Jews of Jerba--From Isle of Lotus
By GEORGE SCHRIEBER
(A Seven Arts Feature)
PARIS—One day last December,
there alighted in the courtyard of
the ORT school for boys in Tunis,
a tall patriarchial figure, wrapped
in an encompassing white djellaba,
his head topped by a fez. The
Grand Rabbi of Jerba, for all the
world looking like a biblical appari•,
Lion, had come to visis "his chil-
dren" and to see for himself
whether being at the school im-
pared their traditional values.
His coming had been heralded
by the enrollment of a dozen
youngsters from among the rabbi's
congregants, the first time the
millenial old community of Jerba
had consented to expose its youth
to the winds of change.
Jerba is an island oasis. a short
ferry-ride off the south Tunisian
coast. To this day, the social life
of women centers around the water
wells, where they come several
times each day, their apexed
brown-clay jars slung over their
shoulders, to replenish the house-
hold supply and to chatter. Flocks
of sheep graze under the date
palms, while camels, tethered to
millstones, grind the flour for flat
cakes that are baked on open-air
No one knows how long Jews
Happy Holiday To All
5100 E. Nevado
Four years ago, the electric
power lines reached Jerba. New
hotels are attracting ever larger
numbers of tourists, who bring
with them the sense of o t h e r,
better prospects elsewhere, and
leave in their wake shock waves
of discontent among the youths,
and resistance from their elders.
have lived on Jerba. Homer told
how, when intrepid Ulysses was
shipwrecked there, his men fell
under the influence of the lotus
leaf, an influence so soothing,
they refused to leave. Local tra-
dition has it that a shipload of
Jews escaped across the Mediter-
ranean after the fall of the
Second Temple, with a gate taken
from the temple. Upon arriving
at Jerba, they built their syna-
gogue upon this gate. There is
historic evidence of Jewish settle-
ment in the 10th Century, and in
1163, Maimonides wrote a de-
scription of the community while
MIAMI BAKE SHOPPE
We wish to take this opportunity to extend to our
friends and patrons our greetings and best wishes
Until a few months ago, a kind
of generational impasse gripped
for a very Happy Passover.
young men became rebel s. and
moved out on their own. Earlier
this year the elders made the fate-
Hy. Lipsitz - Ted Wise - Harold Lipsitz - Lee Horwitz
ful decision to test the outer world
by sending a small group. ages
between 13 and 15, to the ORT
Several could not speak French, I
and spent the summer in a language
preparatory course organized by the
school. All were housed with Jew-
ish families in Tunis and given
Painters - Decorators Since 1907
monthly stipends by ?DC. They take
their meals at the school.
To the community back home, it
was a doubtful experiment. In De-
cember. the Grand Rabbi came to
see for himself. He examined every-
thing, especially the kashrut prac-
ticed in the kitchen. He spoke with
"his children" and with the teach-
Wall Washing — Carpet Cleaning
ers of Hebrew.
The Grand Rabbi acknowledged
his original skepticism that any
good could come from this
happy discovery" of what he
This is the answer we have been •
looking for, he declared. The new •
economic trends that have come
to Jerba threaten our old way of
"TOOL MAKERS SINCE 1920"
life. You have given us the solution •
we need for our young men. More •
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young men would be coming to
2731 Jerome Ave. at E. McNichols
the school from the Isle of the
Lotus Eaters, he promised, begin- Sosomeseseesemeememeeememoemm
ning with 67 of them this March for
a preparatory course to qualify
them for admission this fall.
A Very Healthy and Happy Passover
In the Hara Sagira of J e r b a
to the Jewish Community
stands the fabled Ghriba syna-
gogue, in whose crypt lies the dejet,
the presumed gate of the Second
Temple, a talisman for Jew and
Moslem. To this ancestral sanctu-
ary, the Grand Rabbi repaired
upon his return to Jerba, to make
a benediction for the school. In
doing so, he gave his blessings to
a new era for the Jews of Jerba.
Best Wishes for a Happy Passover
CAPITOL WASTE PAPER CO. INC.
Some 2.000 Jews inhabit two
hamlets on the island, Hara Sagira
and tiara Kabira. About 1,500
others emigrated in recent years.
Jews are the traditional silver-
smiths of Jerba, and their work is
highly prized. Some are black-
smiths, and others own stalls in
the local souk, or market place.
These are age-old occupations
of Jerba's J e w s, including the
fathers of the 12 newly enrolled
students at the Tunis ORT School.
One youngster reports his parent's
livelihood, as crafting the silver
plates and other adornments for
tora scrolls, another's Jather sells
mezuzas in the souk.
These young men see no future
for themselves in such "metiers".
Silver has become scarce, and goods
for the souk merchants are increas-
ingly hard to come by. The greater
impact is that modernity has
knocked at the gates of Jerba, and
their eyes have been opened to the
great world beyond its ancient
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A Happy Holiday to All Our Relatives
Friends and Patrons
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Best wishes and greetings to all our friends and customers
for a very happy Passover
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Passover Greetings to Our Friends and Patrons
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Friends and Customers
Desmond Process Supply Co.
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Wishing You A Happy Passover
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Best Wishes For A Happy Passover
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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Friday, April 21, 1967-49