Friday, October 3, 2008

Jews of Cape Verdean


In Cape Verde, a small stretch of islands just off the coast of West Africa, some residents talk about what it means to them to be the heirs of the islands' Jewish past.

At the main cemetery in Praia, white crosses stretch in every direction.

But a quick question to the guard, and he leads visitors sure-footedly up the hill to the left.

Here, a few stone tombs lie flat in the ground, and there are no crosses.

Jose Levy describes what he sees.

"Some of the graves have descriptions in Hebraic, others have descriptions in both Hebraic and Portuguese," he explains.

These are the graves of some of Cape Verde's former Jewish population. There are about half a dozen here. They mostly come from the late 1800s.

Jews first reached Cape Verde in the 1400s, when Portugal colonized the then-uninhabited islands.

The island became an important trading post for Portugal. But many of the Jews came under pressure from the Spanish Inquisition. Portugal, seeking a royal alliance with Spain, followed Spain's example and declared in 1496 that all Jews must convert or be expelled.

A second wave of Jewish immigrants came to the islands from Morocco starting in the 1850s. They were mostly looking for economic opportunities. Levy's family was part of this wave. At one time, Levy's father, Abraão Levy, says, his family owned and farmed a great deal of land on Santiago, the island where Praia is located.

Abraão Levy says the descendants of the Jewish immigrants have played prominent roles in Cape Verde, including a former prime minister, and a finance minister. (Source: VOA)

Click here for the entire article.

Some quick research online turned up some fascinating results, including a website for The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project.

Below are a few more links that tell the story of the Jews in Cape Verde.

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