This fascinating course will discuss the historical and social background of what was once the largest Jewish community in a Muslim land and the distinct Moroccan Jewish culture that developed over the centuries.

This is a fascinating topic that traces the legendary beginnings of Jewish life in Morocco where Jews lived in remote desert villages, near oases, along the trade routes running from the Mediterranean to the Sahara, in royal cities, under Berber, Arab, French and Spanish rule. Moroccan Jews were artisans, itinerant pedlars, and a few became 'sultan's merchants' or diplomats as is still the case today. Hillary will examine life in the Mellah (Jewish quarter), marriage and birth customs, material and visual culture especially the varied and distinctive costumes and jewellery and, among many other topics, the distinctive Moroccan practice of 'saint' veneration as exemplified in the pilgrimages to the tombs of rabbis (hilulot), a custom that has been taken up in Israel.

Morocco’s Jews inhabited remote desert areas and mountainous regions as well as the imperial cities of central Morocco and towns along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. They lived among Berbers and Arabs, experiencing both hostility and protection, and under French and Spanish protectorates. They were itinerant pedlars, silver smiths, rabbis and sages.  

Week 1
From legendary beginnings to the September 2021 Moroccan General Election
General historical view over Jewish settlements Berber Jews, The Arab conquest
The dhimma - protections and submission
1492, Expulsion from Spain

Week 2
The Jewish quarter, mellah
Life in the mellah
Trades and commerce
Jews as sultan's merchants
Culture - languages, music, including bakkashot, superstitions, marriage customs, costumes and jewellery

Week 3
Arrival of Sephardim and its impact
Advent of Westernisation and modernisation Alliance Universelle and its school (Elias Harris)
1912, Treaty of Fez, French and Spanish Protectorate Hilulot, pilgrimages, a modern phenomenon
The Second Word War
Emigration, Moroccan Jews today both in Morocco and in Israel

Dr. Pomeroy was awarded her PhD in the Department of Hispanic Studies, Queen Mary, University of London and taught the history and culture of Sephardi Jews in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London. She chaired the foremost international conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies for twenty-five years, the last three conferences in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and the Consejo Científico de Investigaciones Superiores, Madrid. She has published numerous articles and a book on the Moroccan ballad tradition.

NB: This series will take place both in the building and online. To attend in person, click the "Book Now" button on this page. To watch online, click the button below.

Book to watch online

Please note

This series will take place both in the building and online. To attend in person, click the "Book Now" button on this page. To watch online, click the button below.

Dates - -

£15 per session or £56 for the series

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