The Jewish presence in Mogador
From its first years of existence up until the exodus in the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, Mogador was in fact a Jewish city with a Muslim minority. From the Mellah where most likely the first settlers made their bases, the Jewish population spread to all the “desirable” areas of the new city. Before the French Protectorat, jews were holding all trades of the town: Import-Export large houses, wholesalers,shipchandlers, European Insurance companies agents (Lloyd’s etc…), but also jewellers, shoemakers, carpenters, ironsmiths, mattress makers and wine and spirit makers. The centuries old and perfected jewish social and religious structures were speedily set up: Rabbinical courts (where some Muslims preferred to go to court), synagogues and schools (English only), cemeteries and community services.
The dress code was typical of this cosmopolitan society : British Top Hat and Tails for the Tojjar , traditional black jellaba with black chechia for the main jewish population, later replaced to european suits with Humphrey Bogart hats for the men “in” and with French berets for the boys and “artists”. The Mogadoriens were known all over Morocco for their european elegance (the “starch ironed collars” people) their fine cuisine, and their special blend of judeo-arabic-english-spanish language, whre euphemism was a good manners trait.
Jewish holydays were known to the Muslims of the toen, as they were the occasion for exhange of gifts between the two communities. Of special meaning was the end of Soukkot, as all the population of the city was aware of the jewish prayer for the rain. In years of drought, Jews and Muslims held together marches in the city praying in choir for the rain.
Mogador was also famous for its musicians, and especially its Rabbis-poets: the traditional book of liturgy poems ( to be sung to the tunes of andalusian music) was written and taught by three Rabbis from Mogador, and it is today the basic book used all over the sepharadic world.
The story of Slat Lkahal
The synagogue Slat Lkahal was built in th1850 era, and legend has it was entirely built by Jewish hands. The funds came first from charity (empty jars) boxes that filled and filled until there was no more jars in town. Those two aspects explain its judeo-arabe name: The Community Synagogue. The Great Rabbi Yossef Knafo and its descendants for generations held office of Rabbis in this Synagogue.
It is here that the jewish population of town, from all classes of society, had its meaningful assemblies, social and religious. Only at Slat Lkahal was possible such a social mingling of rich and poor, intellectuals and simple believers, young and old, all coming dressed up for the Friday nights singing together from the songs written by local Rabbis-poets, on the centuries old Andalusian music. Classes of Talmud were taught for free here, as well as lessons of modern Hebrew, and here was debated the Jewish population future at the crossroads events of Jewish history in the 20th century.
It saw the last minyan prayer in Mogador in 1972, hardly over ten men, and they all knew they were, on that day, closing the door on Jewish famed Mogador.
It is that door that we, at the Association ASL-Mogador, want to reopen, for all to see, to feel, and to know, that Jewish Heritage in Mogador was once, simply, Mogador. In honor of the great men and women who made up the fame of this unique city, in honor of so many ordinary people who made and indelebile impression in the hearts of their Muslim neighbors, and in honor of the friendship and respect, love and compassion, that this city has cemented the Jewish-Muslim relationship with.