November 7, 2018 — Rabat, Morocco
Deepening ties with a land that has been home to Jews for two millennia, an AJC leadership delegation concluded a weeklong visit to Morocco that included consultations with senior government officials, Jewish community leaders, and civil society partners – and a series of lectures, roundtables and special events in three cities that focused on advancing Muslim-Jewish understanding.
The 32-member National Leadership Council delegation met with Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, Royal Counselor André Azoulay, and other officials, exchanging views on regional and global security and political issues. Minister Bourita had been the featured speaker in an AJC diplomatic reception in New York the previous month.
Delegation members met with Jewish community leaders – including Ambassador Serge Berdugo, president of the Communauté Juive Marocaine, an AJC international partner – and visited Jewish sites in Casablanca, Marrakech, and Essaouira. Once home to a sizable Jewish community, now numbering no more than 3,000, Morocco has made a significant investment in preserving and restoring synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. The “Hebraic” roots of the country are identified in the 2011 constitution.
Program highlights included an interreligious dialogue at the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, where AJC leaders and Moroccan religious experts explored the connections between Islam and Judaism; a seminar with Association Mimouna, an organization dedicated to preserving Jewish heritage in Morocco, on ways that civil society can promote Jewish-Muslim cooperation and effectively combat anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bias, and hate speech; and a public panel discussion in Essaouira that featured AJC and Moroccan experts in candid conversation on Moroccan pluralism, the place of Jews in the Arab world generally, and prospects for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The mission was timed to coincide with the 15th annual Atlantic Andalusia Festival in Essaouira, a special project of André Azoulay celebrating the historic interconnections of Morocco’s Jewish and Muslim cultures. The festival brought together Muslim and Jewish performers, scholars, and communal activists from around the world, including from Israel, for three days of cultural, religious and interreligious programming.
The mission was co-chaired by AJC’s Interreligious Affairs Commission Chair David Inlander and Ayesha Bulchandani, and co-led by Associate Executive Director for Policy Jason Isaacson; International Interreligious Affairs Director Rabbi David Rosen; and Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations Rabbi Noam Marans. The delegation included members from the United States, Israel, and France.
“This mission took our engagement with Islam in Morocco to another level, encountering major Muslim scholars through high-profile dialogues and substantive interaction with women religious leaders in training, giving hope for the Jewish-Muslim relationship in Morocco as an inspiration for Muslims and Jews everywhere,” said Rosen.
“AJC’s engagement with the Kingdom of Morocco, and with our Jewish community and civil society partners there, is a key component of our ongoing outreach to the Arab world, with the aim of advancing mutual understanding and regional peace” said Isaacson. “Our latest visit, in both its political and interreligious dimensions, confirmed the potential of our investment in this critical relationship.”