President of the Jewish Community of Morocco: “The need for help is immense”

President of the Jewish Community of Morocco Serge Berdugo gave an interview to Jüdische Allgemeine in which he discussed the consequences of the devastating earthquake that recently struck his country, as well as the Jewish community’s support for its victims.

Mr. Berdugo, the Jewish community in Morocco was largely spared from the devastating earthquake near Marrakesh. But how do you help those in need as a result of the earthquake?

Given the magnitude of the tragedy that has struck our country, we are participating in the massive mobilization of the entire Moroccan people to help the victims who are in complete distress and have nothing left.

What does the help look like?

We distributed food to the neighbors of a synagogue in the Mellah, the traditional Jewish quarter of Marrakesh’s Old City. We are now in the process of developing a long-term action plan to help our fellow citizens who are now living in isolation in an area that is difficult to access. The need is immense, and we work closely with renowned partners such as the American Joint Distribution Committee.

In Marrakech, several houses around a synagogue were destroyed by the earthquake. The building itself is hardly damaged apart from a few cracks. Is it accessible and usable?

No, it is in danger and must not be entered! However, the other synagogue in the Mellah, Slat El Hazama, appears to be undamaged. We will be able to put it back into operation after a safety report.

There were almost 500 Israelis in Morocco at the time of the earthquake on Saturday night. Was the community able to support them?

To my knowledge, Israeli or other tourists are not having any problems at the moment. But if that were the case, we would of course help them.

The rescue team from an Israeli NGO has been in Morocco since Sunday. To what extent does the Jewish community work with him?

We know that such a team is on site and working with their Moroccan colleagues. But this is an area that is not our responsibility.

Outside Marrakesh, in Ourika, is the grave of Rabbi Shlomo Bel Hench, a former chief rabbi of Marrakesh who died around 500 years ago. What condition is the grave in after the earthquake?

The mausoleum and the tombs of all tzaddikim in the region suffered no damage.

Rosh Hashanah is in a few days. How will the Jews of Morocco celebrate the New Year this year?

The holidays take place as normal – but with constant thoughts of the victims and their families in need.


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