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June 17, 2022 11:40 am
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Appeal to Preserve Jewish-African Heritage Signed by International Leaders in Morocco

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

(L to R): Elmehdi Boudra (Founder & President, Mimouna Association), Serge Berdugo (secretary general of the Council of Moroccan Jewish Communities),Malcolm Hoenlein (Vice Chair, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations), HE Jorge Santos (Minister of Cabo Verdean Communities), Jason Guberman (Executive Director, American Sephardi Federation), & Abdeslam Filali (Vice General Secretary, Mimouna Association), at the Jewish Africa Conference in Rabat, Morocco. Photo: American Sephardi Federation.

An appeal to advance cooperation across Africa in preserving Jewish-African heritage was signed by African and international Jewish leaders this week in Morocco.

The “Call of Rabat” appeal pushes for recognition by individuals, civil society groups, and governments of the long history of Jewish life in Africa, while  emphasizing preservation and accessibility for Jewish historical sites.

“I am happy to announce from Rabat, the 2022 Capital of African Culture, that a call is going out on this day to Africa and all the world to preserve African Jewish heritage,” said El Mehdi Boudra, founder and president of the Mimouna Association, a Moroccan NGO that partnered with the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) to organize the conference, which was held from June 13-15 under the theme “Past, Present and Future.”

The “Call to Rabat” was signed by Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Minister of Cabo Verdean Communities Jorge Santos; Tunisia’s former Minister of Tourism René Trabelsi; Serge Berdugo, secretary general of the Council of Moroccan Jewish Communities; Shaun Zagnoev, president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies; Magda Haroun, president of Cairo’s Jewish community; professor Ephraim Isaac, founder of Ethiopia’s Peace & Development Center; ASF Executive Director Jason Guberman; and Boudra.

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“We recognize the importance of the Jewish heritage that exists in our country, Cape Verde, at every level… I truly hope this Conference will shed light and … promote unity, solidarity, and cooperation in the world,” said Santos.

A total of 51 government officials, entrepreneurs, scholars, diplomats, rabbis, and community leaders from 22 countries attended the second Jewish Africa Conference. Guberman highlighted how “throughout history Africa has been a place of refuge and rebirth for the Jewish people …. The Sephardi astronomers and artists, travelers and traders, publishers and philosophers who pioneered today’s cosmopolitan world were frequently from or found in Africa.”

Hoenlein, who also received the “Moses, the African Jewish Leadership Award” at the conference, said: “Africa is the frontier of the future. For [Africa] to be successful it must be firmly rooted in its past, in its history and reality… Jews look back not to get lost in history but to learn its lessons… We must remember, study, and enhance long-standing communities just as we welcome, recognize, and foster new communities.”

The first edition of the Jewish Africa Conference was held in 2019 in New York.

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