KHOYA: Jewish Morocco Sound Archive is a pioneering project to repatriate, digitize, record, and classify the remaining sonic memory of Morocco's dwindling Jewish community. This article probes into the necessary sociological cognitive rupture that either allows or disallows the formation of archival repositories of minority memory. Stemming from interventions since the eighteenth century, Morocco's Jewish archives have mainly been kept in the diaspora by Jewish communities and higher education institutions. Contextualizing them within the long durée of Jewish presence in Morocco, this article develops the challenges posed by efforts toward establishing centralized digital archival repositories of the Jewish minority within Morocco itself. This case study proposes a shift into crowdsourced archiving, thus allowing for the alternate grassroots history of Morocco to be maintained and told by intersectional minority actors themselves, while simultaneously engaging with the sonic role, gender, and memory of nonhegemonic and grassroots members of this minority community until today with the formation of an other-archives.

Sometime in early 1770, Don Isaac Netto (or Nieto),1 the rabbi of Bevis Marks Synagogue of London, was wandering the streets of the judería, or Jewish quarter, of Tetuan in northern Morocco. Don Isaac saw a young boy carrying the Book of the Prophets to be deposited in a box in the synagogue. The box held holy texts that would be buried in the cemetery so that disposal would not desecrate them. This form of disposal of holy texts in Judaism is called a geniza.2 The word geniza comes from the Hebrew root for the word “hidden,” ganuz, which implies that knowledge that is disposed of should be “hidden” away. In effect, holy books and papers are buried in a similar manner to the burial of a body, demonstrating respect for knowledge and the written word, equating their holiness with that of a human body, establishing a corporeality of text and thought.

The weather, temperature, and soil composition of different geographies have an immediate impact on the decomposition or preservation of papers, books, and manuscripts in geniza deposits. The geniza of Cairo, kept not in the soil but in the attic of a synagogue in the dry air of Cairo, is a case where local practice and weather created the perfect combination for long-term preservation. This deposit was initially identified by two British sisters, Agnes S. Lewis and Margaret D. Gibson, née Smith, Semitic scholars at Westminster College in Cambridge in the late nineteenth century. After returning to Cambridge with fragments that they showed to Rabbi Solomon Schechter, he was able to raise the funds3 to take the geniza out of Egypt to Cambridge University, where a team of scholars classified and began studying the fragments. Hundreds of thousands of fragments have been digitized,4 and sections of the Cairo geniza are dispersed in institutions throughout Europe and North America, with researchers working on varying aspects of the layers of historical information its papers reveal.

To our contemporary delight, Rabbi Netto, in eighteenth-century Tetuan, had the presence of mind to buy the Book of the Prophets from the boy and save it from Tetuan's geniza. In Tetuan's humidity, the manuscript would have followed the natural course of decomposition into the earth once the whole geniza was buried in the Jewish cemetery. Netto took the manuscript to Gibraltar, where it was kept for nearly a hundred years until it made its way to Oxford as part of the famous Kennicot collection, cataloged as MS. Kennicot 7. It sits today in the Bodleian Library and is available for digital viewing.5 I would not have known of Netto, this manuscript, or this moment, except for a chance meeting with Dr. Theodore Dunkelgrün of Trinity College, Cambridge, who was studying the manuscript for a collection to be published on Hebrew treasures in Oxford libraries.6 So, even though I have been steeped in the stories and histories of the Jews of Tetuan for almost two decades, the only access I had to this microhistory was thanks to a moment of rupture from the natural entropy that Jewish manuscripts have undergone for centuries, coupled with the importance of academic archiving and care. The rupture caused by Netto and this manuscript's eventual archiving and safeguarding in England connected thirteenth-century Toledo to eighteenth-century Tetuan and eventually to twenty-first-century Oxford and Cambridge.


This copy of the Book of the Prophets was finished by scribe Don Isaac in September 1222 in Toledo, Spain, and probably made its way to Morocco with the Jews after their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula.


This copy of the Book of the Prophets was finished by scribe Don Isaac in September 1222 in Toledo, Spain, and probably made its way to Morocco with the Jews after their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula.

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In the twenty-first century, we are witnessing an explosion of information through digital channels, YouTube, social media, and WhatsApp groups. These nuggets of information come hurtling through space into our aural and visual sensoria in a messy and nonlinear manner, each one clamoring for importance, relevance, and a place of honor in the hierarchies of valuable information to inscribe into our memory. Other digital offerings come highly curated in slick packaging, presenting slices of information and giving context to and understanding of the materials and their surroundings, but representing specific curatorial lines. The challenge for those of us engaging with collection, organization, and diffusion of sonic materials, including music in rehearsal and performance or in ethnographic contexts, cantillation, religious services, oral histories, and sound scraping of daily sonic moments, is to have more than the diffuse, disorderly, and impenetrable archives for the user, such as YouTube and other online repositories offer. Notwithstanding serendipitous moments of discovery of sonic treasures that massive online presence affords, the epistemologies of sound operating within the group whose sounds are being presented are only accessible through contextualized and three-dimensional collections. As digital media theorist Andrew Hoskins states, “The triumph of the networked archive to deliver an apparent anytime, everywhere view, paradoxically illuminates the infinity of media after the connective turn, and thus the limits of our capacity to hold or to store (a classic problem of memory), as well as to know.”7

Jewish archives in Morocco are entangled with the added challenge of the delicate and highly politicized positionality of the Jewish minority in Morocco, as well as in Morocco's relationship to its previous colonizers, France and Spain.8 The intersection of both vectors often shifts according to the current climate in world politics. This weave of historic and current relationalities adds a burden to the establishment of archival processes in Morocco, with the unintended consequence of Jewish archival paralysis since Morocco's independence. As studies on decolonial digital archives show, the decoupling from the materials and the categorizations put in place by imperial (read “protectorate” in this case) archives creates an opportunity of response to previous imperial systems of knowledge creation and preservation.

The postcolonial digital archives thus critiques its relationship to imperial culture by acknowledging its rootedness in imperial and colonial pasts. At the same time, it engages with postcolonial and archival theories to reinterpret the imperial and colonial ideologies embedded in the archives’ primary materials, both through digital remediation and critical frameworks.9

Jewish archival materials in Morocco are still primarily held by the Jewish community instances or by private individuals who have communal ledgers for marriages and circumcisions, such as rabbis or circumcisers (mohalim). The disarticulation of Jews from colonial infrastructures in post-Protectorate Morocco has given rise to archival stasis, as the communal leaders did not know how to address their archival position in the postcolonial Moroccan nation. Archives became dangerous and revelatory of political positions that would be damaging to the community if they were to be public. One testimony during an oral history interview mentioned the Casablanca-based archives of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) French educational system. When the AIU became Ittihad Maroc as it is known today, whole file cabinets were dumped into the garbage in an effort to erase any compromising information about its collaboration with Israel10 or Zionist activity.

