A group of Jewish and Muslim young professionals from Morocco, Israel, and the United States concluded ten days of consultations with senior government, civil society, and diplomatic officials in seven cities throughout Morocco and Israel. It was the capstone program of the Michael Sachs Fellowship for Emerging Leaders organized by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Mimouna Association.

The Michael Sachs Fellowship, named in memory of a visionary leader who dedicated his life to promoting Arab-Israeli engagement, was a six-month program focused on expanding understanding of Jewish culture in North Africa, Moroccan culture in Israel, and channeling resumed diplomatic ties between the two countries to promote more robust Middle East engagement.  

The delegation, led by Elmehdi Boudra, founder and President of the Mimouna Association; Dana Steiner, Director of AJC ACCESS Global; Mohamed Reda Ayadi, Program Director for Muslim-Jewish Dialogue of the Mimouna Association; and Dr. Ari Gordon, AJC Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations, praised the rapidly growing opportunities to advance deeper engagement and exchange among the next generation of Americans, Moroccans, and Israelis.

“The power of traveling as a joint delegation of young Moroccan Muslims and Jews from America and Israel was unmistakable,” said Ayadi. “Our unique partnership amplified our call for greater cooperation and exchange of ideas across the region.” 

The Sachs Fellows discussed a range of topics regarding youth empowerment, regional cooperation, and Holocaust education in the Arab world with, among others, the Moroccan Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication, Mehdi Bensaid, the Moroccan Minister of National Education, Preschool and Sports, Chakib Benmoussa, and Members of Knesset Michael Bitton and Ya’akov Margi, co-chairs of the Israel-Morocco parliamentary friendship group.

In Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech, the group met with top U.S. and Israeli diplomats, business leaders, interfaith advocates, policy analysts, Jewish community members, and young scholars from the Policy Center for the New South and the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University. In Jerusalem, Yeruham, Rahat, and Tel Aviv, the fellows met with senior Israeli officials, Palestinian civic leaders, Moroccan diplomats, members of the Moroccan-Jewish community, high-tech entrepreneurs, and local Israeli Jewish and Arab leaders dedicated to broader engagement between Israel and the Arab world.

The Sachs Fellowship mission followed monthly virtual meetings since December 2021 to jointly study topics of mutual concern, including the history of Jewish life in Morocco, Arab perspectives on the Holocaust, the role of religion in conflict and its resolution, and storytelling as a tool for diplomacy. The Moroccan, American and Israeli Fellows built upon their virtual experience throughout the ten-day mission, with regular dialogue regarding their unique identities, policy priorities and personal interests.   

“We want the trust we have built across national, ethnic and religious lines to lead to tangible outcomes. But this first-of-its-kind mission should also demonstrate that people-to-people initiatives are essential to growing U.S.-Moroccan-Israeli ties,” said Dana Steiner, Director of AJC ACCESS Global.

Founded in 2007, Mimouna seeks to educate the Moroccan people about the Jewish culture of the country and strengthen ties between Jews and Muslims. Since 2015, the Mimouna Association has participated in all AJC Global Forums, including in Jerusalem in 2018.

AJC, founded in 1906, has made the transformation of Muslim-Jewish and Arab-Israeli relations a pillar of its mission in the twenty-first century. AJC has been visiting Morocco and engaging its Jewish community for over 30 years.

Collaboration between AJC ACCESS and the Mimouna Association began in 2014 and centered on the importance of Jewish heritage to Moroccan identity and culture. In 2017, the two organizations held a conference in Essaouira, Morocco, to discuss interfaith approaches to advancing common understanding in the Middle East. A follow-up conference in 2018 examined the importance of education and social media in promoting interfaith cooperation.

In January 2021, following the reestablishment of relations between Israel and Morocco, AJC and the Mimouna Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand joint activities. For more than 20 years, AJC has enjoyed an “international association” with the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco – one of 37 Jewish communal organizations around the world with which AJC maintains programmatic links.

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