Menorah and Morocco

posted by Pearleen Lederman, 2019 Inside Jewish Morocco Participant

On a Monday morning in June, I joined a group of young Jewish professionals in Casablanca, Morocco for the most unforgettable trip of my life. I truly wasn’t sure what was in store for me. All I knew was that as a Jewish immigrant from Colombia now living in the US, I was curious about global Jewry and itching for a trip abroad. When my friend originally told me about the JDC Entwine trip to Morocco, I was intrigued by the opportunity to travel, meet likeminded individuals, and learn about a Jewish community so far from my own.  

The days passed quickly, as they were filled with learning, touring and blossoming friendships. With each passing day, we learned more about the Jewish community in Morocco, as well as the history of the JDC and the amazing work they are doing there. As a group we spent a lot of time reflecting and talking about the physical space we hold as both a group and as individuals in foreign countries. This became especially pertinent when we visited the grand Hassan II Mosque and the Neve Shalom Jewish School in Casablanca.  

Before Shabbat, I set aside some time, as I do most weeks back home, to study the weekly parasha/Torah portion. That week’s Torah portion, Bechalotecha, opens with G-d’s instruction to Aaron to “raise light” (bechalotecha) to the Menorah’s seven lamps in the Beit Hamikdashthe ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Having taken in the opulence and sacredness of the Hassan II Mosque earlier in the week, I began to wonder about the grandeur of the Beit Hamikdash, and how it was once the ultimate physical representation of a spiritual sacred space. Within this sacred space, stood the Menorah which Aaron was instructed to light, symbolizing the temple’s physical and spiritual role as a source of light for the world.  

As I wrapped up the Parasha, I couldn’t help but think of the JDC and the incredible work they’re doing for Jews around the world. The JDC has truly become a source of light for global Jewry. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the Torah uses the word “raise” (bechalotecha), rather than simply “to light”, in order to tell Aaron the priest that he is to kindle it until the flame rises on its own, and that is exactly what the JDC is doing in Morocco. By providing important education and medical services in Casablanca, the JDC is kindling flames of hope and sparks of Judaism for future generations who will grow up to serve as ambassadors for Moroccan Jewry. They each will have the ability to make a positive impact in the world because of the incredible work being done by the JDC in Morocco in partnership with the local Jewish community. 

Every participant on the JDC Entwine Morocco trip has become an honorary Ambassador of Moroccan Jewry; we are committed more than ever to global Jewish responsibility and have been reinvigorated by our shared experience. We now know that we all have the ability to change the world by having a positive impact and sharing our light with others. It is our collective responsibility to educate ourselves so we can lift others up and kindle sparks of light in the hope that one day the flames will rise on their own.