Berber Jews of Morocco

Not much is known about the Berber-speaking Jews of Morocco, but with the total Jewish population having dwindled to fewer than 5,000, the Berber Jews are vanishing fast.

While distinguishing between the ‘toshavim’, the pre-Islamic communities of the Atlas mountains, and the ‘megorashim’ – Jews fleeing Spain in the 15th century who settled mainly in the towns – foreign travellers and ethnographers in the 19th and 20th century were divided over the Berber Jews’ mysterious origins. Some believed that they descend from the Jews of ancient Israel. Some believed Berber tribes converted to Judaism, like the famous Berber queen, the Kahena. Some even thought that the Jews who settled in Spain were originally North African Berbers.

This article (in French) is worth reading and ends with an extract of a rare Haggadah written in amazigh, the Berber language.

17 Comments

  • Dear All,
    I'm a young berber jew from paris and I'm a singer.
    I'm looking for jewish berber songs.
    If you have records, If you know old people from who I could learn this amazing repertoire please tell me.
    Best
    Miléna

    [email protected]

    Reply
  • Kol hakavod Lior aval anakhnu lo yekholim la'azor lekha, tsarikh lehitkasher im ha irgunim ba' aretz.

    Reply
  • היי אני עושה עבודת סמינריון על הברברים היהודים, נתקלתי בקושי רב למצוא חומר מחקרי בנושא אשמח אם תוכל להפנות אותי ליאור

    Reply
  • Hello,
    There is a Berber-Jewish association in Morocco and an organisation dedicated to Judeo-Berbers in Israel. I'm sorry I haven't any details, try contacting Harissa.com or Dafina.com
    Best of luck!

    Reply
  • Hello – i am French (i have lived in France since birth) and Tunisian (my parents and I used to summer in Tunisia every year). l feel very French and Tunisian and very Tunisian and French and since my mother passed away last year (my father lasses away when I was 17) I feel the pressuring urge to know more about my true origins. Because I always felt that I had Jewish and Berber origins it is very physical and intuitive but also based on what my parents used to tell me. My mother used to often say that her father has a Jewish name/ that his name is Jewish and my father use to say that we should visit his grand aunt in Chnenni in the south of Tunisia not sure if he was referring to the Chnenni near El Hamma. And although my parents always officially say that they come from Tunis they also say that they come from El Jounnoub which designates the south region if Tunisia around Gabes (my father s side) El
    Hamma (my mother s side) and Chnenni (my father s side). I have discovered that both my parents names are listed in the list if Jewish names in Tunisie.
    Is there any tests/ or morphological methods to check?

    Do you know what is the best way to know more about my origins? Are there any ancient lists of names of Tunisian Jews available at the level of the Rabbi for instance in the south of Tunisia?
    Also and even if i discover that I am not a berber Jew
    which I really doubt also based on my physical features, I really and truly believe that it is critical to preserve such a mysterious heritage on a global level throgh a big exhibition for instance and or through a centralised collection of memories and witnesses, archives…

    Thank you that was long but I needed to do this here as your comments were very telling to me and I feel that my lonely quest for my real roots will be soon coming to happy end thanks to blogs like yours and the Social Media era.

    We should also be able to gather an extensive network of berbers or potential bebers in an association. If if such associations exist they should merge in a larger one to be able to reach a bigger voice on an international level.

    We have to have our voice heard like an echoe in the Saharian mountains!

    Reply
  • Your father could be of Jewish descent – who knows? There was a lot of interaction between the two peoples

    Reply
  • My father Is a berber from The atlas mountaines, he is muslim, do you think there is a slight chance he's a jew? not by religion but by blood… and if it is yes how can i know?

    Reply
  • Hi,
    My dad, from Spain, told me that his family is also part berber/jewish and that the berbers who came to Spain with the caliphs in the middle ages, fled to the North of the country and went into hiding after the re-conquest by the Spanish Kings, in 1492 and later merged with the population.

    Reply
  • How fascinating! Please could you email me the picture you have of the synagogue? I would love to post your story on my weblog.
    Thanks
    Bataween

    Reply
  • Hi

    I am Berber from Libya and the tribe I come from in the Nafousa Mountain was half Jewish. We still have two old synagogues; one of them was turned into a school after the Jewish community immigrated to Israel. Now, both of the synagogues are empty, I have pictures of one of the.
    My father told me that the whole tribe used to be Jewish (based on old documents that he found and the stories that he hared during his childhood) and about two hundred years ago about half of the community converted to Islam. He still remember how his Jewish neighbors used to send him to shop for necessary things on the Sabbath and to turn the electricity on for them, since it is forbidden for the Jews to do on this holy day.
    When I moved to the US, people always approach me in public thinking that I am Jewish, well I am Hebrew after all and proud to be one!

    Reply
  • Hi,
    I am a Berber, but not a Jew. I know that my anscetors were and I can see some Jewish features in my relatives. I also speak the Berber that the Berber Jews used to speak 🙂

    Reply
  • I visited the ruins of the Jewish Kassbah in Ifrane d’Anti-Atlis. Many of the people looked very Jewish it was shocking.The kassbah is meant to date back to the destruction of the first Temple.

    Reply
  • my name is Choumissa and i live in Holland,my father is from Nador,and a berber jew,my mother is dutch

    Reply
  • hello
    i’m jew from Morocco and berber
    i have a blog for defending judaism and our berber culture
    zeev

    Reply

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