Moroccan Jewish School: Talmud Torah

Figure 1.-- This is a Morrocan Jewish school in 1950. A reader tells us that it may be 1951. The right side of the Hebrew sign tells the name of the school --- Talmud Torah. The left looks like it is celebrating 'Independence Holiday' and a date below, obviously the number 5, and the month of Tishrei, but we cannot make out the word in between.

This is a Morrocan Jewish school in 1950. A reader tells us that it may be 1951. The right side of the Hebrew sign tells the name of the school -- Talmud Torah. The left looks like it is celebrating 'Independence Holiday' and a date below, obviously the number 5. The Hebrew Calendar 5 Iyar is Israel Independence which occurred in May, the 5th month. We cannot make out the word in between. The map looks like Israel.

Moroccan Jews

Moroccan Jews at the time this class portrait was taken had undergone a great trama. Morocco was a French protectorate and as a result after the fall of France came under Vichy control. Unlike France itself, there were no transpors tyo NAZI death camps, but a variety of Vichy anti-Semetiic laws were introduced. Many Jews were arested an interned in work camps under apauling conditions. It would have been only a matter of tome before transports began had the Allied not launched Opetation Torch (November 1942). The boys here were too young to have experienced the privations of Vichy repression, but the adults were. And at the time, it was becomong obvious that Morocco was headed for independence. The Allied liberation of France and defeat of the NAZIs meant a return to liberal French administration. The Jewish community this had to be concerned about coming majority Arab control. In fairness, it was not King Mohmmed, but Vichy that was involved in theWorld War II repression, but Morocco was not without a history of Aran anti-Semitism.

Jewish Education

We do not know much about Jewish education in Morocco. We do know that education was a priority with Jews througout the Disaporah. This was notthe case for the Arabs, a large majority of which were illiterate. A factor in the backwardness of the Arab world. We note Talmud Torah schools in Morocco (16th century). And they probably exited even earlier. At this time few Arab children were being educated. With the French establishment of a protectorate (1912), we begin to see public schools and Catholic school for the French colonists and Moroccans who decided to adopt French culture. We are not sure to what extent Jewish children attended French public school children or separate Jewish schools.

The School

Talmud Torah schools were created in the Jewish world, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, as a kind of public primary school for boys of modest means. We are not sure as to the actual origins, but they appear to be quite old. We also note synagogues assumed the name 'Talmud Torah'. One example was the Talmud Torah in Fes (1603). This may have been because the school was held in or associated with the synagogue. These schools are interesting because it reflects a Jewish commitment to education for even poor boys at a time that education was very limited throughout the Arab world. There were in 1950 several Talmud Torah schools in Morocco. We are not sure which one the school pictured here is. The schools were only for boys, a reflection in part of the early foundation of many of these schools. The boys received an elementary education in Hebrew, the Scriptures (especially the Pentateuch), and the Talmud (and Halakhah). The objective was to prepare the boys for Yeshiva, at least in the more modern phase of the Talmud Torah schools as education at the secondary level was becoming more common. The Talmud Torah curriculum was modelled after the Cheder, a traditional form of schooling with some chnges reflecting the mpre public character of the schools. Talmud Torah schools can still be found in many countries with Jewish communities.

Isreali Independence (1948)

Israel declared its independence (1948) an against all expectations fought off assults from Palistinian militias and invading Arab armies (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and most importantly Egypt). Other Arab states supported the Palistinians, although they did not actively commit troops. Moroccans rioted in Oujda and Djerada, killing 44 Jews. This began the emigration of Morrocan Jews. Israel changed the dynamic for Jews in the Middle East. It provided a refuge for Jews whih could enter without question. It also generated risung anti-Sementic sentiment in the newly independent Arab states. Unlike the colonial admibnistrations, the Arab countries did not have the tradition or institutional protections for minorities. Many had traditions of anti-Semitism, although the intensity varied from country to country. And the estanlishment of Israel fueled the the latent anti-Semitism in each of the Arab states.


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Created: 6:39 PM 11/21/2006
Last updated: 1:01 PM 11/19/2012