Bronze . Aaron Vincent Elkaim . Canada

by tVCA

Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, Aaron Vincent Elkaim is an award-winning photographer who currently freelances and resides in Toronto. His cultural history is divided with a Moroccan Jewish father and an Irish English Prairie Canadian Mother.    His personal work focuses on documentary photography with a cultural investment. Aaron has a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and a diploma in Photojournalism, he was awarded the News Photographers Association of Canada’s College photographer of the Year in 2007, and selected as one of Photolife Magazines Emerging Photographers for 2008.

Aaron believes that the greatest photography is open ended; he doesn’t believe in a beginning middle or end to a photo story but simply wishes to illuminate it, urging the viewer to ask questions rather than simply providing answers. Aaron’s goal as a photographer is to create work that will stand the test of time both as art and document.

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Jewish Morocco

‘As the son of a Moroccan Jewish immigrant, I found this project through a desire to explore my roots. In Morocco, I discovered fragments of the past, a cultural history struggling to survive yet still profoundly at the heart of the country.

Moroccan Jewish history began over 2000 years ago. Since the 7th century they have lived within a Muslim nation.   As dhimmi – a protected minority under the Islamic Principle of Tolerance – Jews flourished, holding high positions in trade and even government. Prior to the arrival of the French in 1912, Moroccan currency had the Star of David affixed to it, a symbol representing a prophet holy to Jews and Muslims alike. They were separated by religion, but united by culture and Kingdom. During WWII, King Mohammed V responded to Nazi demands for a list of Jews: “We have no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan citizens.”

In the 1940’s, there were approximately 300,000 Jews living throughout Morocco, today fewer than 3000 remain. After the formation of Israel, Zionists targeted Morocco’s Jews for their ability to co-exist with Arabs. Giving promises of prosperity in Israel, recruiters targeted overcrowded, impoverished Mellahs, or Jewish Quarters, and rural Jews with agricultural expertise. Those who remained became increasingly alienated with rising Muslim-Jewish tensions during Israel’s Six-day War of 1967, with many leaving for France and Canada. Today, the remaining community primarily resides in Casablanca, with a few in tiny communities in cities, or alone in the countryside. The population is aging and the youth seek education elsewhere. The Jewish community in Morocco will soon be gone.

This collection of images taken in the summer of 2009 reflect an exploration of Jewish Morocco’s history, its ghosts, artifacts, places and remaining lives. They represent a journey into the void that remains after this cultural exodus, as well as a retrospective of a time and place where Jews and Arabs lived peacefully, culturally united as neighbors and as Moroccans.’ – Aaron Vincent Elkaim

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