneath 
closed eyes, of the binding forms and ceremonies, of the 
nasal chant, and irregular chorus, of the reading and the 
signing of the settlement, of the exchange of the ring, of 
the drinking of wine and the breaking of the glass, or of 
the thousand and one minor observances which vary inde- 
finitely here, there, and then ? Suffice it to say that on 
every hand hospitality abounds ; that in place of the 
hard boiled eggs — two a-piece — which are customary at 
the Melah and minor ceremonies, luxurious repasts are 
spread and include a series of excellent almond sweets 
with preserved and dried fruits, of which each guest takes 
away a kerchief full ; and that for drinks there are good 

The Jews of Morocco. 387 

wines and bad, with abundance of villainous anis-seed and 
fig spirit, while the utmost good humour prevails, even 
though there is hardly standing room, and the din of the 
seldom-ceasing native music necessitates abnormal exercise 
of lung. So they get married in Barbary. 

Their well-attended funerals, too, are imposing sights 
and sounds, for the sonorous chanting of a procession of 
male voices as they slowly pace to their special graveyard 
is very beautiful. Transported from their homes where 
the hired mourners wail, in coffin-like biers, the property 
of the community, they are buried in shrouds under hori- 
zontal stones some eighteen inches thick, which a Moor once 
suggested to me were made thus heavy by the heirs to keep 
the dead one quiet in his grave ! The Habra is an institu- 
tion in full work in Barbary, and after burial at stated 
times the women shriek upon the tombstones, but especially 
at the feast of Tammuz, when a whole night is spent 
in camp there. The customs of Bar Mitzvah and Pidyon 
Habben are also generally recognised. 

Religjous Festivals. 

In proportion as the conditions of life in Morocco 
approximate the more to those under which the Mosaic 
festivals were instituted, it will be understood that so much 
is their observance more literal, and altogether more 
primitive. In this consists a special charm. Probably no 
Israelitish communities are more strict in the fulfilment of 
their ceremonial duties than the one now under considera- 
tion. In more ways than one their ritual is allied to, and 
in some parts is identical with that of the Spanish and 
Portuguese congregations in other lands, a considerable pro- 
portion of them being of the same origin. A whole 
volume might be written on this point alone, but it must 
suffice to glance in passing at a few of the special features 
of the greater fasts or festivals. Nowhere could the 
Sabbath be more strictly adhered to than among these 

388 The Jewish Quarterly Beview. 

people, and on Fridays everything is " redded up." The 
shalet — containing the Sabbath meals — is prepared over a 
carefully built fire, to keep it hot for twenty -four hours, 
with the seuda shilishit, or food for the third meal snug 
down at the bottom of the jar. 

Ydm Kippur is a great day in Morocco, duly observed 
with groans and lamentations in the Synagogues, by the 
slaughter of fowls for sacrifice, and by repairing to the 
largest body of water available to pray for forgiveness and 
often to cast in stones as they would cast away their sins. 
The fasting is general, and on the conclusion of the Day 
of Atonement the Birkhat ha lavana is performed in open 
spaces on the way home. 

The Feast of Tabernacles sees its Succah in or on top of 
every house, frequently gay with evergreens and flowers, 
real or artificial; and the subsequent Simhat Torah is 
kept with the greatest of show and excitement, while the 
daily use of etrSg and loolav, and the processions of the 
Sepharim give quite a gay appearance to the synagogues. 

During the Feast of Hanuca or Dedication, a curious 
form of the special lamp is used, with a representation 
of the seven-branched candlestick on the back. A peculiar 
fritter called sfinj, or in Spanish banuelo, is sold about the 
streets during this week. 

Purim is duly taken advantage of by beggars of all 
sorts for themselves and for charitable purposes, in sub- 
scribing to which the Jews of Morocco are not backward, 
and the payment of the half shekel is not forgotten. While 
the Megilla is being read in the synagogue the boys rap 
the seats vigorously with wooden hammers when the name 
of Hainan occurs. At this time visits are made at dusk 
incognito, and presents of sweetmeats and fruits are sent 
from house to house on trays. Shushan Purim is also 

But Pesach, after all, is the feast, withal a fast. The 
preparatory search for leaven and the Serifat Hekhamis is 
most diligent and careful, and the care exercised in the 

The Jews of Morocco. 389 

growing "of the wheat and the selection of the water for 
the Mazzoth are almost superstitious. Space prevents my 
entering upon the well-known detail of the solemn Seder, 
with its shoulder of lamh and its bitter herbs, its un- 
leavened cakes and its wine, though in many points it 
doubtless differs in Morocco from that of Europe, and is 
altogether more primitive. The " reception " on the last 
day of everybody by everybody else is a notable occasion 
over there. And on the same day they have in some parts 
a curious custom of going to the sea to say the Kaddesh 
and the Tephilot. During the Feast some Jewish con- 
fectioners " sell " the keys of their shops to Moors, to re- 
purchase them afterwards. 