Oral histories such as this reveal why the reimagining of a grassroots archives of Jewish voices and a nonhegemonic perspective of the multiplicity of Jewish narratives “attempts to repair the past by recovering colonized voices and deconstructing imperial and colonial values.”11 Jewish archives in Morocco have the multiple overlapping histories of Jewish positionality during the Protectorates in addition to the relationship of Jews to the nation after independence and what has turned into decades of exclusionary practices by communal and official archives of their history.

Michel Rolph Trouillot's theorization of the crucial moments in the process of historical production is relevant for our example on Jewish (non)archiving in Morocco. These are 1) the moment of fact creation (the making of sources); 2) the moment of fact assembly (the making of archives); 3) the moment of fact retrieval (the making of narratives); and 4) the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance).12 If the creation of sources is the only step that exists because of the sheer fact of two thousand years of Jewish life's existence in Morocco, but the further steps of assembly and retrieval are forbidden, the making of Jewish history, which occurs through moments of retrospective significance, becomes marred by silences, omissions, and reconstrued narratives. The reintegration of it is a foundational concern in the establishment of the KHOYA Archive.

The archives is an expanding collection with a continuous gathering of recordings of the music and oral histories from remaining Jewish community members and from Muslim Moroccans’ memories of departed Jews, their music, traditions, or anecdotes. Much of the archives is currently stored on hard disks in Cambridge and in Casablanca and on a password protected cloud, and the next step is to create an open-access resource to render it accessible to students, researchers, and an international public. Expanding the archives’ reach in this way would also greatly facilitate the addition of new content through crowdsourcing and enable many people to preserve their own relevant materials for the benefit of future generations using an uploadable interface.

Currently, KHOYA comprises two principal sections. One includes commercial and field-recordings of Judeo-Moroccan music, from sacred and secular repertoires in Arabic, Judeo-Spanish, Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Amazigh, French, Spanish, and English. Many songs within the collection are not available elsewhere in Judeo-Spanish and Judeo-Arabic, such as various parodies on Hitler and a recent one about coronavirus, written by a woman born in Tetuan who lives in Mexico City. My interview methodology places a high priority on having interlocutors speak about the songs, their own personal opinions, and contexts and emotions surrounding the repertoires, providing additional detail not usually available in audio archives.

The second section contains a series of oral histories recorded with both Jews and Muslims throughout Morocco about present and past facets of Jewish life. Some of these are individual oral histories providing microhistories within the general community. For example, one recording gives the account of a seventy-five-year-old man who, as a young boy in 1942, saw the disembarking of Operation Torch because he happened to be camping on that beach that morning.13 He describes what he saw as a young adolescent and his frantic cycle back home through regiments of soldiers.

Within these broad main sections are recordings of interviews, concerts, liturgical settings, family gatherings, life-cycle events, rehearsals, street noises, pilgrimages, conversations, markets, and much more. The collection also includes photographs, video, some objects of material culture, and various manuscripts. Many of the people interviewed have now moved from Morocco or passed away, making the testimonials collected invaluable. Indeed, without this work, much of the archives’ content would otherwise have been lost.

Transforming all of KHOYA into an online, open-access resource hosted on its own website but affiliated with various core institutions in Morocco and elsewhere appears to be the most productive direction to steer the project into the future. Interested parties could see and listen to all entries and in turn upload their own. Ideally, making the archives not only searchable but one that will showcase the breadth of the resources available would increase its accessibility. Another desirable advance would be to work with IIIF14 sonic technology to incorporate relevant recordings available from other sound and audiovisual archives, so KHOYA could act as a central aggregator for Moroccan Jewish sounds. To understand the potential breadth of sonic archival materials of Moroccan Judaism, an overview of the Jewish presence in Morocco follows.

Jewish presence in Morocco is two thousand years old. Moroccan Jews say that waves of Jewish immigrants arrived after the destruction of every temple in Jerusalem. The first wave came after the destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE and the second in the aftermath of 70 CE, after the destruction of the second Temple by Titus.15 Jewish refugees from the time of Titus arrived in Morocco, expanding their communities where a Jewish presence already existed.16

After several centuries, the Jews who arrived from the Holy Land were completely integrated into the Amazigh way of life. Some Amazigh Jewish tribes maintain in oral tradition memories of the history of their families in Morocco through stories.17 This connection with the indigenous Moroccan Amazigh people is at the origin of several common traditions, the most widespread being the worship of saints.

Engraved stelae attesting to the antiquity of the Jewish presence in the village of Oufrane have been listed,18 including some from Roman times to the second century CE, between Meknes and Fez.19 According to Ibn Khaldoun, the Jews of the time enjoyed all civil and religious liberties as in any other province of the Roman Empire, and almost all the Amazigh tribes in contact with them converted to Judaism.20 When the empire became Christian under the reign of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century CE, the large number of conversions became a source of difficulty.

With the Arab conquest of the seventh century came the status of dhimmi,21 which bestows legal protection to monotheists under Islamic law, and the Jewish condition changed. A legend of the time of the Arab invasion recounts that a Judeo-Berber princess, Damia al-Kahena, led the battle against the invading Arab army and maintained territorial integrity for thirty years, until her defeat and death. Her Jewish status is not confirmed. Once the Muslims settled in Fez, Idriss II consented to the Jewish presence within the walls of ancient Fez, where they established the Foundouk el Yehoud22 in an area close to the Koranic school of Qarawiyin. In Fez, a yeshiva23 was established, directed in the eleventh century by Isaac Alfasi. Also in Fez, Maimonides found refuge during the persecutions and forced conversions practiced by the Almohads in Cordoba in the twelfth century.

During the flourishing of Al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula, the Jewish communities of Morocco experienced an intellectual boom. There were yeshivas of international repute in the cities of Fez, Salé, Sijilmassa, the Draa Valley, and others and incessant migrations from Spain. These institutions maintained close relations with the Talmudic academies of Baghdad and Palestine.24

The city of Marrakesh, the other political pole of Morocco, was founded by the Almoravid Youssef Ibn Tachfine in 1062. Until the sixteenth century, Jews were forbidden to stay within the city walls and could spend twenty-four hours there for business, but they had to live forty kilometers away, in Aghmat Ourika. The Saadian sultan, Ahmed-Ed-Dahabi (1578–1603), invited them to settle in Marrakesh. Then the mellah25 was built near the royal palace.26

The Moroccan Jewish community has a long history of migrations across cultural, linguistic, and religious borders between the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. With the expulsion and mass conversions in Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century, these migrations were fraught with decisions on how to integrate or not with the surrounding autochthonous Jewish population in Morocco, primarily in Fez.

