Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sefrou – September 8

On Monday we headed for Sefrou. As one resident of Sefrou told me: the proverb once went - from the village of Fes to the city of Sefrou. Today the opposite is true. Sefrou is a quaint town about 15 miles from Fes. It was once 1/3 or so Jewish and today there are only a couple Jews left (3 according to a caretaker we met but someone informed her that one of them died). Sefrou is green and the city is split by a river that would be nice except instead of flowing with water it is overrun by plastic bags and other trash. Nonetheless it is a great small town and the perfect break from Fes. We headed to the mellah and again immediately noticed the indentations where the mezuzot once hung. Outside one home was beautiful woodwork with 6 Stars of David carved into the wood. Further down the street we found the communal oven and I spoke to the proprietor. This was the old Jewish oven. He asked me if we’d like to come and take a look around. He showed us around. He was incredibly cordial. All I could think of was challot baking here just 40 years ago. What a treat it would be to once again bake challah there I thought. He showed us the connected house which was centered on a courtyard and which was once Jewish. From there he directed us to the Em Habanim school which I knew existed but never realized was in such perfect condition. The caretaker, Fatima, lives there with her children. The school was a religious one complete with dining facilities, synagogue, and residences for the poor. She showed us the dining area, the kitchen, and then the synagogue. The synagogue is mosaic from floor to ceiling. Everything is totally in tact: prayer books in the cupboard, Rabbi’s pulpit, Aron Hakodesh, and even an old newspaper I found from about 30 years ago. Was there anything else? I asked. She showed me the library. It was once full of books but a much smaller number still remain. There were the books of Genesis and Exodus and books on instruction in Modern Hebrew, one of which belonged to a young student named Miriam. Fatima wanted to take a picture with us and asked that we send it to her. The director’s office was our last stop but we didn’t go in. I wasn’t sure if she was done or if it was the would-be faux guide that started hounding us at the entrance but we didn’t see the office. I know I will be back though and I’m excited to see what I find. Our faux guide told us that the director of the school once came back to Sefrou and upon seeing the school still preserved burst into tears. I’m not sure if this is story is true but it did provide me with that very image.

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