The Feast of Weeks is marked by few peculiar customs, 
except the reading of the prayers called Azharoth in the 
synagogue at noon, a verse each by members of the con- 
gregation. If any one is caught tripping he is made to 
correct himself, and on going out has water thrown at him. 
Another observance of this feast is for the young folk to 
mount their roofs and syringe the passers-by with the same 
liquid, whence this is sometimes spoken of as the " water 
feast." The sea-bathing season then commences. 

Social Condition. 

In each community intermarriage of the various families 
has rendered the relationships between the members com- 
plex and confusing. Often unions take place which must 
be bugbears to genealogists, as once when a young lad 
puzzled me greatly by referring to a certain individual as 
uncle and grandfather indiscriminately, for it seemed that 
his grandfather had married his aunt in-law. Divorce is 
not difficult to obtain under certain conditions, but the 
husband seems always to retain some semblance of 
authority. I believe that bigamy is also legal though un- 
common. The greatest evil, however, is the system of child 
marriages. These take place in the interior from the ages 

390 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

of six or eight, the " wife " coming to live with her 
" husband " at his parents' home. At twelve or so she may- 
be a mother, but very many lose their lives at this critical 
stage. If the lad has got tired of her ere this, and he is 
rich while she is poor, he will put her away in favour of 
some one else. As a set-off against all this, the Jews of 
Morocco set a good example to their Muslim neighbours in 
the general level of their morals, and as a result the national 
skin diseases of the Empire are but rare among them, 
though they are cruelly libelled by the Moors, who accuse 
them of having introduced them when they came from 
Spain. In habits of drinking, nevertheless, they lead the 
way, and teach the Moors this vice. The Sabbath after- 
noon to the poorer classes means invariable drunkenness, 
and a well-known Hebrew gentleman of Tangier, in ex- 
plaining to me the Passover ceremonies, concluded by 
saying " then they all fall about drunk, and lie till morn- 


In matters of food no one could be more particular. In 
large communities there are special Jewish markets, where 
Kosher viands may be obtained, while even water-barrels 
bear this word embranded on the ends. The preparations 
for Passover take the place of spring cleaning, and are very 
thorough, including even whitewashing outside, while old 
crocks are broken and new ones brought out. The streets 
of the Jewish quarters are the filthiest of all the Moorish 
towns, and are often several feet deep in rubbish, so that 
visitors descend by steps into the houses. Ceremonial 
washings are, of course performed, but otherwise water is 
not beloved. Interpreting for a doctor one day to a 
Moorish Jew suffering from a skin complaint, I had to ask 
how often he bathed, which brought out the indignant 
answer " Me wash ? Of course I don't, except three or 
four times a year. Otherwise I only wash my face and hands 
sometimes. Oh dear no." The Moors, when rain is scarce, 
make the Jews go out with them to pray, and with but 
scant justice declare that they shall stop outside the walls till 

The Jews of Morocco. 391 

their reeking breath and feet shall so annoy the Almighty, 
that he shall grant their prayers to get rid of them ! It is 
striking to see how readily those who become more cultured 
on the coast adopt the European standard in respect of 


Although the possible existence of agricultural Jews in 
the unknown parts of the Atlas has been hinted at, the 
means of obtaining a livelihood followed by the Israelites 
of Morocco do not differ greatly from those adopted in 
other lands similarly situated. As artificers they are con- 
spicuous in the manufacture of jewellery, and of brass, tin 
and metal work generally ; in the embroidering of slippers, 
etc. ; in tailoring and in carpentry, as also in the pre- 
paration of a number of useful and ornamental articles 
produced by the Moors as well. As merchants and shop- 
keepers, a large proportion of the trade of the country 
passes through their hands. Perhaps it would be no ex- 
aggeration to state that the larger proportion does so, first 
and last, much of that which is eventually retailed by 
Moors having been imported by them. In this special 
branch they probably do as much as Europeans and Moors 
together, though in exports the Europeans rank first. 

