expansion from Two to Fifty in One Year
January 27, 2016
Beis Moshiach in #1006, Chabad History, Feature, Morocco

Once the JDC agreed to support the Chabad activities in Morocco, the question was how fast should Chabad expand * The JDC wanted Chabad to focus on opening a Central Yeshiva and training teachers, while Chabad expanded with schools across the country * What was the Rebbe’s view on this? * What was the JDC reaction to Chabad’s “straying into the military zone”?  Part Four

In the previous installment we find the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) agreeing to sponsor the work of Chabad in Morocco. This weeks installment will focus on the JDC plan for Chabad, namely that they focus on a Yeshiva to train teachers; whilst Chabad took the approach that they need to open schools in every village.  We will also present the Rebbes view on this matter.

These fascinating documents are part of the JDC Archives (which were digitized and uploaded online, thanks to a grant from Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky CBE).

“Extend & Establish Schools Wherever Feasible”

On June 4, 1951, Mr. William Bein (JDC – Morocco) writes to Mr. Judah Shapiro (JDC – Paris) reporting on his trip to the Chabad Yeshiva in Meknes, Morocco, and his view on what Chabad will be doing:

I just returned from a trip to Meknes where we have visited the Lubavitcher Yeshiva…

In one of my previous letters, I wrote to you that the main reason forwarded by Rabbi Gorodezki for their intention to establish Yeshivoth in Morocco is that they found that there is a great lack of rabbis, teachers and schochtim. Looking closer at their activities and program, I am convinced that the reason of their entering the Moroccan scene could so called “Religious Hatzala” or better to say “Orthodox Hatzala”…

The lubavitcher state that they are preparing rabbis for Morocco. In my discussion with Rabbi Matusov, I explained to him that if they wish to prepare teachers and rabbis for Morocco, their curriculum must be different. Future rabbis and teachers in Morocco must be acquainted with French and secular subjects…

What concerns the program of the Lubavitcher in general, it makes the impression that they will extend and establish schools wherever feasible… As you will see from the enclosed memorandum they strayed out into five places and their intention is to establish one larger yeshiva in Casablanca.

Foreigners In The Danger Zone

The next letter from Mr. William Bein (JDC – Morocco) to Mr. Judah Shapiro (JDC – Paris), on June 9, 1951 discusses the danger that Chabad faces by going into military zones:

…To answer your question whether their straying out into the military zone is good or bad is likewise difficult to answer. You know that Morocco is divided into two parts, the military zone and the civilian zone. The first extends from Agadir-Taroudant, through Beni-Melal-Khenifra-Midelt, nearly to Debdou. If you will take a map you will see that this is the zone bordering the Sahara and certain mountainous regions. I just returned from the Tiznit-Taroudant region where I made a courtesy visit to the Colonel of the region. Any foreigner or anything foreign in this region is viewed with great suspicion and, frankly speaking, sooner or later the Lubavitcher will step there into Tzores…

Schools in Every Town or One Central Yeshiva?

On September 4, 1951, Mr. William Bein (JDC – Morocco) writes to Mr. Judah Shapiro (JDC – Paris), about on a 3-hour meeting with Rabbi Gorodetsky, which discussed the differing views on how Chabad can help Judaism in Morocco:

My time does not allow me to give you more details of the discussion we had with Rabbi Gorodetski. I communicated Rabbi Gorodetzki that in my preliminary report to H.Q. I will present 4 problems concerning their activities here:

1. They started operating in Morocco comparatively recently and without previous consultation with us. They are likewise expanding without consultation with us…

4. I told Rabbi Gorodetzki that we gave much thought to the problem as to where and in what form the Lubavitcher could provide best service to the cause of the Jews in Morocco. (They are spreading out into the entire country, being a foreign organisation they are engaged in activities which are the duty of the Government or the Communities.)

