THE JEWS OF CAPE VERDE PROJECT: PRESERVATION OF

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CAPE VERDE JEWISH HERITAGE PROJECT, INC.
The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc. (CVJHP) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that
aims to honor the memory and explore the contributions of the many Sephardic Jewish families who
immigrated to Cape Verde from Morocco and Gibraltar in the mid-19th century.
The primary goals of CVJHP are to preserve Cape Verde’s Jewish heritage by restoring and
maintaining Jewish burial grounds, to educate future generations about the Jews of Cape Verde, and to
encourage Jewish heritage tourism.
CVJHP has the support of the Government of the Republic of Cape Verde and is working in close
partnership with the Cape Verde-Israel Friendship Society (AMICAEL) to achieve these goals.
AMICAEL is a non-profit organization based in Cape Verde whose members consist of descendants of
the Jewish families. Carol Castiel is president of CVJHP.
PROJECT OBJECTIVES
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Restoration and preservation of four Jewish burial grounds, which have fallen into disrepair in
the islands of Santo Antao, Boa Vista and Sao Tiago.
Continued oral and archival research on the Jewish families and their descendants.
Publication of book about the Jews and their descendants based on above research.
Symposium on the Jewish presence in Lusophone Africa.
Promotion of Jewish heritage tourism to Cape Verde.
Documentary film about the Jews of Cape Verde (once above objectives are attained)
HIGHLIGHTS OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS
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Kickoff Reception at residence of H.E. Aziz Mekouar, ambassador of Morocco to US. 2009
Creation of website: www.CapeVerdeJewishHeritage.org 2008
Letter endorsing Project from Cape Verdean Prime Minister. 2007
Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc. receives tax-exempt status from IRS. 2007
Presentation on the Jews of Cape Verde by Carol Castiel, Jewish Genealogy Conference. 2003
Two “Insider Embassy Nights” at the Cape Verde Embassy in Washington for the DC Jewish
Community Center when The Project was highlighted. 1997, 2003
Interviews with more than a dozen descendants of Jews of Cape Verde in Lisbon. 2002
(Documentation of memory continues and will culminate in a book by Carol Castiel based on
archives and oral histories of descendants.)
Radio spot for the “Voice of America” on the Jews of Cape Verde. 2002
Initial restoration of Penha da Franca Cemetery, Santo Antao. 1999
Presentation of The Project’s objectives by Carol Castiel at World Bank Symposium, “Historic
Cities and Sacred Sites.” 1999
Meeting between Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, then Prime Minister of Cape
Verde, and Vice President of B’nai B’rith International, Daniel Mariaschin. 1998
Formation of grass-roots group of Jewish Cape Verdeans in Lisbon, Portugal. 1997
Visits of Carol Castiel to H.E. Andre Azoulay, Advisor to the King of Morocco, and the
Jewish Community of Casablanca to establish Moroccan linkages for Project. 1996
BACKGROUND
The Republic of Cape Verde, an archipelago of ten islands, lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 300
miles off the coast of Senegal, West Africa. As a result of over 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule,
Cape Verdeans are predominantly Catholic. However, beginning with the period of the Spanish and
Portuguese Inquisition through the late 19th century, Cape Verde received Jews fleeing religious
persecution, or as in the case of the 19th century, seeking greater economic stability.
The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc. is mainly concerned with the second wave of
Jewish immigration. Deteriorating economic conditions in Morocco in the mid-1800’s prompted some
Jews to immigrate to Cape Verde, which was then a Portuguese colony. The Hebrew and Portuguese
inscriptions on the tombstones in the small Jewish cemeteries throughout the islands, indicate that the
majority came from the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Rabat, and Mogador (now Essaouira) bearing
distinctive Sephardic names such as Benoliel, Benrós, Benathar, Benchimol, Brigham, Auday, Anahory,
Cohen, Levy, Maman, Pinto, Seruya and Wahnon. Many arrived in Cape Verde via Gibraltar.
These families landed primarily on the islands of Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Boa Vista and Sao
Tiago and engaged in international commerce, shipping, administration and other trades. The Jews lived,
worked, and prospered in Cape Verde. However, because their numbers were few relative to the larger
Catholic population, widespread intermarriage occurred. As a result of this assimilation, Cape Verde
today has virtually no practicing Jews. Yet, descendants of these families, whether in Cape Verde, the
United States, Portugal or Canada, speak with pride of their Jewish ancestry. They wish to honor the
memory of their forebears by preserving the cemeteries and by documenting their legacy. The first
democratically elected prime minister of Cape Verde, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, is of
Jewish descent. Many descendants of the Jewish families are actively engaged in collaborating on various
aspects of CVJHP’s mission, such as providing oral testimonies, technical support and financial
assistance.
PROJECT IN PRINT
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“Honoring Cape Verde’s Jewish History,” The Forward, April 3, 2009
“Cape Verde’s Jewish Roots,” Diplomatic Pouch, March 30, 2009
“Preserving a Jewish Niche: Group Seeks to Honor the Ghosts of Cape Verde,” Washington Jewish
Week, March 26, 2009
“Cape Verde Heritage Project Launched,” Jewish Telegraph Service, March 19, 2009
“Recovering Jewish Heritage in the Cape Verde Islands,” Carol Castiel, Historic Cities and Sacred
Places, proceedings of World Bank Symposium. 2000
The Presence of Jews in Cape Verde: Inventory of Historical Documents from 1840-1927, Claudia
Correia, Cape Verdean historian. Doctoral dissertation. 1998
The Jews of Cape Verde: A Brief History, M. Mitchell Serels, Sepher-Hermon Press, Inc. 1997
“Book review of The Jews of Cape Verde: A Brief History,” Israel Benoliel, Cimboa, Cultural
Magazine of Cape Verde, Boston. 1997
“Cape Verde Hosts Jews,” Carol Castiel, Washington Jewish Week, 1995
Portuguese and French translations of the above article appeared respectively in the newspapers Novo
Jornal of Cape Verde and Le Maroc Hebdo of Morocco. 1995
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Ambassador Herman Cohen, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Jack Edlow, CEO, Edlow International
Allan Reich, Partner, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP
ADVISORY BOARD
H.E. Andre Azoulay, Counselor, King Mohammed VI of Morocco
The Honorable Howard Berman, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee, US Congress
H.E. Maria de Fatima Lima da Veiga, Ambassador of the Republic of Cape Verde to the U.S.
H.E. Aziz Mekouar, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the U.S.
H.E. Joao de Vallera, Ambassador of Portugal to the U.S.
H.E. Vernon Penner, former U.S. Ambassador to Cape Verde
Edward Bergman, Innovative Development Services
Toby Dershowitz, President, The Dershowitz Group
Gail Ifshin, President, Global Education Partnership, Discovery Channel
Professor Aomar Boum, Near Eastern Studies and Religious Studies Program, University of Arizona
Professor David M. Gitlitz, Department of Languages, University of Rhode Island
Professor Russell G. Hamilton, former Dean, Graduate School, Vanderbilt University
Daniel Mariaschin, Executive Vice President, B’nai B’rith International
Professor Sulayman S. Nyang, Department of African Studies, Howard University
Professor Daniel J. Schroeter, Department of History, University of Minnesota
José Tomás Veiga, former Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs, Cape Verde
John Wahnon, Founding Member of AMICAEL
Gwen Zuares, American Sephardi Association
For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact: Carol Castiel,
President, Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project Inc. 400 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Suite 812,
Washington, DC 20001. Tel: 202.841.9925; www.capeverdejewishheritage.org. Email:
[email protected]
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