Simon Levy, Moroccan Jewish leader, dies at 77


Simon Levy, director of Casablanca’s Jewish Museum and one of the last in a generation of prominent Moroccan Jews, died Dec. 2 at 77 in Rabat.

Levy, a founder and later Secretary General of the Moroccan Judaism Foundation, was Morocco’s "foremost authority on Moroccan Jewish culture," an English language website from Morocco wrote, and "his work will continue to guide future generations, academia, and researchers all over the world."


Levy had been a professor in the Spanish Department of Mohamed V University in Rabat, after spending time in prison during  French rule in Morocco "because of his resistance to the French and demands to grant Morocco independence." Later, Levy, a leading figure in Morocco’s Communist Party, was imprisoned during Morocco’s “Years of Lead,” because of his advocacy for inpidual liberties and rights during the reign of King Hassan II, who ruled until 1999.

Like other Moroccan Jewish political activists,  many of whom were also affiliated with the country’s Communist Party, Levy, who was born in Fez, was often critical of Israel. In a 2007 article in the Forward, Levy said Diaspora life was crucial to retaining a balance between national and Jewish experience. “Israelis are not Jewish,” he told the Forward. “If you enter Israel, you are not Jewish because you don’t have to think about it. In Israel, there is the logic of a nation and patriotism. But when a Jew in [the Diaspora] says he is a Jew, he knows what this means.”

Levy was fiercely devoted to Moroccan Jewry. In the same Forward article, he said: 

“Moroccan Jewry is the most important in the world, culturally. Every Moroccan rabbi was a scholar and recorded the history of [his] community, which has preserved our knowledge of these communities. Morocco is the only place in the world where Jews lived continuously, with at least some rights, for over 2,000 years.”

…“It is a catastrophic aspect of the last century of Judaism, because now [Jews] are fabricating a past in the Holy Land. In the Holy Land, you have Jerusalem, but during the past 15 centuries there was nothing. There were a few Kabbalah rabbis, but nothing else. But here in Morocco, every town has a mellah [Jewish quarter].”

Two other aging stalwarts of the Moroccan Jewish community, Abraham Serfaty, and Edmond Amran El Maleh, died in November 2010.

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