Starting as early as 1391, Jews began fleeing the Catholic fervor that was sweeping through the Iberian Peninsula in what has been called the Gerush Sbilia,27 “Expulsion from Seville.” The first wave of arrivals comprised Arabic-speaking Muslim and Jewish refugees fleeing warring Granada to whom the sultan of Fez opened the doors to his kingdom.28

The imperial city of Fez had an ancient Jewish community, which came to be known as the Toshavim (Dwellers), that was decimated in 1465 during a wave of persecution and conversion in central Morocco.29 When, in the months and years following the 1492 edict of expulsion, the Megorashim (Expulsed Ones) arrived in great numbers, the existing community of Toshavim was overwhelmed by the newcomers. Their Jewish practice and perceptions differed significantly. Their rituals were slightly different between the newly arriving Spanish Jews and the local community. For instance, their shehitá (kosher slaughtering) and their ketubot (marriage contracts) had significant differences. In Fez, in the sixteenth century, a group of rabbis known as the Hakhamei Castilla (Sages from Castille) became dominant in decisions of rabbinical law. At that level of language and culture, the struggle between the two communities was more protracted.

The shift in Fez from the public use of Spanish to Judeo-Arabic is exemplified with the first series of Takkanot (Rabbinical Rulings) between 1494 and 1647. These were in Spanish, whereas the next series, in 1711 and 1730, were in Judeo-Arabic. Another interesting example of the negotiation between the different languages in the communal public sphere came in 1613, when a sermon about a drought was delivered in Spanish, Judeo-Arabic, and Hebrew.30 The Sephardic community of Fez had become an almost exclusively Arabic-speaking community by the eighteenth century, having officially dropped its use of Spanish. By the early sixteenth century, some Sephardim had settled in Tetuan, where they established an exclusively Judeo-Spanish–speaking community.31 This new locality, which had been reestablished under Abu-l-Hassan Alí Al-Mandarí, who came from Granada around 1489, became a nucleus with specifically Spanish and Andalusian heritage in its architecture, family lineages, and music. It is important to note that after the expulsion, the border between Morocco and the Iberian Peninsula continued to be “permeable,” as Daniel Schroeter points out.32 In 1530, Rabbi Hayn Bibas established himself in Tetuan, and he was named the formal leader of the Jewish community. This sealed the legitimacy of the community and established an exclusively Sephardic leadership. Rabbi Bibas inscribed Tetuan as belonging to the communities of the Megorashim de Castilla, a community expelled from Castille.

After the fall of Granada and the edict of expulsion in 1492, mass migrations of Jews from Spain occurred, followed by the individual migrations of conversos returning to Judaism from Spain and Portugal. In 1542, a collective injunction ordered the expulsion of Jews from all Portuguese ports in North Africa. These were numerous; among others, Tangier, Assilah, Azemmour, Mazagan, and Mogador. In Tangier, the Portuguese inquisition had been established in 1547 in part of the city with the help of the Franciscans, who had accused a Jew of having converted men to the Jewish faith to facilitate their marriage to Jewish women.33 The Battle of the Three Kings, which took place on August 4, 1578, at Ksar el Kébir and during which the Portuguese king and the two claimants to the throne of the sultan of Morocco perished, made the Jews feel protected from the inquisition. In honor of this, they celebrated a special Purim, called the Purim of the Christians, marking Christianity's loss in Morocco against Islam.

During the Sabetay Tsevi34 movement in the middle of the seventeenth century, the Jews of Morocco became strongly involved in the messianic movement. In Salé and Meknes, Sabbatianism lasted until the beginning of the eighteenth century, years after Tsevi's conversion to Islam. This movement of messianic and mystical rebellion against rabbinic laws was quickly considered by elite Moroccan rabbis as heretical and dangerous to their authority. The simultaneous ascent in power of the Alaouite dynasty, which continues to reign today, allowed the rabbis to use royal law in certain cases to control Tsevi's followers by asking the sultan to issue a declaration regarding the illegality of Sabbatianism in Morocco.35 The sultan pronounced this law, but the reality of its application was very weak. This alliance between the rabbis and the makhzen36 for the consolidation of the power of the two poles—communal Jewry and government—had a determining role for certain specificities of Moroccan Judaism and continues to be relevant today. The political structure of the community was thus supported by the Alaouite dynasty because it served, among other things, the state policy they were in the process of consolidating.37

When the French and Spanish Protectorates began in Morocco, the status of dhimmi was revoked and Jewish community institutions were reformed.38 This repeal of dhimmi laws by both foreign governments, associated with the fifty years of presence of the Jewish schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle,39 led many Jews to identify with Europeans at the start of the Protectorate in 1912. Moroccans educated in western languages mastering Arabic in addition to French and Spanish turned Jews into a “buffer community” between Moroccan Muslims and Europeans. This liminal relationship during the Protectorate created a delicate situation for Jews at the time of Morocco's independence in 1956, when many of those who worked with the Europeans were seen as traitors by Moroccan nationalists. The Jewish community often suffered during periods of political tension, demonstrating the fragility of its status and cementing the strong connection of the Jews with the monarchy that ensured their protection.40 Even today, the Jewish community maintains very close relations with the palace and feels protected by official institutions. Since 2012, the palace has supported and financed an operation to renovate synagogues, Jewish quarters, and cemeteries throughout Morocco. In 2011, a referendum was held for a new constitution, and a clause inserted includes “the Hebrew component” to the national secular identity. In its preamble, the constitution defines and establishes how national unity is created:

Sovereign Muslim State, attached to its national unity and its territorial integrity, the Kingdom of Morocco intends to preserve, in its fullness and diversity, its national identity one and indivisible. Its unity, forged by the convergence of its Arab-Islamic components, Amazigh and Saharo-Hassanian, was nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean affluents.41

Defined mainly based on three pillars (Arab-Islamic: Muslim, Amazigh; Saharo-Hassani: Sahrawi), the Moroccan national identity establishes the ownership of the general identity and fundamental nation for Muslims, Amazighs, and Sahrawis. These hold the elements of “Moroccanness.” Stemming from the recent legal establishment of the Moroccanness of Jews, archives become relevant in a new manner.

Today, in the last remaining bet midrash (house of Torah learning) in Tetuan's closed Jewish club in the Ensanche district, a room sits as if it has been frozen in time. The wooden cabinets are filled with large molding and dusty tomes of Talmud, a typewriter sits atop a metal file cabinet. Nobody has studied there for decades. There is no plan for the books there, waiting for some archival saving disruption, such as that of Isaac Netto in 1770. There are nine Jews living in Tetuan today, and they keep the keys for the empty synagogues and houses of learning and oversee the upkeep of the cemetery. They know that their books, and their very history, are fading into dust but feel almost paralyzed to enact any bold moves to save the materials out of fear that they might end in the “wrong” hands, or that in their ignorance of the correct manner of archiving, they might make fatal mistakes. The most fatal of these mistakes, though, is the complete inaction of community leaders around allowing and supporting a national project of Jewish archives throughout Morocco's abandoned Jewish libraries.

The current order from the organized Jewish community offices in Casablanca is that no individual is allowed to make any action of “rupture” to digitize, classify, or save community-owned books and papers that is not approved by them.

