Demographics of Moroccan Jews

Moroccan Jewish Blacksmith in Zagora

For the country as a whole, Jews were always a tiny minority. It is estimated that in the late 15th century, following the arrival of Jews expelled from Spain, there were 80-100,000 Jews out of a total population of 3-4 million. Jews at that time constituted no more than 3.5 percent of the population.

In the 1850’s, Morocco had about 80,000 Jews, making up approximately 2 percent of the population. Nearly 75 percent of Jews lived in urban areas. In some cities, such as Marrakesh, Fez, Meknes and Rabat, they constituted 10-15 percent of the population.

The Jewish population was at its height in 1952, when 218,000 were counted in censuses of French and Spanish Morocco and the international city of Tangier. Jews at that time were less than 1.5 percent of the population. In 2020, following the emigration of tens of thousands of Moroccan Jews during the 1950’s and 1960’s, the country’s 2,500 Jews are a minuscule minority within a population of over 34 million.

The remaining Jews in Morocco are almost totally urban-based, with the vast majority living in Casablanca. Other cities, such as Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, Rabat and Tangier, have about 100 each. Small cities and towns, such as Kenitra, Agadir, and Tetouan, each have Jewish populations of less than 50. Casablanca is the center of the country’s religious and communal life, with several community organizations and many synagogues.

Due to the emigration of the majority of middle and lower-middle class families, the remaining Jews are either relatively well-off compared to the majority of Moroccan Muslims or poor enough to qualify for public assistance. Few Jewish children remain in Morocco after graduation from high school, resulting in a population that has few young adults. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Jewish community to maintain the organizations and institutions required to preserve its unique Jewish identity.