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In A World So Often Marred By Strife Morocco Takes A Brave And Rare Step Towards Peace And Coexistence

Moroccan King Mohammed 6th takes a bold step towards peace and coexistence by filling the post of the Chief Rabbinical Court Master in Morocco, a post that stood vacant for more than a century

Mohammed 6th, King of Morocco
Copyright: U. Dettmar/ABr [CC BY 3.0 br (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)]

Moroccan Jewry has an exceedingly rich history that dates back to when both it and Judea were parts of the Roman Empire. The Jewish community in that country was further enriched when booth Muslim Moors and Jews were expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand and his consort, Queen Isabella after they had completed the reconquista, the re-conquering of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims that occupied it since the 9th century. At that time, many of the expelled Jews crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to settle in Morocco. The French colonial administration of Morocco in the 19th and 20th centuries gave the Moroccan Jews their second and in some cases, first language and rooted them in French culture. The early to mid 20th century saw many of the more educated Moroccan Jews leave for France, where their descendants now form a thriving community.

The creation of the State of Israel was not kind to Jews across North Africa, and Morocco was not an exception. Not welcomed anymore in countries where they had dwelt for many centuries, they left for Israel, a country that, at that time, was ill-prepared to receive them. Full two generations had to pass for North African Jews to fully integrate into Israeli society, where they now form the backbone of the newly strong, prosperous, and modern country.

A Rabbinical Court is the centerpiece of Jewish life. It dispenses kashruth (kosher) certificates to restaurants and food producers, arranges for circumcisions, marriages, and burials, and is simply the glue that holds the Jewish community together. This is especially true in the Diaspora and in places were Jewish communities are small and remote. It is to the eternal credit of Morocco’s King, Mohammed the Sixth, that he has decided to grace the ten thousand strong Jewish community in Morocco by appointing for the first time in a century a Supreme Chief Rabbinical Court Master. In explaining his decision to do so, the King said that “in this world, where we seek milestones, the Moroccan Kingdom has never ceased to pursue the love and adoration which exists between the sons of Abraham, an affinity which unites them all. The visits to the synagogues, mosques and churches teach us that everyone here lives a life of genuine partnership. The Kingdom of Morocco vouches for the sons of all religions, wherever they may be, to enable them to uphold their traditions’”.

The installation ceremony for Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto, Head of the “Shuva Israel” institutions into his new role took place in the Beth El Synagogue in Casablanca, a city which hosts the largest Jewish community in Morocco. The ceremony was attended by the special Moroccan Royal Emissary to the event, Mr. Serge Bardugo, who is the former Minister of Tourism and President of the Jewish Community in Morocco and the King’s representative – the Casablanca Wali (regional governor).

Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto in the center is flanked by Mr. Serge Bardugo on the right and the governor of Casablanca Province on the left

In his remarks, Rabbi Pinto alluded to the upcoming holiday of Passover, a holiday that marks the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage to the freedom of independence in the Land of Israel and to the long road to achieving the historic milestone of his appointment. “10 years ago, on Passover Eve, we were beset by the most rigorous existential trial – days were not days and nights were not nights – we would cry to our Lord All Mighty – ‘Lord, My Lord, Why have thou abandoned me’. Ten years later we stand here today and thank the Almighty for ‘Having Given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this time’. Rabbi Pinto added that “4 years ago the contact was established with Serge Bardugo, who sacrifices his life for the Jewish community in Morocco concerning the establishment of a religious school in the country – and today we embark on a new road”.

The title of Supreme Rabbinical Court Master comes with a seat on Morocco’s Supreme Court and a senior diplomatic status. Following his new appointment, the Master, Teacher and Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto will be dividing his time between Morocco and his duties in the “Shuva Israel” institutions in Israel, New York, France, England and other places around the world.

You can read the full press release about this historic event here:

Press Release

15.4.19

For the first time after 100 years: Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto appointed Supreme Chief Rabbinical Court Master in Morocco

In the presence of senior Moroccan government officials and the leaders of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto was appointed Supreme Chief Rabbinical Court Master in Morocco. The Rabbi’s appointment was the first to take place after one hundred years.

