ORT in Morocco

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ORT’s work in Morocco began in the Casablanca Mellah in 1947, with a vocational centre for abandoned children – a joint project with Alliance Israélite Universelle. Further schools opened in Casablanca and later in Marrakech and Tetuan. The main goal was to equip members of the Jewish community with vocational skills that would enable them to become self-sufficient and support their families. ORT offered a variety of courses, catering to the different needs of potential students. This included the training of young girls, who were traditionally not sent to school and only given very basic domestic training in anticipation of marriage.

The ORT girls’ school in Val d’Anfa taught traditional subjects such as dressmaking and embroidery, but also offered more modern courses in manufacturing of ready-made clothing, beauty and hairdressing, as well as a course training lab assistants. The boys’ school in the Ain-Sebaa suburb of Casablanca provided vocational training in a variety of subjects, including: auto-mechanics, car body repairs, welding, electrical installation, cabinet making, carpentry, and electro-mechanics. ORT also provided Jewish education as part of its schools’ curriculum.

In 1952 ORT started an apprenticeship placement service, training apprentices directly at a factory or with a tradesman. This was especially beneficial to young people who, for various reasons, could not attend the ORT schools.

In 1957 ORT began another significant programme in collaboration with Alliance Israélite Universelle, a school for deaf children in Casablanca. Alliance was responsible for teaching general subjects at the school, with ORT managing the school and its vocational programme. This was the only school of its kind in Morocco, and as such offered boarding to students from distant areas.

Boarding facilities and canteens were also created in ORT Ain-Sebaa and ORT Val-d’Anfa in Casablanca, and at the ORT Centre in Marrakech. In 1957 there were 650 boarders and 683 semi-boarders in ORT Morocco. Women’s American ORT were especially supportive of ORT’s social programmes. They provided clothing and medicines, and organised recreation and cultural facilities, vacation camps for children, as well as constructing a hall, a library, and a synagogue.

Following Morocco’s independence from France in 1956, life became more difficult for the Jewish community. Most Jews emigrated to Israel or France, greatly impacting upon ORT’s programme. With dwindling numbers, ORT’s Casablanca schools began to admit Arab students. The last Moroccan school was sold in 1997 marking the close of this operation.

Video: Mellah (1955)

A Women's American ORT film. Produced and directed by Stefan L. Sharff; script by Morton Wishengrad; narrated by Joseph Wiseman.