Agadir’s Synagogue

Too late to meet the rabbi, I nevertheless decided since I was in Agadir, Morocco, to visit Temple Beth –El, an Orthodox Sephardic synagogue. Anyone walking by would never realize this unassuming building was a house of worship for the 50 Jewish families who still live in this glorious seaside resort city.

Two young men – caretakers- allowed me to walk around. And when I asked if I could speak with the rabbi, they told me he wouldn’t be returning until the next day. But would I like to speak with him on the telephone, I was asked.

Rabbi David El Hadad may not longer be at Beth-El since it’s been a while since I visited but at the time that we did speak, he was justifiably cautious. How often does a visiting journalist call him at home? He wanted my credentials and after telling him that I was Jewish, a writer of international Jewish lifestyles for Jewish publications in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, he willingly gave me a short interview. I have to admit that my French is passable, his English non-existent and Hebrew isn’t my fore and Yiddish wasn’t his, but we managed.

This small synagogue does have minyans, he told me- but only three times a week – Monday, Thursday and Saturday. However, come the High Holidays, not only the city’s observant attend the services, but visitors to the seaside oasis are welcomed to come and many do. During my trip to Morocco, I had asked various local people about life and conditions for the remaining Jews in this North African country. Rabbi El Hadad agreed with everyone I had asked. “There are no difficulties and certainly no reason to leave the country. My family and I are staying. Life is comfortable for us,” he told me before ending our telephone conversation.

Of course, there’s one fact I should include. There were once over 250,000 Jews living in Morocco and now there are less than 20,000. It’s too small a population for other political or religious factions to fear. Temple Beth-El doesn’t have a view of the ocean but is in a more commercial area surrounded by business buildings with the Chamber of Commerce close by. But nothing in Agadir is really to far away.

Through the white stucco entrance, I found myself in a pretty garden courtyard. The synagogue itself is modest but charming. Chandeliers hang over the burgundy velvet chairs that face each other. Large Menorahs flank the bema. One of the young caretakers told me children come to learn here, however he didn’t know if it was weekly or a daily occurrence. Although my French is rusty, I think I did justice to any of the conversations I had. Going to Temple Beth-El was another reminder that Jews survive and they can always find a synagogue or place to pray and to stay in touch with traditions and history.

Temple Beth-El
Angle Avenue Moulay et rue de la Foire, Agadir
Tel 84 23 39