(JTA) — Rabbi Raphael Benchimol of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation was honored by the king of Morocco.
Benchimol received the medal of the Knight of the Order of the Throne bestowed by Mohammed VI at his New York City synagogue.
The president of the Jewish Community of Morocco, Serge Berdugo, represented the king in presiding over this week’s medal ceremony.
"Moroccan Jews, even after leaving their country, retain attachment to and love for Morocco, as confirmed by the beautiful words of the late Yitzchak Rabin: ‘Moroccan Jews are the only Jews that never renounce their country, nor were they rejected by their country,’ " Berdugo said. The king recognizes "the merits of Moroccan Jews, wherever they settled, by honoring them with the highest medals of his kingdom."
"Although we left Morocco, Morocco never leaves us. It is deeply engraved in our hearts," Benchimol said in response. He called the ceremony a "tribute to a remarkable country — my birth country of Morocco."
"This special ceremony of recognition and of mutual respect between two peoples, Jewish and Muslim, is just another testament to how unique and distinct Morocco is, and how exceptional the royal family is."
The ceremony was sponsored by the congregation and the American Sephardi Federation.