Sociological cognitive ruptures necessitate the possibility for renormalization that will lead to restructuring conscious experiences, as Shaw explains,

This basic cognitive foundation also provides a basis for explaining post-rupture “renormalization” processes wherein, given enough time and experiential stability, individuals will develop a new set of taken-for-granteds to structure their conscious experience. To translate these promising cognitive foundations of individual experiences of rupture into a fully realized model of social rupture, however, requires one final step.42


Shaw's cognitive model of Social Rupture


Shaw's cognitive model of Social Rupture

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Jewish community officials do not condone ruptures in the social order that was established during the height of Jewish presence in Morocco. This behavioral taboo toward change demonstrates how the sociological theory of rupture shows the reification of previously taken-for-granted elements of the social situation to establish cognitive order in the light of rupture and change.43 It appears that Jewish communal officials are trying to maintain the experience of continuity without the cataclysmic rupture of the near total emigration of the Jewish community. If people had moved out, then at least the buildings, and some of their objects, would not. It reminds us of the holiness inherent in books—they are considered as if they are bodies—so maintaining them in place is as if maintaining a quasicorporeal static presence when the human bodies have disappeared. However, Momo Hayón, who was the acting president of the Jewish Community of Tetuan until his passing in 2021, confided to me that he sent two of the most valuable manuscripts from its library to Venezuela's Jewish community for safekeeping with rabbis whom he trusted and who were former members of Tetuan's community.

It seems ironic to think that Venezuela, in its current political climate, could be a safeguard for Morocco's Jewish intellectual history. But the reality about the safekeeping of Jewish books, papers, and memories in Morocco today is that there has been no organized policy by the government or the instances of the Jewish communal organizational structure, effectively disallowing the making of Jewish history when following Trouillaud's schema. Hundreds and even thousands of documents have left the country unnoticed in suitcases, while others are sitting in bazaars waiting for tourists or collectors. One Jewish collector from Fez singlehandedly started a Jewish Moroccan Museum in Brussels with thousands of manuscripts, postcards, photos, jewels, and ritual objects that he bought and took out of the country over the course of at least three decades. Another young Moroccan Israeli was a quasi-Indiana Jones of manuscripts, going into cemetery genizas and fishing out manuscripts from buried repositories—a sort of archival “grave digging.” In private conversation, he boasted to me about the amazing treasures he had found and subsequently sold to collectors throughout Europe.44

As the years pass, scholars of Morocco's Judaism fear for the fate of these invaluable windows into the community's past. Of course, the logistical complexity of identifying, gathering, preserving, and classifying the material culture left behind in the last couple of generations, when the number of individuals in the community went from close to 300,000 to under 2,000, is enormous. This effort requires an international team of experts and a solid institutional foundation in Morocco. The current reality is that this is far from possible because of logistical complexity and financial and political reasons.

In September 2022, an initial meeting was held in Tangier for a project to start a documentation center for the materials from the Jewish community of Tangier.45 This was spearheaded by Paul Dahan, the founder Centre de la Culture Judeo-Marocain in Brussels,46 who himself has taken many materials out of the country over decades.47 Dahan has worked closely with the CCME, Conseil des communautés marocaines à l’étranger (Council of Moroccan Communities in Diaspora), curating exhibits on Muslim Jewish culture in France and Brussels. The meeting in Tangier gathered a few Moroccan community leaders, activists, and researchers from the diaspora, all of whom are of Moroccan nationality or ancestry. The meetings were inconclusive as political maneuvering from the national Jewish leadership tried to shift the “center of gravity” from Paul Dahan and his team to Serge Berdugo, a controversial figure in the Moroccan Jewish community's leadership, as he has held on to power for close to forty years. It seems that the political aspects of archiving Jewish Moroccan history that are still being negotiated are a “rupture” to the cognitive social order. The next years will show what will develop from this project, which could potentially be a template for other Moroccan Jewish community archives.

As Schroeter and Chetrit explained in their seminal 2006 article,48 the current structure of the organized Jewish community of Morocco was instated by dahir in 1918 by the French colonial authorities in an effort to control the Jewish community and to ease its transition from dhimmi status to what they called “emancipated” members of the colonial project. The 1918 dahir worked as a form of structured colonial control of the Jewish communities and their internal organization. Since Moroccan independence in 1956, one of the negotiations around “la marocanité” was whether Islam was intrinsic to what it meant to be Moroccan. If it was, Jews felt that there might not be a place for them in the modern nation-state.49 In the years following independence and the rise of pan-Arabism, the complexity of Morocco's multi-ethnic past was glossed over. The Jews left en masse, and the country's multiplicity was not considered politically important in the face of the construction of the modern nation-state. Fast-forward to 2011 and the historic constitution that inscribed its multiplicity of identities in “black on white,” thus provoking an explosion of cultural, artistic, and academic creativity thanks to this overdue recognition of the true diverse nature of “la marocanité.” In December of 2020, the Abraham Accords were signed between Morocco and Israel, ratifying the approval by the palace to engage with Moroccan Israeli heritage and the largest Moroccan Jewish diaspora in the world.

The inclusion of “Hebraic” (a.k.a. Jewish) as one of the rubrics designating Moroccan identity in the 2011 constitution reiterated Morocco's traditional diversity and confirmed the country's historical complexity both for Moroccan Jews and for the national discourse. Most dramatic is that one of the main vectors for this expression by both Jews and Muslims from Morocco in the last ten years is its performance through music in manifestations throughout the country for official and nonofficial occasions.

The constitution establishes what and how Moroccan national unity is forged early on in its text.50 It is in the specification of the nuances of this three-pillared general national identity that my concern resides: Hebraic is third in a list of four elements (African, Andalusian, Hebraic, and Mediterranean) that are “affluents” and that are assumed to have come to Morocco through migration or through some movement that emanated externally and settled in Morocco in the near (Andalusian) or distant (African) past. Interestingly though, time and again the Jewish presence is reiterated as being one of the most ancient in Morocco, Jews having arrived before Islam, possibly as much as 2,500 years ago. Stated as a Hebraic affluent, not only was the word “Jewish” not chosen, but Jews are referred to by a reference to the Hebrew language and not the previously used “Israelite” nomenclature that is still used to denote the communal organizations: Conseil des Communautés Israélites du Maroc and Communauté Israélite de Casablanca, two of the most important usages.

This choice of wording plunges us into the heart of one of the inherently tense situations of Jews living in a Muslim country in a post-1948 world. How does a proud Moroccan pluralistic identity own its Jewish components or “affluents”? Not by stating Juif or Yahoud as part of its intrinsic affluents—both of those words are too charged with historical negative connotations, having been used as insults until the mid-twentieth century and in some places still so used today. Not by saying Israélite: this evokes the unwelcome presence of the wars between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East in the nationalistic discourse, where it has no binding effects to forge national unity. The least controversial nomenclature becomes then “Hebraic,” or Hebraïque, which places an inordinate focus on the Hebrew language, but by consequence strips Jews of a secular identity. In Morocco, Hebrew is almost exclusively the language of the liturgy and religious study. Jewish Moroccans have sung, written, and lived in Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Amazigh for millennia; Haketia (Moroccan Judeo-Spanish) for five hundred years; and French and Spanish for the last couple of centuries. Most Jewish women still do not speak or read Hebrew, and many Jewish men know Hebrew well enough for the uttering of prayers and proverbial formulas, but not for any significant conversational exchange and even less for the expression of identity.

