Editorial | Republic Underground
April 1, 2021
In March, Republic Underground interviewed successful and inspiring women for the Women’s History Month events. These interviews tackled issues of geopolitics and human rights, through the perspective of the women guests. Last week, Irina Tsukerman, Timberwolf Phoenix Media vice president sat down with Laziza Dalil, the co-founder of Association Mimouna Morocco Jewish People.
“Laziza, it’s been a long time, how are you?” said Tsukerman.
“How are you? I’m good. Thank you for inviting me for this special event,” said Dalil.
“I’d like to start a little bit from afar. I think many people have become familiar with Mimouna’s important work over the last few years, but still, a lot of people don’t know about it. Before we get into what it is, and how it has grown to the major force that it is today in Morocco and beyond, I’d like you to tell you a little bit more about yourself,” said Tsukerman, asking Dalil for more background on her inspirations and cultural and interfaith shaping that led her to launch the organizations.
“We started the organization in 2007 in Al Akhawayn University when we were students. We were a bunch of Muslim young people who were trying to revive the Moroccan Jewish history among students on the campus. This is how all of it started. Our first event was for Moroccan Jewish Day,” she then explained how for one day the whole university organized a cultural walk-through of every aspect of the Moroccan Jewish culture, from art to music to Moroccan Jewish history.
Laziza then described how she became drawn to launching this project. She grew up in Marrakech where a portion of her class was Jewish.
“So, for me, it was something really regular,” she noted, that as for the founder university, which was a microcosm of Moroccan society, many young people were unaware of the Jewish heritage and long-time Jewish culture within Morocco.
“I was really keen to help in that matter. So, we started working to reach out to students on campus,” she added.
From working via the universities, the organization was state-recognized, and as it grew it was able to reach a wider public.
Dalila also noted that the Association Mimouna is a work of passion and that her professional life was shaped through other means as well.
“Association Mimouna is voluntary work. In my professional life, I worked for seven years in diplomacy. Currently, I’m working in education, and I’m really glad to be among you today,” said Dalila.
Tsukerman then noted that Moroccan Jews have enjoyed good relations with both the government and the King, but was interested to know what, at the societal level, Dalila’s experience was growing up among Jewish students.
“What did you observe in other areas growing, and, once you stopped engaging with students on campus, was there a challenge?
“Well, I was born and raised in Marrakech in a French school. There is one French school, and actually, since there is one French school, you know, the people you go with since Kindergarten are the same class until you graduate with your high school diploma. So, I grew up with Jewish friends in my class, and it was really normal to have Jewish friends,” she noted how she had Jewish friends that she attended important events with and that the students’ parents were well-acquainted. She noted that she, as a child, did not notice any difference between Moroccans and Jews. Her Jewish friends spoke Darija and they shared many of the cultural behavior.
“When I went to Al Akhawayn University it was a little bit different because there were students from every region in Morocco, from every place. Then, that was the time when I realized that there actually was an exception that I experience with Jewish friends,” she said, noting that people would be intrigued to approach the Jewish culture. She also stated that the younger generation of Moroccans were surprised to find the cultural similarity and shared customs. She noted that younger Moroccans, despite not being receptive at first, with even some isolated cases of antiSemitism, were surprised to find the common ground they shared with Jews. They found that they had a different religion but as Moroccans, they had shared a similar experience in the region.
“I think people didn’t realize why we were doing that (the events). After a while, people got interested more and more in the work we’ve done. People were drawn to our association, and we started being very active on the campus. We started reaching out to people more and more. I think the fact that people would learn a little bit more about the history and the culture, it was a really good way to create a bridge so that people would be more comprehensive and would be more understanding of our initiative,” said Dalila.
Tsukerman then noted the importance of all efforts of bridge-building between ethnic groups.
“Bridge building in any circumstance is important, it’s laudable, and it’s inspiring. But, what made you prioritize this bridge-building with the Jewish community when there are so many others? Why did you think it was such a priority?” asked Tsukerman, noting that the Jewish community of Moroccan is relatively small and that there has not necessarily been a large, visible spike in antisemitism there.
“In the campus when we started, there were different clubs representing different regions and minorities. The Jewish community was the only one that wasn’t represented, actually. Therefore, we were like ‘there is a lack of information,'” she also noted that they were likewise deeply interested in Morocco’s thread of Jewish culture.
“When you talk to members of the Association, most of them have fond memories of a Jewish friend or a Jewish neighbor, so it really started from a good sentiment. Mostly because most of us had a special bond with the Moroccan Jewish community. I would say the Mimouna Association is more about friendship that each one of us would have to the Jewish counterpart,” she said, noting that they had great pride in reaching out to students since there were no Jewish students in the university at that time.