Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jewish themed films at 1st ever Moroccan Film Festival in NY - Oct. 29-30, 2010

A number of Jewish themed films will be included in the first Moroccan Film Festival, presented by the High Atlas Foundation, on October 29 and October 30. The entire program can be found here and I'm including Moroccan Jewish themed films below:

Scene from Where are you going, Moishe?

Saturday, October 30

The Dog’s Life of Juanita Narboni @ 2:30PM Dir. Farida Benlyazid
1:48, 2005, Comedy/Drama
U.S. Premiere

The recent history of Tangier, from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, is seen through the eyes of an Anglo-Spanish spinster. The film focuses on Juanita’s father and sister, a close Jewish friend, and her loyal Moroccan maid, but the real arc of the storyline is how their lives change as Tangier is transformed from an international zone to a truly Moroccan city. Almodóvar veteran Mariola Fuentes (Broken Embraces, Talk to Her) conveys a delicate balance of outrage, loneliness and poignancy. English Subtitles.

Where Are You Going, Moishe? @ 7:15PM
Dir. Hassan Ben Jalloun
1:33, 2007, Drama

A central Moroccan town is the setting, in 1963. Shlomo, a Jewish barber, struggles with himself and his family over emigrating to Israel. His decision will have a domino effect on his lifelong friends, who pull strings to influence him to stay. A heartfelt story that casts light on a little-known period in Moroccan history, as well as the bonds and conflicts between Muslim and Jew in the common hometown they’ve shared for centuries. English Subtitles.
Watch the film trailer

Marock @ 9:30PM
Dir. Laila Marrakchi
1:38, 2005, Drama
U.S. Premiere

A big success upon its Moroccan release, Marock focuses on three wealthy young women on the brink of finishing high school and deciding their futures. Rita falls in love with a Jewish classmate à la Romeo and Juliet, a relationship which is complicated by her brother’s burgeoning interest in Islamic fundamentalism. Part teen romance, part “Rebel Without a Cause”, part scathing social commentary, Marock is a stinging challenge to the contemporary mores of the haute bourgeoisie. English Subtitles.
Watch the film trailer

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ready for Restoration - Synagogues in Er Rachidia and Oujda - Part II

Bima/Hechal in Grand Synagogue, Oujda.

I have written much already about Oujda and you can read that here. As the Grand Synagogue, also known as the Moroccan Synagogue as there was also an Algerian Synagogue, turns 80 this year (built in 1930), I thought I would take this occasion to revisit it. The Grand Synagogue is in remarkable condition despite having no congregants. It was once well served by a population of thousands. According to H.Z. Hirschberg's Hebrew language "Inside Maghreb: the Jews in North Africa", Oujda's Jewish population stood at around 4,000 by the mid-1950s. You can read more about the modern Jewish history of Oujda here. Today there are three to six Jews left. The synagogue is a perfect candidate for restoration as I've explained in the past and should be considered as one of the more beautiful, large North African synagogues that has not been converted to other purposes (e.g., mosque). I am including photos from my 2009 visit below:

Stained glass ark.

View of hekhal, main seating area, women's gallery and ark.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ready for Restoration - Synagogues in Er Rachidia and Oujda - Part 1

Exterior of Sla el Kbira in Er Rachidia (Hebrew reads Union/Unity Synagogue)

Around the Jewish high holidays a number of articles come out talking about the most beautiful synagogues in the world. The authors/contributers can be forgiven if they don't take every synagogue into account especially those that have fallen into disuse or disrepair. Years ago, few would have mentioned the Eldridge Street Synagogue, built in 1887 and restored in 2007, amongst the most beautiful but today it has regained its title of "jewel of a shul."

This year two synagogues in Morocco turn 80 years old or near 80 years old, both built in the 1930s, that I believe deserve mention.

Er Rachidia
The first, called Sla el Kbira, was built in the 1930s (some say 1932). It still exists today although it's roof has collapsed from heavy rains. Located in the center of Er Rachidia, it's Hebrew inscription is still visible from the outside. I will write more about this synagogue and the surrounding synagogues and cemeteries soon but please find photos and a video from my 2008 visit below:

Interior of synagogue. Bima/hekhal with hand painted decalogue back right. Light pours through the open roof.

Hand painted decalogue.

Ark. Filled with hay.

More to come on Er Rachidia and Oujda later this week including videos.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

JDC in LA - 10/12: Archival Photos of Jewish Morocco

Young girl at JDC supported kindergarten wearing a bib made from a flour sack. In 1955, a JDC publication reported that through its dispensaries in Morocco, "Almost 23,000 children receive at least one warm meal during the day, and for very many of them, if not for most of them, it represents the only meal they receive during the day." JDC Archives, Fez, 1960

A performance at the JDC-supported Gan Yeladim nursery school. A 1949 JDC report says, "The focus of our work is on the youngsters-- the Jewish boys and girls of the slums and the mellahs, many of whom have hitherto been forced to beg on the streets for bread. Our key weapon on this front is the school. In JDC-supported schools the youngsters are kept off the streets and are taught to read and write, to play games and to study geography and arithmetic. JDC Archives, Tangier, 1954

Jewish boys at JDC operated Aliyah camp learning Hebrew. In addition to the nutritional and medical services provided to Moroccans seeking to immigrate to the newly-established State of Israel, JDC worked to ensure a smooth transition into Israeli life and culture. JDC Archives, Casablanca, c.1954

JDC Dimensions Presents:


An exclusive photography exhibit featuring newly-released JDC archival prints alongside modern Moroccan images from local, young, Jewish artists.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 7:00 pm

8275 Beverly Blvd. The former Zune LA space (corner of N. Sweetzer Ave.)


Free admission (must RSVP to

DJ - Wine - Moroccan Hors D'oeuvres

Event Chairs: Tiffany Aryeh and Niko Toubia

Host Committee: Mimi Jakobovits, Jessica Kimiabakhsh, Lauren Klein, Vanessa Shokrian

Limited space available.

Email or call 212-885-0811 to be added to the guest list.