Thus, Jewish and Muslim Moroccans were, unbeknownst to them, plunged into a “defining” of what “Hebraic” means as part of Moroccan identity. This definition has taken a secular and cultural position, establishing what defines Moroccan Jewishness and what about this Jewishness is specifically Moroccan. It is a subtle dance of definition between culture, identity, and religion within the larger project of defining an enlarged and inclusive national identity. The identity is built in part through their Moroccan Jewish sounds, both linguistic and musical.

Within this larger national conversation, aspects of language, sound, and music have taken a central position. Numerous festivals and concerts in the last ten years have celebrated the Convivencia, a Spanish term for “living together,” through music, and, more recently, a specific focus on Judeo-Moroccan music has been highlighted on popular weekend night television programs. Moroccan Judaism's music made its way into living rooms and cafés across the country to create a counternarrative to that of news programs broadcasting the latest details from the conflict in the Middle East.

The immediacy of sound in eliciting emotional impact from its listeners and the intimacy it can create with an unknown and unseen person appealed to me as I came to realize that the oral history materials that I had been gathering for my own personal research could continue to have a life that would enrich future scholarship and cultural actions in Morocco. The dearth of available uncensored materials for young generations of Moroccan Muslims researching Moroccan history means that each one of these oral histories provides valuable information not only about Jewish life, but also about nonofficial Moroccan history tout court.

In 2012, I began asking international sound archivists how to establish a community sound archives in Morocco—the first response I received from the largest archives of traditional music, based at my alma mater, the University of Indiana–Bloomington, was “give us the originals and we will keep everything here while you in Morocco can have a digital copy.” It was not the answer I was hoping for, and I was adamant that this archives must be in Morocco, as a resource to which people from Bloomington could come.

In 2014, I founded KHOYA: Jewish Morocco Sound Archive, born from realizing that the materials I had been gathering in my field research could become valuable to generations of researchers and artists, journalists and civil society. My initial idea for KHOYA (it means “my brother” in Darija and “jewel” in Judeo-Spanish) was that not only could other researchers use current field recordings, but also that Moroccan Jewish music recorded as early as 1932 by ethnographers and ethnomusicologists such as Franz Boas, Tomás Navarro Tomás, and Paul Bowles currently unavailable in Morocco could be made available. Using the name KHOYA meant that a word that is present daily on Moroccan streets as an informal term of connection would be considered relevant when speaking on the relationship of Jews to their Moroccan sounds and histories. In a semantic twist, joya in Spanish and Judeo-Spanish means “jewel,” creating a semiotic connection between Muslims, Jews, value, and treasure.

Moroccan students and scholars had not heard of most of the historical sound recordings collected in the early twentieth century and had no access to them. A double imperative came to light as I developed the idea: repatriation and dissemination of current sonic history. Both became primary impulses behind creating KHOYA, a sound archives that could act as a repository for sound and audiovisual elements of Moroccan Judaism, as well as for memories of Muslim Moroccans about their departed Jewish neighbors.

Eleven years after the initial conversations, establishing the archives has met with uneven success. It was originally established in an office on Boulevard D’Anfa in the heart of Casablanca, and consultations were done in situ by appointment until 2018. I was fortunate to have had five interns, starting with an initial group connected to Lewis and Clark University who had worked on the Rabat Geniza Project51 established by Oren Kosansky. They set up a Dublin Core metadata archival template and began the compilation of materials from different hard drives into a central list. More student interns from Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and Göttingen University who specialized in archives, Jewish studies, or music helped with the digitization and classification of a large portion of the collection. Two part-time assistants, both Sephardi and thus knowledgeable in the traditions of Jewish practice, and one who was a musician as well, were employed thanks to support from the Neil Castleman Family Foundation and the Center for Tolerance Studies. However, because of the archives’ independence from governmental and international institutions in the interest of intellectual honesty and noncensorship, Jewish community instances in Morocco itself did not support the archives.

In January of 2015, I was invited to present the project to a group of students at the Jewish Museum of Casablanca along with the press. A few days later, the local press published stories about KHOYA, the Jewish Museum's project of sound archives directed by Vanessa Paloma Elbaz.52 Later in the week, I was urged by the curator, who is a joint employee of the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and the Foundation of Jewish Patrimony, to hand over the whole project to the foundation and to work within its framework of governmental narratives on Jewish Moroccan life. Neither copresident of the Foundation of Moroccan Patrimony,53 who were the true decision makers, proposed a realistic working framework. This moment of unrealized coercive intellectual violence was reminiscent of Morocco's policies during the Years of Lead,54 during which both communal leaders were politically and economically active in the Moroccan government. Having heard about the distress of Simon Levy, the late director and founder of the Jewish Museum of Casablanca, regarding the direction of the foundation and its financial stranglehold by the same men in the months before his stroke, I understood that, as a nonaffiliated, non-Moroccan female scholar, I had little clout to resist any institutional pressure from the foundation if I were to engage formally with it.

A few months later, the AP France contacted me and ran articles in L’Express,55France24, and Le Point.56 I was assured that the journalist understood that this was an independent project, and not, as he had been told by the curator, one that had been launched by the museum and its foundation. Later that year, articles appeared in Femmes du Maroc57 and Din wa Dunya, a short-lived, glossy magazine on religious-secular relations in Morocco, penned by journalists who had followed and supported my work and understood the obstacles I had faced.

Currently, the collection is primarily housed on external hard drives and in the cloud, totaling 1.129 terabytes of classified materials. Hundreds of yet-to-be classified audiovisual materials and objects of material culture are still held in Casablanca, waiting for the formalization of a feasible institutional partnership. I have been based at the University of Cambridge since 2018 and continue to explore ways to maintain KHOYA in Morocco, while having the institutional support that an archival project with longevity requires. It appears that the initial idea of basing materials, accessibility, and infrastructure completely in Morocco is not currently possible: the process of shattering the blocking mechanisms in Morocco's official Jewish infrastructure has proven exhausting and frustrating. Possibly starting from Cambridge while collaborating with Moroccan institutions will bear quicker results, allowing technical knowledge exchange and fruitful collaboration.

In March 2023, KHOYA started conversations between the ANU Museum (previously the Diaspora Museum) in Tel Aviv and Cambridge University to share materials and technologies for the archiving of Jewish Moroccan oral histories and music. Working with the Mimouna Foundation in Morocco, the ideal plan would closely involve a Moroccan higher education institution.

