You may have heard of the Hitler Megilla, which celebrates the liberation of North Africa by the Allies as a mini-Purim. Now comes discovery of a Hitler Haggadah, composed by a Moroccan Jew in Judeo-Arabic in 1943, which uses the structure of the Passover story to do the same. However, a discussion featuring the translator at the recent Jewish Writers’ Festival in Sydney drew ‘ inflammatory and racist comments’ on social media and forced Shalom, the organisers, to close off comments and make a statement denouncing the objectors. (With thanks: Leon)
Prior to the event taking place, Shalom issued the following statement:
”The event in question entails the Jewish Holocaust Centre’s Head of Education Dr Simon Holloway interviewing the translator of The Hitler Haggadah. This book was published in 1943 by Nissim Ben Shimon, a Moroccan survivor of the Nazis, and has recently been translated into English by Jonnie Schnytzer, a PhD candidate at Bar Ilan University. It is a renowned work and has been recently profiled and discussed by other distinguished Jewish organisations such as the Jewish Book Council and Centre for Jewish History. An original is contained in the Haberman Institute Collection.
The work describes Ben Shimon’s feeling of liberation by the allied forces, using the scaffolding of the Haggadah, in a similar way to the Survivor’s Haggadah which encapsulated the feelings of survivors in 1946 who were liberated from Concentration camps by Allied forces. This is consistent with many family sederim, where—as the sages encourage us to do so—we retell the story of our being slaves in Egypt and the Exodus and link these to other genocides of our people, including the Shoah.
”The social media response to our posts included negative reactions to the title and to a quote from his book, where he compares the four sons to world powers at the time.
”As is typical of social media, some commenters assumed bad intent on the part of the poster, rather than enquiring as to the credentials of the work in question. Some of the comments used inflammatory, racial epithets aimed at our Jewish employees and volunteers. Shalom does not tolerate racism of any kind, including from fellow Jews. Accordingly, we elected to close off the comments.”
The commenters apparently objected to the title and the following quote: ‘The Torah speaks of fours sons: England, the wise son, Hitler the wicked one, America, the good one, and Mussolini, who isn’t worthy of our words.’
The event itself, on 4 April, seems to have passed off without incident.
Tonight is the start of the Passover holiday, when Jews read the Haggadah – the 3,500-year-old story of the liberation of the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Every family has its own traditions and ways of singing. A perennial favourite at the conclusion of the meal is Had Gadia, which exists in a Ladino version. (Un Kavretico).
Feeling uninspired about what to cook for Passover ? Sarina Roffe, geneaologist, author, cookery writer and expert on Sephardi Jewry, has come to your rescue with a whole website. Here is a sample Seder menu and her recipe for Persian Haroset. (Note to non-Kitniot eaters: Sarina prepares rice )
Morocco World News reports on the screening of Kamal Hachkar’s 2019 film at the New York Sephardic Film Festival, In your eyes, I see my country. The film aligns with the stated objective of Moroccan royal adviser André Azoulay – to project an image of coexistence and pluralism in Morocco. (With thanks: Michelle)
The documentary (trailer here) was screened on Thursday during the closing ceremony of the 24th edition of the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (NYSJFF) in Moise Safra Center, New York.
“This film is a strong tribute to the plurality of my country,” said Moroccan filmmaker Kamal Hachkar.
“The strength of our country is its cultural diversity, especially in these times of community withdrawal. It is, therefore, our duty to teach it to the younger generations,” he explained.
The documentary follows the stories of Neta Elkayam and Ami Hai Cohen. Struggling with merging their Moroccan and Israeli identities, the two musicians took on a journey to the North African country where they learned more about their Judeo-Moroccan musical heritage.
Each musical encounter with locals reshaped their understanding of their identities and aspirations, pushing them to work on strengthening their connection to their ancestors’ homeland in the Tinghir region.
“Through our history and our trip to Morocco, we want to contribute to the preservation of this precious heritage,” ElKayam told the Moroccan press agency (MAP).
Point of No Return adds: the documentary is a sequel to Hachkar’s Tinghir – Jerusalem : Les Echos du Mellah, a film in which he interviewed Berber Jews from the Atlas mountains now in Israel. The objective was to show ‘Arab-Jewish coexistence.’ Not being able to find any Berber Jews who have moved back to Morocco for his most recent film, Hachkar settles for the next best thing: documenting a return to their roots by Neta Elkayam and her husband Ami Hai Cohen. The film is a very watchable and pleasant nostalgic foray into the traditional songs and folklore passed down to Neta by her family. the film intends to show that ‘home’ is really Morocco. But when the couple is asked whether they feel in exile in Israel, Ami does not answer.
The potted history supplied by Morocco World News (MWN) is somewhat confused and must be taken with a pinch of salt. The community dates back to the Roman Empire – at least 2,000 years. The Islamic tax that the Jews were required to pay was not necessarily ‘small’. It could be swingeing. Words like ‘protection’ and ‘freedom’ associated with the dhimmi status make it sound like the Jews were privileged. In fact they had no rights at all and were at the mercy of the ruler.
To call the mellah ‘an exclusive neighbourhood’ conjures up privilege and even luxury. In reality the Jews were locked up in wretched, overcrowded and unsanitary quarters. It is true that some Jews were under foreign power protection before the 1912 French invasion, but they were a tiny minority. It is curious that MWN mentions Spanish Morocco, where Jews in northern Morocco comprised just seven percent of the total Jewish population. Tangier was an international zone with its own social and political structure. The numbers of Arabic-speaking Jews would have been negligible.
The Statuts des Juifs were indeed imposed on Moroccan Jews under pro-Nazi Vichy rule. The Jewish community did not ‘overcome them’, as the article claims ,’thanks to the support of their Muslim peers’, some of whom rioted against the Jews in early 1943. There was never a plan to deport Moroccan Jews to death camps in Europe. The article re-states the legend that King Mohamed V ‘saved’ Jews, whereas he signed every single anti-Jewish decree.
Arab nationalism and Zionism were both to blame for the Jewish exodus, the article implies. In spite of the warming relations between Morocco and Israel after both parties signed the Abraham Accords, the article may be exuding an exaggerated optimism that Jews will be returning from Israel in their droves. It quotes the businessman man Haim Toledano:’There will be no one left” (in Israel). It is true that Israelis with Moroccan roots are interested in their roots and some wish to preserve them, but returning may be a different matter.
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