Moroccan King Awards Rabbi with Prestigious “Order of the Throne” Award
Rabbi Raphael Benchimol, an orthodox Rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation was decorated, on Sunday in New York, with the Knight of the Order of the Throne from Mohammed VI King of Morocco.
At a time of tenuous relations between Israel and her neighbors, exacerbated by the recent flare-up in Israel’s south and the dismal failure of Jordanian sponsored peace talks, this occurrence serves to inspire the possibility of cultural tolerance between Jews and Moslems.
The ceremony was held at the Centre for Jewish History in downtown Manhattan, and was attended by dignitaries and community members. Ambassador of the King of Morocco, Serge Berdugo, presided over the ceremony, in which the Moroccan Ambassador to the United States, Rachad Bouhlal, Chairman of the American Sephardi Federation, David Dangoor, and Jamal Benomar, Special Adviser to the Secretary General to the United Nations of Yemen, also participated.
In his speech, Ambassador Berdugo highlighted the importance of the ceremony, noting, “This constitutional recognition of the Jewish component of Moroccan identity deserves to praised in the actual world context.”
Praising Rabbi Raphael Benchimol for his devotion to the Moroccan Jewish community, rehabilitating and renovating the Jewish cemeteries and sacred sites in Morocco, Ambassador Berdugo then presented the medal to the Moroccan-born Rabbi.
“It is a real pleasure and a delightful occasion to honor a man of conviction and action, of study and knowledge, a man at the service of his Community, a man of faithful support to Morocco and a friend,” Berdugo concluded.
Rabbi Benchimol, on behalf of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, presented a silver crown – the kind typically used to adorn the Jewish Torah Scroll in synagogues – to the Kingdom of Morocco. The inscription on the display case was addressed personally to His Majesty, Mohammed VI King of Morocco, and carried the blessing: “May G-d Always watch over you and protect you.”
Addressing the crowd, Rabbi Benchimol spoke of the importance of cultural education, to teach the next generation – children who were not born in Morocco – about their “illustrious and glorious past,” adding, “although we left Morocco, Morocco never leaves us. It is deeply engraved in our hearts.”
Moroccan Ambassador to the United States, Rachad Bouhlal, also took the pulpit, and, Liliane Shalom, Honorary President of the American Sephardi Federation, was Mistress of Ceremonies.
The honor has previously been awarded to Jason Isaacson, director of government and international affairs of the American Jewish Committee, in September 2009.
Photos of Sunday’s ceremony are included below.