There have been various collaborations in the last decade for the repatriation of digital documents to Morocco's national archives in Rabat. In recent years, various valuable collections of documents pertaining to Jewish Morocco have been deposited as digital copies in the Moroccan National Archives. In 2018, both the Holocaust Memorial Museum of Washington, DC,58 and the Alliance Israélite Universelle59 based in Paris, gave the Moroccan National Archives copies of all documents relating to Morocco in highly publicized official ceremonies in Rabat. The private papers of some of the most important Jewish scholars and political activists of the twentieth century—linguist Simon Lévy, cultural historian Haim Zafrani, writer Edmond Amram el Maleh, and political activist Abraham Serfaty—were given to the National Archives in the last decade. These archives are only accessible in Rabat at the National Archives offices, providing a much-needed service to Moroccan scholars and students. They are, however, to date, inaccessible digitally.

Digital platforms on social media have tried to push back to destabilize the imperative of inaction that silences most of the people who could record and document this current and recent history of Jewish Morocco, in what Boum has called a “virtual genizah.”60 Because the lived archives of traditional transmission of inter-generational memory grounded within Moroccan territory broke with the first waves of emigration out of Morocco, now, at nearly the third generation since, the issue has reached a point of urgency. The current repositories to anchor the knowledge held exclusively within orality and tradition are still fragile and impermanent: Facebook groups (i.e., Juif du Maroc, Jewish Fez Book Project), listservs (Dafina. net), and various publications (Sephardic Legacy Series) discuss and codify what had been until recently exclusively transmitted through oral tradition.

One recent example is the work of Einat Levi, an Israeli with Moroccan ancestry on her maternal line, who has created a series of digital “archives” relating to different cities in Morocco; another is George Sebat, who created a website on Jewish Agadir.61 Many of the other online sites are dedicated to Jewish cemeteries and provide a space for descendants to “light” a virtual candle for their ancestors or for students to use them as archival sources on aspects of communal life, such as naming practices. The most active site on Facebook is the Jewish Fez Book Project.62 Levi gathered hundreds of digital historical photographs and invited others through various Facebook pages relating to the project to upload photographs and identify their family members, friends, and other people in the images. The images and the plasticity of social media have become a space for reencounter by dispersed Moroccan Jews who have lost track of each other, or as a place to share news on each other's lives, health, families, and situations. It has also become a written space for the rememorating of oral tradition, mostly proverbs and specific dialects. After the Abraham Accords, Levi was appointed to a diplomatic position at the Israeli Embassy in Rabat, demonstrating the importance of these digital archival projects in the building of political and identitarian connections.

In the summer of 2012, Chris Silver was traveling through Morocco and “digging” for vinyl records of popular music recorded by Jews in North Africa. He was about to start a PhD at UCLA that focused on these repertoires, and in conversation over tea in my living room, I asked if he would be open to collaborating with KHOYA, to aggregate popular recordings together with field recordings and historic audiovisual materials. His desire was to maintain it as a discreet collection, and, in 2017, he launched an online blog-archives named Gharamophone63 using SoundCloud to easily upload materials. In the blog, one digitized vinyl record at a time, Silver tells the histories of political resistance and cultural relationships between Muslims and Jews. The recordings act as the archival counter-voice to the colonial documents on which many historians base their work almost exclusively. This aspect of sonic texturing of histories confirms the invaluable aspect of the contribution of sound to retracing hidden narratives.

In October 2021, with the support of the Cambridge Arts and Humanities Impact Fund and the Matanel Foundation, an initial trilingual initial pilot launched online featuring one of the oral histories from hundreds in the collection. The pilot, entitled Ya Lalla: Jewish Saharans Singing to Birth,64 used an oral history interview to demonstrate and contextualize the story of the Jewish community's relationship to women's song, fertility, and birth. A simple structure with a first-person narrative enhanced with explanatory pop-up tabs expanding on the topics of women, celebration, protection, voice, fertility, tsaddikim,65 and the French Protectorate gives wider cultural contexts to the materials presented. Within the narrative, various videos from a Cambridge Festival prelaunch event held during COVID-19 explain Judeo-Arabic, French Music and the Colonialist Mindset, Muslim and Jewish Moroccan Birth Rituals, and On Contemporary and Historic Moroccan Women's Birth Songs. Four short videos punctuate the narrative. The first highlights a song sung when a mother's water breaks during labor: “Bekkat Lina ghir lila.” The second discusses Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, a Talmudic sage of the second century whose wife, Bruria, is the only named female scholar in the Talmud. The third, “Ila gulti l-i sabe,” tells of the preference for male children over girls. The last is a recording of the home-based precircumcision ritual of the tahdid, sword ceremony, done in Morocco to ward off evil spirits in the room of the mother and newborn.

The pilot was conceived as an exhibit for KHOYA and launched as part of the European Research Commission (ERC) project Past and Present Musical Encounters Across the Strait of Gibraltar funded by Cambridge AHIF and the Matanel Foundation and developed by Digirati. Other partners active in the development and conceptualization of the pilot were Cambridge Digital Humanities, the Mimouna Foundation, and the Alliance Israélite Universelle.

Using excerpts from a 2016 interview of Mme. Sultana Azeroual from the Tafilalet region and living in Casablanca, the pilot places women's voices as central to the sonic presence of Jews in Morocco. Her story demonstrates multilingualism as well as internal migration, as she migrated to Meknes from Boudenib on the Algerian border. The choice to use materials from Jewish women's Saharan oral traditions on birth and fertility for this pilot project was rooted in the core roles of women's songs, celebrations, protection, and fertility in Morocco, regardless of geographical, religious, or social position. The process of bringing a sensorial communal tradition based in orality to an interactive digital platform highlights both its heightened state of fragility of transmission and its enduring continuity, while providing accessibility to descendants of Moroccan émigrés, both Muslim and Jewish.

Focusing on Jewish Amazigh women's songs for childbirth was a strategic decision to root the initial project of the archives away from male-centered repertoires or a liturgical focus. This ensured that KHOYA would be perceived initially as a people's archives and not an official, hierarchical, or patriarchal order of historiography. Women's voices in North Africa have functioned as communal subterfuge to colonial projects of controlling local sound and action.66 Women's utterances have usually been filtered from government-sanctioned sound projects and even more so from documents of the creation of historical narratives. Their core importance for minority groups in ensuring transmission, fertility, and group cohesion makes a powerful case for what may appear to outsiders as a simple and unstable musical tradition because of its monodic oral expression, but which is strongly centered in local traditions and non-European aesthetics.

