The Jews of Casablanca, Morocco, are grappling to come to terms with a crime that took the lives of Sam and Vicky Toledano, Z”l, two beloved members of its small but strong and historic community. Despite several early media reports intimating that the couple’s murder was motivated by anti-Semitism, members of the local community confirmed official statements by authorities that the act was a violent robbery. The family’s gardener has been charged with the crime and is in police custody.
Rabbi Levi Banon of Chabad of Casablanca told Hamodia that the community is in “shock,” but that the incident was “clearly not anti-Semitic.”
“Any time such a thing happens people are on edge and start looking over their backs, but it is not that we feel specifically targeted,” he said.
Both Toledanos, Rabbi Banon said, were especially well-liked members of the community, and he described them as “very nice, sweet, discreet, and modest people.”
The suggestion that the murder was connected to the victim’s being Jewish began with a report by Diaspora Saharaui, a news outlet that is critical of Morocco’s rule of Western Sahara. It claimed that the brutality of the crime seemed to imply that the perpetrator had goals beyond the Toledanos’ money and jewelry.
Rabbi Banon said that police have been in constant contact with the community’s leaders and that “we have 100 percent trust in the authorities’ assessment.”
“They [Moroccan authorities] are very concerned and attentive to our security needs. The fact that they caught the murderer two days into the investigation is very impressive.”
“It’s very unfortunate and very sad,” said Rabbi Gad Bouskila of Congregation Netivot Yisrael on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway. Rabbi Bouskila is a native of Morocco who maintains close ties to the Jewish community there. He confirmed that community leaders felt the incident “was purely a vicious crime … It definitely has put a real scare into people; most of the Jews in Morocco have gardeners and others working in their homes. The feeling that they can’t trust them is frightening.”
Authorities opened an investigation last week after they were contacted by members of the Maimonides Synagogue, where Mr. Toledano would attend Shacharis daily, saying that they had not seen him or been able to contact him for a few days. The bodies were discovered on Wednesday, but police found that their table was still set for Shabbos, when the crime most likely occurred. By the end of the week, the Toledanos’ gardener had been apprehended and confessed to committing the murders.
Mr. Toledano was the owner of a textile business but had recently retired. Both he and Mrs. Toledano, née Ben Chetrit, are members of prominent families in the Moroccan Jewish community.
Their children currently live in France.
The couple’s levayah was attended by the majority of Casablanca’s Jewish community, which numbers roughly 2,000, as well as by several representatives of the government who came to show sympathy and solidarity.