Zhor Rehihil is a leading expert on Arab Jewish culture in Morocco where she serves as the co-founder of the Museum of Moroccan Judaism. Among the treasures she curates are an ancient Torah scroll, ornamental brass lamps, and antique siddurim (Jewish prayer books). Of some note, Ms. Rehihil is Muslim for which she remarks, “this is not surprising… it’s natural.”
What is a bit unusual is to have a Jewish museum in a Muslim majority country. The curator firmly states: “This is not just Jewish history. This is all our history.”
Habib Kazdaghli, dean at the University of Tunis-Manouba, says that Ms. Zhor is a true pioneer and that “there are only a few researchers documenting Arab Jewish traditions and heritage, and she is preserving this for the entire world.” A western diplomat remarks, “You simply cannot fully know the Moroccan Jewish community, or why Morocco is such an exception in the region, without Zhor.”
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Jewish population has dwindled through the years to “almost the point of being forgotten.” Ms. Zhor is desperately trying to keep the Jewish impact of Moroccan culture and society alive.
“Our fathers or grandfathers knew the Moroccan Jewish community very well because they studied in the same schools, they lived together in the same apartment buildings, they visited each other on holidays, they bought from each other and traded,” says Ms. Rehihil. “Today, everywhere you go there are physical memories from the Jewish community. We Moroccans have a living Jewish memory; it just needs to be reawakened.”