Are there Jews in Morocco? This is the first question that documentary maker, Youness Abeddour poses to local Moroccans in his documentary titled “Moroccan Judaism: A Culture in Danger.” The answers to this seemingly simple question, leads Abeddour into a rich discussion about Moroccan Judaism, in which he addresses many topics such as the history of Jews in Morocco, and questions of culture, language and identity.
Abeddour’s documentary is laid out on such way that one can understand how the past relates to the present and how an integral part of the citizenry, Moroccan Jews, came to be a part of the Moroccan landscape. Additionally, Abeddour’s documentary attempts to shed light on a few key terms, such as Zionism, that are often confounded and which often dilute such crucial conversations. Abeddour uses a variety of mediums to explore this topic, such as expert testimonials, documentary clips, and photos and through the intersections of these three means, a dynamic presentation emerges where the viewer is probed to think critically and deeply about the role of this underrepresented community, including their history and their contributions to Moroccan culture.
Of particular value to this discussion is Abeddour’s segment on how “Moroccanness,” is conceptualized as a function religion and language. This adds an interesting dimension in understanding how Moroccan Jews may have to grapple with their own identities as both Moroccan and Jewish, particularly those who speak a language other than Arabic.
Abeddour has done a great service to representing Moroccan Judaism and this documentary is critical for broadening the discussion on a minority population within Morocco. Further, this documentary is ever more important because it gives voice to Moroccan Jews, where such voices are underrepresented, and often neglected or silenced because of the political climate of the Middle East.
While the documentary was very interesting and informative, the length of the documentary was short, thus shortchanging many of the important topics that were presented in this documentary. Therefore, rather than discussing few topics in great length, many topics were addressed briefly. While this meant that the viewer emerged with more general information about this topic, it would have been interesting to see this documentary delve more deeply into specific topics such as Moroccan Jewish identity. Moreover, it would have been interesting to include more personal perspectives on how individual Moroccan Jewish perceive their identity and role in Moroccan culture and how this might relate to their conceptualization of citizenship and belongingness. That said, this documentary was definitely worth watching and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in gaining some preliminary knowledge about Moroccan Jews.
By Maha Hilal