US Members of Congress Laud Moroccan Project to Renovate Nearly 200 Jewish Cemeteries
King Mohammed VI Honors Rabbi, Priest, and Imam at Capitol Hill Event Celebrating Interfaith Dialogue
Washington, DC, November 19, 2015 (MACP) — Nearly 200 Moroccan and American officials, US members of Congress, members of the area’s religious communities, and guests attended a reception on Tuesday night honoring Morocco’s just-completed “Houses of Life” project, which since 2010 has restored 167 Jewish cemeteries across the North African Kingdom under the high patronage of King Mohammed VI.
Co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco (CJCM) and held on Capitol Hill, the event featured a photo presentation of the project by CJCM President Serge Berdugo, as well as remarks from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative André Carson (D-IN), among other distinguished speakers. Awards were presented to Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi of the Washington Hebrew Congregation; His Eminence Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, DC; and Imam Talib M. Shareef, President of The Nation’s Mosque, Masjid Muhammad, on behalf of King Mohammed VI for their leadership on inter-religious cooperation, tolerance, and peace.
“This is a major moment,” said Senator Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “and what you are doing in Morocco will be an inspiration to leaders in other parts of the world to bring our communities together and to recognize that diversity is our strength, it is our heritage, it is our future.” Remarking on the three awardees, the Senator noted, “They are three great leaders of three great religions that understand that the three great religions have much more in common than divides. Each respects tolerance of people of faith, and understands that together we are stronger. That is the message of today’s program.”
Congressman Carson, who is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, commended Morocco for setting an example “for all of us, to celebrate the future of peaceful coexistence, and effectively unity. After centuries of challenges, Morocco has really recommitted herself to moderation, dialogue and a great respect for diversity.”
“In this,” he said, “the United States and Morocco stand in great solidarity. As Americans, we pride ourselves on the inclusion of all people, regardless of race, religion, or even background.”
Morocco’s “Houses of Life” project began in April 2010 under the direction of King Mohammed VI. Over the course of five years, 167 Jewish cemeteries were restored across the country, installing 159 new doors, building nearly 140,000 feet of fencing, and repairing 12,600 graves. The King has said of the project that “this is a testimony to the richness and diversity of the Kingdom of Morocco’s spiritual heritage. Blending harmoniously with the other components of our identity, the Jewish legacy, with its rituals and specific features, has been an intrinsic part of our country’s heritage for more than three thousand years. As is enshrined in the Kingdom’s new Constitution, the Hebrew heritage is indeed one of the time-honored components of our national identity.”
These sentiments were echoed at the event by Morocco’s Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, Ahmed Toufiq, who remarked on the many political, artistic, and entrepreneurial contributions of Morocco’s Jewish community over the centuries; as well as by Morocco’s Ambassador to the US Rachad Bouhlal.
“The rehabilitation of the Jewish cemeteries in Morocco is a testimony that Muslims and Jews can coexist and live together in peace and harmony,” said the Ambassador. “A testimony that this is possible in a world that is being threatened by extremism and radicalism, hatred, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. Ladies and gentlemen, the world needs projects like the rehabilitation of the Houses of Life.”
Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049
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