Creating a pilot centered on women's songs on birth and ritual establishes KHOYA as a nonhegemonic archival repository of the intimate and the personal, of the voices of women and children, and of the nonofficial voices of Jewish presence in Morocco. The lived similarities between Muslims and Jews often reside in these beliefs, home-based ritual practices, culinary traditions, textiles and handiworks, children's games, and so on. These embodied spaces of Muslim-Jewish intimacy present an other-archives to the intellectual, secularized North African Jew who is demarcated as “professional stranger.”67 The space of the mouth, ear, and nose is a site of Jewish-Muslim citizenship.68

Moroccan Muslim musicians such as Omar Chahin, Sanaa Marahati, Fayçal Azizi, and Mohammed Amine el Akrami, to name a few, perform melodies and texts that are considered part of Jewish musical memory and that evoke Morocco's lost lived relationship to its Jewish population. Associations such as Diapason, Dar el ‘Ala, and Solid’Art use concerts that include matrouz, embroidered Arabic and Hebrew texts, and chgouri, Jewish popular music to support a sort of “lived” archives of Moroccan Jewish musical experience. Saout el Mellah, an artistic sound project in El Jadida in early December 2019 used sound elements from KHOYA for a sound creation while also inventing a mythical Jewish origin for an iconic building within the Portuguese walled city—eliciting questions about the appropriation, invention, and reinvention of history and diversity for political, artistic, and even budgetary purposes. This event was featured on a Radio Pompidou program, demonstrating how sonic context often achieves artistic mediatic presence.

Thinking of long-term sustainability, the concern of what will happen when this generation is gone is of particular urgency—empty Jewish community buildings and official papers are not enough to transmit the fullness of the experience of two millennia of lived Judaism in Morocco. Uncurated, uncensored sounds and the voiced ideas of this generation can be accessible to future generations and will provide a window into a lost world that historians wish they had for previous time periods. Only by hearing the intoned prayer of an older man in Hebrew with a Judeo-Arabic accent—or a Judeo-Spanish one with inflections from Darija—will the layers of complex “belongings” seep into the embodied experience of a reality that relates to what is now only public national discourse or part of an older generation's fading memories. An attempt to reclaim the grassroots reconstruction of the layered memory of Moroccan Judaism and a productive relationship of this past with the future may help to save some of this knowledge. A disruption of the narratives empowered by the bureaucratic structures of colonialism on Moroccan Judaism seems to be the only way that an organic integration of Judaism's millenary history in Morocco will become a part of the three-dimensional, decolonialized Moroccan citizen of the future. This, however, would require a cognitive rupture to allow the invalidation of long-standing habitual inferences. Only through this process could a slow erosion of automatic interpretations and responses lead to the placement of technological and economic infrastructures in support of scholars and community activists working toward the establishment of full spectrum archiving of Jewish memory. The KHOYA Archive is one small portion of a larger historiographical project to present the complexity of what El Guabli has aptly named Moroccan “other archives,” necessitating a cognitive rupture from traditional relationships to narratives, oral-written continuums, and the understanding of what an archives is, be it sonic, embodied, topographical, or material.69

This article was written while the author was a research associate on the ERC-funded project Past and Present Musical Encounters Across the Strait of Gibraltar (MESG Grant agreement ID: 758221) while based at the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Music. An early version of this article was given as a paper in Berlin at the en quêtes d'archives conference on January 25, 2019, by invitation of Sarah Dornhof and Nadia Sabri. The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and Dr. Sumayya Ahmed for including this article in the conversation on archives in North Africa and the Middle East.


The British Museum, “Isaac Nieto,”


The most famous geniza is the Geniza of Cairo, which was transported to Cambridge University in the late nineteenth century under the direction of Salomon Schechter, and which has served scholars for decades as a source to reconstruct Mediterranean social histories. See Shelomo Dov Goitein, “The Documents of the Cairo Geniza as a Source for Mediterranean Social History,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 80, no. 2 (1960): 91–100,; and more recently Renée Levine Melammed, “Jewish Women in Muslim Territory in the Middle Ages: Two Documents from the Cairo Geniza,” Clio. Women, Gender, History 44 (2016): 229–41,; Ortal-Paz Saar, “Geniza Magical Documents,” Jewish History 32, nos. 2/4 (2019): 477–86,; Oded Zinger, “Finding a Fragment in a Pile of Geniza: A Practical Guide to Collections, Editions, and Resources,” Jewish History 32, nos. 2/4 (2019): 279–309,


University of Cambridge, Cambridge Digital Library, “Cairo Genizah,”


Mark R. Cohen, “Digitizing the Geniza,” Jewish History 32, nos. 2/4 (2019): 547–50,


Digital Bodleian, “Bodleian Library MS. Kennicott 7,” Fragments of the Latter Prophets,


Rebecca Abrams and César Merchán-Hamann, eds., Jewish Treasures from Oxford Libraries (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020).


Andrew Hoskins, Digital Memory Studies: Media Pasts in Transition (London: Routledge, 2018), 3.


Morocco was not colonized per se, it was under French and Spanish Protectorates from 1912 until 1956.


Megan Ward and Adrian Wisnicki, “The Archive after Theory,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2019, ed. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019), 200–5.


G.S., private interview, June 3, 2016, Casablanca.


Ward and Wisnicki, “Archive After Theory,” 201.


Michel Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 48.


Albert Kadosh, KHOYA Archive, interviewed December 5, 2015, Casablanca. #00374.


International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIf),


Isidore Abbou, Musulmans Andalous et Judéo-Espagnols (Casablanca: Editions Antar, 1953), 277.


“Les douze navires chargés de captifs juifs, envoyés par Titus de Palestine vers les portes de l’Afrique du Nord, vinrent renforcer les colonies existantes …” in André Chouraqui, Histoire des juifs en Afrique du Nord: En exil au Maghreb, Tome 1 (Paris: Broché, 1998), 57.


For example, the Wizman family claims to be descended from a tribe of warriors based in the village of Ighri Ourou. They conveyed trans-Saharan trade caravans of Jews who traveled regularly between the Mediterranean extremes, leaving their village to reach Jerusalem. A Jewish woman from southern Morocco claims that the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba is buried in Taznakht, in the south of the country and that his father was responsible for paying the Tuareg guards to ensure the protection of the tomb of this saint in the 1960s. This saint bears the Jewish name of Ba'asa ou’Shelomo and the Muslim name of Sidi Bouissa or Slimane. (It is interesting to look at the spelling of this name in its Judeo-Arabic and Arabic-Muslim.)


Arlette Toledano, Juives et Juifs dans le Maroc contemporain: Image d'un avenir (Paris: Geuthner, 2002), 137.


Haim Zafrani, “Notes sur G. Vajda, Inscriptions antiques du Maroc: Inscriptions hébraïques,” Revue des Etudes Juives 127, no. 1 (1968): 125–26,, captured at


Ibn Khaldun, Histoire des Berberes, trans. William de Slane, 4 vols. (Algiers: Imprimerie du Gouvernement, 1852–1856), 208–9.


Status granted to People of the Book, Jews and Christians. The dhimma is a pact of allegiance, of submission, and of protection that includes twelve rules.


The Foundouk el Yehoud was a Jewish hotel for travelers.


A yeshiva is a Talmudic academy.


Haim Zafrani, Deux Mille ans de vie juive au Maroc (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1998), 14–15.


The mellah was the Jewish quarter, a name used in Morocco, which comes from the Arabic word for “salt” and has been purported to mean either that the original quarter in Marrakesh had been built on a former salt deposit or, in a more spurious story, that Jews were ordered to salt the heads of the enemies of the palace.


