Washington, DC, December 23, 2015 (MACP) —King Mohammed VI’s late grandfather, Mohammed V, posthumously received the inaugural Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.-Rabbi Abraham Heschel Award in a ceremony attended by hundreds on Sunday at B’nai Jeshurun congregation in New York City. Initiated this year by KIVUNIM: The Institute for World Jewish Studies, the award honors King Mohammed V for protecting Morocco’s 250,000 Jews from discrimination and annihilation in the early 1940s, when Morocco was a French protectorate occupied by the pro-Nazi Vichy forces.
Princess Lalla Hassna, King Mohammed VI’s sister, accepted the award on behalf of her late grandfather. Dignitaries from Morocco’s Jewish community, including royal advisor André Azoulay and Secretary General of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco (CJCM) and Ambassador-at-Large Serge Berdugo, also attended the ceremony.
In a speech read to the audience by Mr. Azoulay, King Mohammed VI said, “We are living at a time and in a world in which the collective imagination of our societies is too often impaired, not to say poisoned, by regression and archaism. By capitalizing on the depth and resilience of the legacy left by my revered grandfather His Majesty Mohammed V, we can, together, set out to recover the lost expanses of reason and mutual respect which have vanished from many parts of the world.”
The award ceremony came just one month after Morocco unveiled its 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. In a Capitol Hill event co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and CJCM honoring the project, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative André Carson (D-IN), recognized Morocco’s leadership in the area of religious tolerance.
“This is a major moment,” Senator Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, had said, “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.”
Congressman Carson, who is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, had also commended Morocco for setting an example “for all of us, to celebrate the future of peaceful coexistence, and effectively unity.”
“King Mohammed V’s courage and strength in protecting his Jewish subjects during World War II reminds us of Morocco’s rich history and long tradition of religious freedom, cultural diversity, and peaceful coexistence between Jews and Muslims unrivalled in the Arab world,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “This respect for Morocco’s Jewish heritage continues to this day.”
Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049
The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.