(I gathered from Rabbi Gorodetski that they wanted to establish Talmud Torahs practically in every town where there are no Talmud Torahs…)

They are expanding their activities at the time when a committee was established by the Council of Communities, to help the Jews of the small towns of Morocco. This committee has a good chance to receive Government subsidies and if they will step in, their presence may prevent action on the part of the local effort.

But they could render an excellent service if they would develop a high grade Yeshivah in Meknes for not more than 80-100 students and educate there badly-needed Rabbis and teachers who would spread out in the Communities and function as teachers simultaneously spreading the Gospel. In the latter case they could concentrate all their efforts and they would serve there where help is most needed.

I have the feeling that Rabbi Gorodetzki understood our arguments; he however reparted, saying that in order to have a Yeshivah they have to have Talmud Torahs on which to draw from students. He also argued that their aim is of course to save the Jews from assimilation and from the type of education they receive in the Alliance type of schools.

Another letter from Mr. William Bein (JDC – Morocco) to Mr. Judah Shapiro (JDC – Paris), written a few months later, on January 18, 1952 shares the same sentiment:

After careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that, concerning JDC, we should face the problem and admit to ourselves a certain weakness, and in admitting this, let us make a decision which is not based upon the merits of the activities of the Lubavitcher in Morocco, but based upon the tradition that we are subsidizing the activities of the Lubavitcher without asking too many questions. – Now, speaking plainly, in my opinion we shall have to look at this problem in the following manner:

1. The Lubavitcher came upon the Moroccan scene somewhat too late.

2. The Lubavitcher came into Morocco with two purposes: (a) to occupy a certain field which, if it would not be occupied by them, may fall into the hands of other religious groups. (b) to fulfill a duty towards their own conscience that they do their part in Morocco for the perpetuation of Torah study in accordance with their own doctrine.

… 4. The Lubavitcher are here in Morocco and JDC would be the last people who would wish to do anything in order they should be obliged to leave.

5. Bearing the foregoing in mind, we must figure upon it that the Lubavitcher will continuously try to expand their activities and present the bill, or part of it, to JDC.

… 7. I wish to repeat for the xth time that the field where the Lubavitcher really could contribute would be if they would organise and put all their efforts into the organisation of a Yeshiva which would produce Rabbis and teachers who could improve the religious stock of education in Morocco. This is a field where I think JDC should definitely support the Lubavitcher.

8. A few days ago I was in Sefrou and I saw a young man, a pupil of the Yeshiva in Meknes, teaching Hebrew in the Alliance School. I must say that I was extremely impressed by the activity of this young man…

9. As a conclusion, I would suggest that we should approve a certain global budget for Lubavitcher activities in Morocco with the provision that our budget represents a certain percentage of their total expenditures…

Chabad’s Activities: Fifty Schools in Remote Villages

Despite the JDC’s view on Chabad, the reality on the ground was different, as seen from an article published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) on January 28, 1952, reporting on the Chabad activities in Morocco:

Fifty religious schools have recently been established in remote mountain villages of French Morocco by representatives of the Lubavitcher Rabbi’s European office under the direction of Rabbi Benjamin Gorodetzki, it was reported here today.

During a 300-mile expedition into the roadless wilderness south of Marakesh, the Chassidic teacher–traveling on donkeys–found what must be one of the poorest, disease-ridden Jewish communities in the world. The Jews in this area dwell in mud huts and caves and eat the pickings of refuse from the markets of their Moslem neighbors. When they can afford it, they eat a sort of unleavened bread which is baked with mud. Horrible skin, scalp and other diseases abound among these Jews, who mend shoes and ply other simple crafts when work is available.

The Lubavitcher Rabbi’s representative found that the Jews in this region marry off their daughters from the age of eight. They spend much time in the study of the Talmud. Rabbi Gorodetzki, who as mission was financed in part by the Joint Distribution Committee, established a boarding school for 150 students in Meknes and a girls’ seminary in Sefrou. It is hoped that when these students complete their studies, they will serve as teachers in a network of religious schools in Morocco.