It is, however, where the handling of money comes in 
that our Hebrew friend ranks facile princeps. At the street 
corner you may see him squatted on the ground, in dirty 
gown and dishevelled hair, complacently passing through 
his bony fingers a peck or two of copper " change " in a 
basket set before him. From the deep recesses of his ample 
leather wallet, slung across his shoulder to the left, he can 
produce quite a quantity of silver coins, from dollars down 
to pieces woi-th but 2Jd., which he gives or receives in 
change at the current rates of the day. Or in the sea- 
ports you may see his fellow trudge from house to house, 
negotiating cheques and bills and what not at a micro- 

392 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

scopic commission. Or you may see him appear before the 
Moorish notary with a starveling Arab who has borrowed 
twenty dollars from him. The poor fellow states that 
Yakoob has purchased of him thirty dollars' worth of wool, 
or grain or oil, which he has undertaken to deliver, carriage 
paid, that day three months. When that day comes, in- 
stead of bringing goods, or returning the cash, he consents to 
the signing of a document for forty dollars, to replace the 
first, and so the ball rolls on, till the presumable value of 
the pledges entrusted to the usurer is reached, when further 
extension of time is refused, and the debtor is cast into 
prison and sold up, or perhaps this is not sufficient, so he 
dies there. Powerful governors are frequently the debtors, 
who have borrowed to purchase their post, or to secure it, 
and often they have a Jewish partner, each playing into the 
other's hands. 

But the highest ambition of the average Jew in Morocco 
who means to rise in the World is an interpretership to a 
foreign legation, which not only secures a comfortable 
living, with unlimited opportunities for " palm oil," but also 
gives a certain rank and importance which may be made 
the means of stepping higher. Many of the principal 
Jewish bankers and merchants of the coast towns owe 
their present position to this initiatory lift, enjoyed either 
by themselves or by their fathers, and many occupy 
foreign vice-consulships. From what has been remarked 
on their share of the trade, the commercial importance of 
manv of these gentlemen will already have been inferred. 
Two families have obtained hereditary protection by France 
and Great Britain respectively, and the others are almost 
invariably protected in some way. Many are decorated 
with European honours. 


It is a matter of deep regret that in speaking faithfully 
of a portion of the grandest nation upon Earth, of a people 

The Jews in Morocco. 393 

among whose finer characters I count so many friends, I am 
obliged to note one or two serious faults. Let me, therefore, 
at the outset make it plain that I consider them less as 
innate qualities than as the outcome of adverse circum- 
stances, as the result of evil surroundings and of great 
inherent talents misdirected. De Foucauld remarked that 
the Jews of Morocco " observe with the utmost rigour 
the external practices of their religion, but conform in 
nothing to the moral duties which their religion prescribes 
to them. Not only do they not follow them, but they 
oppose them." This may be true, generally, with regard to 
principles of honesty of which both native Moors and Jews — 
ignorant on the whole as to any but the ceremonial teach- 
ings of the Pentateuch — know but little, but it applies far 
less to social morals. Before condemning them it must be 
remembered that they have had no chance to do better. 
Another writer says that the poor Jews believe it no sin to 
rob Moors and Christians, while the Moors regard their 
treatment of Christians and Jews in the same light. I have 
no hesitation in adding, as a rider to this, that many so- 
called " Christians " consider themselves fully justified in 
defrauding Moors and Jews. Too many such, equally black 
themselves, refuse to hear anything good about natives of 
either class. 

I would not have it supposed that in quoting from these 
authorities I wish to imply that such a character is uni- 
versally deserved by the Moorish Jews. Though it un- 
doubtedly is so by a large number, there are many who 
stand out the brighter for surrounding darkness, and whose 
credit is the greater for the hindrances with which they 

In other points I do not think the Moorish Jew is 
peculiar. He is hospitable, and his family are genial ; if 
his habits are dirty and his probity weak, his morals are 
the highest in Morocco. With the exception of the dis- 
graceful child-marriages alluded to, he stands as far ahead 
of the Moor in this, as he is behind him in other respects. 


394 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Political Status and Prospects. 

