While most of Morocco’s quarter of a million Jews emigrated to Israel, Europe and the U.S., 2,500 remain today. Traces of their deep-rooted culture stretch from the Mediterranean to the Sahara, a less-traveled region steeped in Jewish history.
A year later, we speak every day, staying close during this pandemic. Helena, soon to turn 96, is quarantined alone inside her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s a home filled with memories. Photographs, books and artwork, much of it from her travels, cover walls and shelves. But her kitchen calendar, once abrim with engagements—lunches, dinners, concerts, plays—is now blank.
Helena survived three concentration camps and when the last one was liberated she was flown by the Red Cross to a hospital in Sweden. She was 5’4″ and weighed 52 lbs. Her roommate in the hospital, a fellow survivor, knit the sweater for her while they were there. She told me she has worn that sweater every Passover since.
It’s hard to imagine that at one time, this tiny island, so far from the cobblestone streets of Portugal, the canals of Amsterdam and the shtetls of Eastern Europe, had the largest Jewish population in the Americas.