Zafrani, Deux mille ans, 13.


Simon Lévy, “Judéo-espagnol et judéo-arabe marocains: le sort des morphemes de pluriel et d'emprunts au terme de quatre siecles de plurilinguisme,” Revue YOD, nos. 33–34, 143.


Simon Lévy, Parlers arabes des Juifs du Maroc (Zaragoza, Sp.: Instituto de Estudios Arabes e Islámicos, 2009), 107.


Shlomo Deshen, The Mellah Society: Jewish Community Life in Sherifian Morocco (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 8.


Lévy, Parlers arabes, 171.


Juan Bautista Vilar Ramírez, La Judería de Tetuán (1489–1860) y otros ensayos (Murcia, Sp.: Universidad de Murcia, 1969), 23.


Daniel J. Schroeter, “The Shifting Boundaries of Moroccan Jewish Identities,” Jewish Social Studies 15, no. 1 (2008): 145–64,


Jacobo Israel Garzón, Los judíos hispano-marroquíes (1492–1973) (Madrid: Hebraica Ediciones, 2008), 96.


Sabetay Tsevi was a self-proclaimed Jewish messiah who converted to Islam at the exhortation of the Ottoman sultan in 1666, creating a crisis throughout the Jewish world.


Emily Benichou-Gottreich, “Of Messiahs and Sultans: Shabbtai Zevi and Early Modernity in Morocco,” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 12, no. 2 (2013), 197,


The makhzen was the sultan's government.


Bénichou-Gottreich “Of Messiahs,” 194.


Daniel J. Schroeter and Joseph Chetrit, “Emancipation and Its Discontents: Jews at the Formative Period of Colonial Rule in Morocco,” Jewish Social Studies 13, no. 1 (2006), 171,


The Alliance Israélite Universelle was a Mediterranean-wide Jewish school network led by Parisian-based French Jewry. The first school opened in Tetuan in 1862 and the second in Tangier in 1864. Eventually, there were schools for boys and girls, and Moroccan Judaism was revolutionized in its connection to secular European education, connected to Jewish learning.


In 1646, when the zaouïa of Dila took control of Fez and other areas of the Alawite territory, several synagogues and houses of study were destroyed by the Dilaites (Benichou-Gottreich, “Of Messiahs,”194–95). In 1860, before the arrival of the Spanish in Tetuan, the judería was sacked by the Rif tribes (from the Rif Mountains in the north of the country). In 1912, at the beginning of the French Protectorate, there were violent attacks in the mellah in Fez. In June 1948, there was a massacre of forty-three Jews in Oujda and Jerrada, eastern Moroccan cities, three weeks after the declaration of the creation of the State of Israel which, according to an Oujdi who was a teenager at the time, French officials in power did not stop. Interview with Mr. Chahid on June 8, 2014, in Oujda.


Lynette Shaw, “On Rupture: Establishing the Cognitive Bases of Social Change,” Sociological Forum 36, no. S1 (2021): 1229–52,


“The expected cognitive effects of rupture include an automatic shifting of individuals’ conscious attention away from the previous objects of individual or joint deliberation and towards previously taken-for-granted elements of the social situation, most specifically those related to Type 1 processing failures. This reflexively increased conscious saliency of disruptive elements may be further accompanied by increased expenditures of cognitive effort on their reevaluation.” Shaw, “On Rupture,” 2021–36.


R.P., private conversation, Casablanca, June 20, 2008.


“Tanger: lancement du Centre de recherche et des archives sur le Judaïsme du Nord du Maroc,”, September 22, 2022,, captured at


Centre de la Culture Judeo-Marocaine,, captured at


Some of the postcards and historic photographs of his collection are available online, Centre de la Culture Judeo-Marocaine,


Schroeter and Chetrit, “Emancipation,” 170.


Vanessa Paloma Elbaz, “Common Language: Popular Music and Its Message,” Jews and Muslims in Morocco: Uncommon Commonalities, ed. Jane Gerber, Joseph Chetrit, and Drora Arussy (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2021), 192.


Principally defined with three pillars (Arabo-Islamic = Muslim, Amazigh; and Saharo-Hassani = Saharaoui), Moroccan national identity established the Muslim, Amazigh, and Saharan “ownership” of general and basic “Moroccanness” or, as it's called in French, “la Marocanité.”


The Rabat Genizah Project,


Brahim Taougar, “En images. Khoya, les archives sonores du Maroc juif,” le360,


After Simon Lévy's passing in 2011, Serge Berdugo, former minister of tourism and itinerant ambassador to the king, and Jacques Toledano, a major industrial actor in Morocco's economy, took full control of the foundation. Dr. Lévy had been in a years-long headlock with both men because of disagreements relating to the disbursement of thousands of Euros that Lévy had received from the German government for the restoration of Slat El Fassiyin, a synagogue in Fez's medina that neither Berdugo nor Toledano wanted to sign off on as cosigners to the foundation's account. After Lévy's death, the synagogue's restoration was completed, and a high-profile inauguration was held in February 2013. Jean Lévy, Simon Lévy's son, gave an allocution in Arabic, as did the Islamist prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane.


The Years of Lead (Arabic: , Sanawāt ar-Rasās) was a period of King Hassan II's rule, from the early 1960s through the 1980s, marked by state violence and repression against political dissidents and activists. The repression and intellectual thwarting of many activists continued after his death. The current king has made great efforts to mend broken relations. However, within the Jewish community, the leadership continues operating under the same repressive policies of that period until today.


“Au Maroc, musiques et sons d'autrefois pour rappeler l'histoire juive du royaume,” L’Express, March 18, 2015,, captured at


“Au Maroc, musiques et sons d'autrefois pour rappeler l'histoire juive du royaume,” Le Point, March 3, 2015,, captured at


Sarah Adida, “‘Khoya’ les Archives Sonores du Maroc Juif,” Femmes du Maroc, December 25, 2015,, captured at


“Museum Signs Archival Agreement with the Archives of Morocco” (press release), United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, May 16, 2018,, captured at


“Cérémonie de remise des archives de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle (press release), Archives du Maroc, March 6, 2018,, captured at


Aomar Boum, “‘The Virtual Genizah’”: Emerging North African Jewish and Muslim Identities Online,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 46, no. 3 (2014): 597,


“Welcome,” Communauté Juive Agadir,


The Jewish Fes-book Project,




The pilot's URL is in English, in Arabic, and in French.


Tsaddikim are Jewish saints.


Susan Slyomovics, “Algerian Women's Būqālah Poetry: Oral Literature, Cultural Politics, and Anti-Colonial Resistance,” Journal of Arabic Literature 45 (2014): 145–68,


Abdelkebir Khatibi and Jacques Hassoun, Le Même livre (Paris: Editions de l’Eclat, 1985), 106.


Brahim El Guabli, Moroccan Other-Archives: History and Citizenship after State Violence (New York: Fordham University Press, 2023).


El Guabli, Other-Archives.