What has already been recorded of the present condition 
of the Morocco Jews will have thrown considerable light 
upon their political status. Strictly speaking they enjoy no 
status at all under purely Moorish regime, for without even 
the most elementary rights in the native tribunals, and no 
position of authority in view, they are treated altogether 
rather as serfs than citizens. Those instances in which 
their high intelligence and skill have won great power for 
single individuals have seldom to any extent affected the 
well-being of the race. Had Morocco remained ever closed 
to outside influence, had the concessions wrung at intervals 
from the unwilling Sultans by the European Powers not 
opened up a pathway for the Jews, their lot would be 
to-day upon the coast what it still is in the interior. The 
possibility of sharing foreign rights and privileges has, 
however, changed all this for those who come within its 
range. The treaties assuring protection to the native 
agents of foreign officials and merchants have been taken 
far greater advantage of by Jews than Moors ; firstly, 
because they feel the need of protection in a higher degree, 
and secondly, because they are more astute in obtaining it. 
I am not going here to discuss the indispensable protege" 
system in force to-day in Morocco, but I must point out 
two of its chief — its typical — abuses, which immediately 
concern my subject. The one is the purchase of its benefits, 
which are only really intended for bond fide employe's. Since 
the Jew, whatever his outward circumstances, has always 
a larger amount of cash than his Moorish neighbour, in 
proportion as he excels him in point of brain, he here scores 
a decided advantage, and is able to secure far better pro- 
tection. The other abuse to which I would refer is the 
enforcement of unjust claims, and the imprisonment of 
debtors under the 8Bgis, and through the influence, of 
foreign Powers. Though too many foreigners commit the 
same abuses, and are equally blameworthy — nay, more so, 

The Jews in Morocco. 395 

on account of their superior education and opportunities of 
learning better — it is the Hebrew community which, from 
its numbers, gets credit for the bulk of these misdeeds. 
The sin of grasping usury, for which, even in the early 
days of the Exodus, their nation had to be so sternly 
reprehended, flourishes and cankers in Morocco to the full. 
I might fill a whole paper by itself with disclosures of the 
oppression meted out by Jews in that country to their 
Mohammedan fellow-subjects; I might even go further, and 
proclaim what grinding of the face of their own poor, more 
grievous still in its nature, goes on in those semi-civilized 
Mellahs. But I will not dwell on this unpleasant side of 
things. Suffice it to hint at what will ever breed retri- 
butive oppression from the Moor, incurring, too, the wrath 
of God. 

In Morocco two causes have for centuries acted and 
reacted one upon the other to produce the existing strained 
relations between Moors and Jews. The steadfast inde- 
pendence which has cut the latter off from intermixture 
with the former, and their greed of gain, have fostered 
enmity and hatred, in a populace itself almost as dishonest, 
which have brought about reprisals and revenge. These 
have been repaid with that amount of interest which they 
would make their victims pay ; so fire has kindled fire. 
The misgovernment of the Empire permits and encourages 
this sort of thing in a manner unknown in England, 
though even here that page of history has had its parallel. 

It is idle for us to demand emancipation for the Jew 
unless we are prepared to raise his moral level and to 
educate his powers. Until dishonesty, as a universal 
characteristic of the country, gives way to honesty, peace 
cannot be hoped for. If foreign protection could be 
secured for every son of Israel in Morocco, it would 
rather expose them to the fury of the populace, and 
threaten serious war, than attain its primary objects, if the 
immediate result were a multiplication of the present 
holders of that privilege without raising their tone. The 

D D 2 

396 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

presence among them of civilised and well-instructed 
men, with the polish and air of Europe, men whom 
the foreign schools have drawn from their ranks and 
placed by the side of any European, proves their capa- 
bilities, and forms one of the brightest hopes of Morocco. 
The schools of the Alliance Israelite and those of the 
Morocco Relief Fund, under the Anglo-Jewish Associa- 
tion, have steadily worked wonders, and they need 
abundant extension everywhere. Many of the leading 
citizens of the Moorish ports — not only as members of 
the despised community, but also as members of their 
cosmopolitan society — have been their pupils, who have 
completed their education abroad and returned to honour 
their nation at home. These, even when poor and unpro- 
tected, suffer so little indignity at the hands of the Moors, 
that they might almost be born Europeans, and in proportion 
as the whole Jewish population of Morocco can be rendered 
like them, the greatest inducements to oppression will 
vanish, and day will have broken on the horizon of the 
Morocco Jews. O for a Jonah to stir them up, that they 
may repent ere it be too late ! O for a Samuel to teach and 
warn them ! They need not only the united political 
influence on the behalf of their brethren in more 
favoured lands, to secure from their government what is 
their due as free-born men, but they need awakening 
themselves, and raising till they shall be worthy of the 
pedestal on which we fain would see them.