“The Kingdom of Morocco guarantees that all believers, regardless of their religion, will be able to uphold their traditions”

Master, Teacher and Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto, Head of the “Shuva Israel” institutions, last night (13.4) was appointed Supreme Chief Rabbinical Court Master in Morocco after one hundred years in which the post remained vacant. The appointment ceremony took place in the “Beth El Synagogue” – the main synagogue in Casablanca. Attending were hundreds of participants including the heads of the Jewish communities in Morocco and 50 senior government officials and regional governors, as well as senior Moroccan military and police officials. Among the royal representatives that appointed Rabbi Pinto were the special Moroccan Royal Emissary to the event, Mr. Serge Bardugo – former Minister of Tourism and President of the Jewish Community in Morocco, and the Kingdom’s representative – the Casablanca Wali (regional governor).

Morocco today is home to some 10,000 Jews, living mostly in Casablanca and in smaller numbers in the capital Rabat, in Agadir, Marrakesh, Meknes and Fez. So far Morocco is the only Muslim country to appoint a rabbi to the post of Supreme Chief Rabbinical Court Master on behalf of the King. In this role rabbi Pinto will be at the head of the Moroccan Jewry’s Kashrut operation and will be providing solutions for the religious and customary issues of the local Jews, as well as for the approximately 100,000 Jews that visit Morocco every year. Furthermore, Rabbi Pinto will be given a judge’s seat in the Supreme Court and Senior Diplomat status.

Special Moroccan Royal Emissary to the event, Mr. Serge Bardugo – former Minister of Tourism and President of the Jewish Community in Morocco, opened the event and said “I would like to thank the Gaon Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto, who has accomplished this venerable project”. He added that “less than one month ago King Mohammed the Sixth said ‘In this world, where we seek milestones, the Moroccan Kingdom has never ceased to pursue the love and adoration which exists between the sons of Abraham, an affinity which unites them all’. The visits to the synagogues, mosques and churches teach us that everyone here lives a life of genuine partnership. The Kingdom of Morocco vouches for the sons of all religions, wherever they may be, to enable them to uphold their traditions’”.

Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto gave a rousing speech in front of the hundreds of participants. He told of the hard years he has been through and of the new path he is about to embark on: “10 years ago, on Passover Eve, we were beset by the most rigorous existential trial – days were not days and nights were not nights – we would cry to our Lord All Mighty – ‘Lord, My Lord, Why have thou abandoned me’. Ten years later we stand here today and thank the Almighty for ‘Having Given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this time’. Rabbi Pinto added that “4 years ago the contact was established with Serge Bardugo, who sacrifices his life for the Jewish community in Morocco concerning the establishment of a religious school in the country – and today we embark on a new road”.

In his speech, the Rabbi mentioned the state of his health and prayed for success in his new role. “We are infirm and do not feel well and we pray in pain to the Lord to give us a long life in order to succeed in our mission and to enable us to please our Father in Heaven”.

The Rabbi thanked his brother Menachem Pinto, who has worked tirelessly over the last months and attended to all the proceedings for his appointment, helped in preparing the ceremony and cared for the community. He also thanked Joe Ben Amo, a member of the Community Executive, and to the senior government officials for their support of the Jewish community in Morocco. Rabbi Pinto also praised His Majesty King Mohammed the Sixth’s efforts and work, and his mercy and benevolence toward the people in Morocco. In the midst of the ceremony, a special prayer was held for the King’s success and well-being. Following his new appointment, the Master, Teacher and Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto will be dividing his time between Morocco and his duties in the “Shuva Israel” institutions in Israel, New York, France, England and other places around the world.

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3 comments

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Jaz April 17, 2019 at 12:11 am

Surprising act? Yes. But Morocco is one of the most civilized Islamic countries.

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Strelnikov April 17, 2019 at 12:25 pm

From the picture it looks like he appointed Woody Allen’s even more depressed uncle.

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Baruch Pletner April 17, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Lol. Yes…

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