NEW YORK (Oct. 6)
King Hassan II of Morocco held court at New York’s Plaza Hotel last Wednesday evening for 75 American and Canadian Jews of Moroccan origin, who came to express their affection for the ruler and their attachment to the land of their birth.
The scene was warm and sentimental, with a touch of medieval pageantry.
Hassan, flanked by his son, Prince Moulay Rashid, his three daughters and his principal ministers, was seated on a white chair bearing the royal escutcheon.
He listened attentively as Rabbi Moise Ohana, a native of Meknes who lives in Montreal, spoke in French of the bond that ties Moroccan Jews living abroad to their native land.
He was followed by Rabbi Abraham Ben-Haim, also from Meknes and now of Queens, who pronounced the traditional Hebrew blessings on being in the presence of a king.
In response, Hassan II rose from his “throne” and, speaking in Arabic, told of the many links between Jews and Moslems as “children of one flesh — Abraham.”
Pointing out the fact that Moroccan Jews may enter and leave Morocco freely, the king said: “Bring your children with you when you come, so that they may know of the Jewish sages who are buried in our land and of the many Jewish traditions that are still alive in our country.”
Serge Berdugo of Casablanca, president of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco, introduced each of the guests to the king, who shook their hands and sometimes had a brief chat.
Interviewed on Moroccan television after the reception, Liliane Shalom, a New Yorker born in Casablanca, observed that “every Moroccan Jew carries a piece of the old country with him” wherever he lives.
“We will never forget the king’s father, Mohammed V, who protected the Jews from the racist laws of Vichy and the Nazi barbarism after the fall of France,” she said. “Hassan II is his father’s son — a good and just king, whom Moroccan Jews everywhere cherish and revere.”