Shortly after this report was published, on February 8, 1952, Mr. William Bein (JDC – Morocco) wrote a letter to Mr. Judah Shapiro (JDC – Paris) discussing this report, and summarizing what he heard from Rabbi Binyamin Gorodetski during ‘two “short” few-hour meetings’ and his request that Rabbi Gorodetski should not expand without prior approval from the JDC:

During our today’s meeting, they presented to me a list of their Talmud  Torahs, Yeshivoth, etc., in accordance with which they are working at present in 45 localities, where 66 Rabbanim are teaching 2059 pupils…

Included in the list of his schools are included all types of institutions, – the Yeshiva in Meknes; a Girls’ so-called Seminary in Sefrou for 48 pupils; evening classes for Alliance children in several towns, amongst others in Sidi Rahal, etc.

Upon my enquiry as to their further programme, I was told that they want to provide the much-neglected religious education for girls, all over the country, and they wish to establish girls schools, particularly in Casablanca. I made clear to Rabbi Gorodetski the following: –

1. That JDC cannot accept his interpretation of control but that it was ready to go along with the suggestion contained in your letter of January 7th, namely that:

“Rabbi Gorodetski has pointed out to us that he cannot accept a limitation of one yeshiva or three smaller institutions for the future. I believe that he is justified but have pointed out to him that any program he wishes to add to the existing one can only be undertaken by him with the approval of AJDC. In other words, he is left the right to argue with us and we neither reject his arguments in advance nor prevent him from presenting us with such programs as may have validity.”

I added that JDC cannot be expected to be a partner in any programme which was not discussed in advance, frankly speaking, I do not know whether he agreed to this procedure, but had the impression that, with the exception of the extension of the girls’ programme, [they] may come to a kind of standstill unless they will be able to bargain out with JDC such conditions that will give fertile ground to unlimited expansion with no particular regard for local or community contribution…

“Lubavitchers are continually spreading”

The next letter sent from Mr. William Bein (JDC – Morocco) to Mr. Judah Shapiro (JDC – Paris), dated February 25, 1952, shares how Chabad took over a Cheder which was supposed to be shuttered…:

With further reference to my previous correspondence on the subject of the Lubavitcher, we have for a long time been negotiating with the Marrakech Community to liquidate the Hedarim there. During my last trip to Marrakech I agreed with the Community on a complete transformation of the Hedarim, which hold about 500 children, into a type of kindergarten… I was there on Friday, for one day, to meet Dr. Nahum Goldman, and I found out that in the meantime, the Lubavitcher, again without any previous consultation with us, have established there, in conjunction with the Jewish Community, a Talmud Torah heder for 65 children…

This once more shows what a hard job it is to do a planned thing, if organisations like the Lubavitcher are continually spreading…

The Rebbe: “Their complaints are right!”

In a letter written to the Rebbe’s Shliach to Morocco, Rabbi Shlomo Matusof, on Kislev 22, 5713, the Rebbe takes the middle-road approach, between the demands of the JDC and the activities of Chabad:

I acknowledge receipt of your letters from the 17th of Kislev, and of the 5th of Kislev, and it is self-explanatory that the state of affairs of “Oholei Yosef Yitzchak” in North Africa is unfortunate, and the main point is not what Mr. […] etc. are claiming, but rather that it seems that their complaints are justified, and I am saddened by this, for I am also of the opinion that that our energy should not be used for spreading even wider, rather it is better to strengthen the branches of Oholei Yosef Yitzchak wherever they are, and improve them. It is possible that both approaches can be done, but if it is not possible to do both simultaneously, then I think that in the current situation we should focus our energy to invest in the improvement of existing institutions.

Next installment introduces the new JDC Head in Morocco, his campaign to abolish religious education in Morocco, and the Chabad response to it.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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