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LETTERS/WHAT’S NEW

LETTERS JEWS OF MOROCCO I have greatly enjoyed reading the April, 2006 issue of the magazine, but am puzzled by the very odd omission of any mention of the Jews of Gibraltar in connection with the Moroccan theme. Although, perhaps, your 'Renaissancers' didn't visit Gibraltar on their (fascinating!) Moroccan Tour, surely the very special Jewish Community of Gibraltar, mainly of Moroccan descent, exceedingly orthodox – in their own inimitable Gibraltarian way – and thus, a very salient part of the ‘Moroccan Jewish Diaspora’ deserves mention, if not a whole article devoted to it.

They number about 600 still living in Gibraltar (but they have at least that number again in London, Manchester, Israel, New York and so forth...) The ancestors of many of the community there came to Gibraltar after the British took the city from Spain in 1704, as merchants/watersellers etc, from Essouira and Tetuan. There are Benzaquens, Lazarys, Hassans, Belisha-Benzecrys, Benadys, Atiyahs, Levys and many more Moroccan/Andalus Sephardic names; they still combine 'Moroccan-ish' cultural elements into their very cosmopolitan Anglo-Hispanic-Gibraltarian personae. Sir Joshua Hassan, former Gibraltar Prime Minister is emblematic.

The community really is the only people on earth, and beyond, who could have turned someone like me – a 'reformed' bacon-eating eclectic social anthropologist from a 'gilded ghetto' in Cleveland, Ohio, who hadn't been near a synagogue since age 13 (I am now 60), who had studied Korean Shamanism (amongst other things of a religious nature) and Tongan mana-tapu systems, married a Methodist in the Tongan Anglican Church, sent my daughter to a Quaker Sunday School – into a crypto-kabbalist! They are truly 'religious' in the sense of being highly orthodox/observant, but not for the sake of mere subserviently traditional, or habitual, form; rather from the intense practice of something resembling 'the thinking man's' piety that is really quite unique. They truly live Judiasm from their centres outward.

BARBARA RITCHIE

Please allow me to thank you for sending me the issue about the Jews of Morocco which I find fascinating. No one denies the closest and friendly relationships that have existed between the Jews of Morocco and Muslims since the dawn of history. Historical accounts prove that the Jews of Morocco had always constituted an integral part of the Muslim Moroccan society in all streams of life. Even in recent years these relations have persisted and continued to grow, and Morocco is and will always be keen to maintain such good relations.

AHMED EL MIDAOUI, AUDITOR-GENERAL, MOROCCO

SIMCHA ON THE SQUARE 17 September

Yes, it seems it is going to happen. The afternoon and early evening of September 17, the end of the fortnight of events following the European Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage, will see a “high energy celebration of British Jewish culture” in Trafalgar Square.

The path has not been smooth. The role of the Mayor’s Office at the Greater London Authority as the host of the event and the chief funder, has caused much community soul searching. But it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the chief driver of the event, the Jewish Music Institute’s Geraldine Auerbach. She has been absolutely determined to remove the obstacles in the way. “Think of it. What could be a more iconic symbol of the community’s integration in the life of the capital than klezmer bands and cantors performing under Nelson's column.”

As we went to press details had not been finalised, but there will certainly be lots of music: klezmer, choirs, cantors with traditional and contemporary interpretations. And food “from borscht to blinzes”.

Subscribers will be kept up-to-date with the latest plans through our email updates. See WHATS HAPPENING, page 25, for details of JMI’s Klezfest in Regent’s Park on Sunday 13 August and the klezmer classes and workshops with worldclass performers that will run through the following week.

PRIZE FOR JR CONTRIBUTOR AND TOUR LEADER Yvan Berrebi, contributor to Jewish Renaissance and, with his wife Cheryll, popular leader of the 2005 JR tour to Morocco, has been awarded the François Coppée poetry prize 2006 by the Académie Française for his poetry collection: eloge de l'antichambre. The next Berrebi-led Renaissance tour will be to Jewish Turkey in 2007.

At least we should get some decent food again

JEWISH RENAISSANCE JULY 2006 2

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