Sefrou, just south of Fez, was known as Little Jerusalem due to its high percentage of Jews and its well-developed religious life. Upon Morocco’s independence, a rabbi from Sefrou was elected to Parliament. Sefrou’s mellah makes up half of the old city. In the late nineteenth century, Jews made up almost half the population. While there were no more than 5,000 Jews in Sefrou in 1948, they lived only in the mellah. The population density of the Jewish community at that time was 415,815 per square kilometer, the highest in the country. To cope with the high population density, most buildings have three stories, with balconies facing the street. In 1960, the 3,000 Jews constituted 15% of the population.
See Einat Levi’s marvelous website for 360 degree and virtual reality views of the Sefrou mellah and the Em Habanim school synagogue. See Diarna’s great site for locations, photos and descriptions of the cemetery, mellah and Slat Zeghrira.
Just outside the mellah is a large but now vacant home and school for Jewish orphans that was administered by the Moroccan organization, Em Habanim, and funded by the London Jewish Community. A simple synagogue is contained in the complex.
Sefrou’s main Jewish cemetery was restored using funds from those who have emigrated. Historic headstones have been mounted within cement monuments. Several monuments commemorate a large number of merchants who died in a truck accident on the road south to the Tafilelt region. Others honor the 21 victims of the flood of 1950. Sefrou has several saints, including Moshe Elbaz, the Masters of the Cave, Eliahou Harraoch, and David Arazil.