Cape Verde reded­i­cates Jewish graves

Times Colonist - - Religion -

DAKAR, Sene­gal — Af­ter years of care­ful restora­tion, two 19th-cen­tury Jewish ceme­ter­ies were reded­i­cated in Cape Verde this week, part of an ef­fort fi­nanced by the Moroc­can king to pre­serve the ar­chi­pel­ago’s cul­tural her­itage.

On wind-swept Santo An­tao is­land, lo­cal dig­ni­taries, in­ter­na­tional diplo­mats, and prom­i­nent Jewish fig­ures gath­ered for the cer­e­mony where seven of the graves are lo­cated.

The reded­i­ca­tion project in­volved trans­lat­ing the orig­i­nal in­scrip­tions onto bronze plaques that ac­com­pany the graves, telling the story of Cape Verde’s Jewish com­mu­nity, which has now all but dis­ap­peared in the for­mer Por­tuguese colony off the west­ern coast of Africa.

Carol Castiel, pres­i­dent of the Cape Verdean Jewish Her­itage Project, con­sulted with He­brew and Por­tuguese lin­guists, his­to­ri­ans, and rab­bis to cre­ate the new plaques.

“This ceme­tery is a small an­ti­dote to what we’re see­ing around the world with pop­ulism and the rise of anti-Semitism,” said Castiel in an in­ter­view from Santo An­tao, where she trav­elled for the cer­e­mony. “Here is a lit­tle oa­sis, a place where peo­ple take pride in the Jewish his­tory.”

Jorge San­tos, pres­i­dent of Cape Verde’s Na­tional Assem­bly, asked for a mo­ment of si­lence this week at the cer­e­mony in mem­ory of the 11 peo­ple killed at a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue in late Oc­to­ber.

The first wave of Jewish im­mi­grants ar­rived in Cape Verde in the 15th and 16th cen­turies, flee­ing per­se­cu­tion from Chris­tians in Spain and Por­tu­gal. How­ever, those in­terred in the ceme­tery im­mi­grated later, com­ing from Mo­rocco in the 1800s to seek eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Many of th­ese Jewish im­mi­grants were men who mar­ried lo­cal Catholic women and stopped ac­tively prac­tic­ing their re­li­gion.

The burial grounds have been re­stored through a part­ner­ship be­tween the lo­cal gov­ern­ment and the Cape Verde Jewish Her­itage Project, a non-for-profit founded in 2007. King Mo­hammed VI of Mo­rocco fi­nanced the restora­tion of the ceme­ter­ies on Cape Verde, which gained in­de­pen­dence in 1975 af­ter more than 500 years of Por­tuguese rule.

“This is a project from a Cape Verdean Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tion that is sup­ported by a Mus­lim coun­try, Mo­rocco, in a Chris­tian coun­try, Cape Verde,” said Car­los Wah­non Veiga, Cape Verde’s for­mer prime min­is­ter and cur­rent am­bas­sador to the United States.

Veiga, who is of Jewish de­scent, added: “It is a very good ex­am­ple of tol­er­ance world­wide.”

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