More than 400 Moroccan and Sephardic Jews from Los Angeles gathered last week to honor Moroccan Muslim anthropologist Aomar Boum for his two decades of promoting Moroccan Jewish history and fostering cordial relations between Jews and Muslims.
The Em Habanim synagogue in the city was decked out in red carpets, and Moroccan music filled the space.
“Dr. Boum has been the champion of bringing different people, particularly Jews and Muslims, together with a sense of mutual respect and also helping to keep alive the ancient history of Morocco’s Jews at UCLA,” said Em Habanim’s Rabbi Joshua Bittan.
Jewish community activists at the occasion stated that given Boum’s vast expertise and the global influence his work has on interfaith relations, they were not surprised to learn that he was the head of UCLA’s Sephardic Studies program.
“For years, when many people had been saying that the Jews and Muslims will never get along, Aomar has been challenging them and saying no,” said Jonathan Bass, an L.A. area Jewish activist.
When Boum was studying for his doctoral thesis, which explored the perspectives and relationships Muslims living in tiny communities in the country’s south had with Jews, he claimed he first became interested in Morocco’s Jews 22 years ago.
According to Boum, officials in the nation have been motivated by his academic work demonstrating the historically intimate relationships between Jews and Muslims in Morocco to incorporate Moroccan Jewish history in textbooks and curricula for students of various ages.
In addition to writing a book about the experiences of the Moroccan Jewish community in Los Angeles, Boum said he is also researching the relationship between the late King Mohammed V and Jews during the Second World War.