Moroccan Jews Plan Return to Cape Verde for Cemetery Dedication

Hundreds Settled in African Island in 19th Century

Sephardic Outpost: The African island of Cape Verde once had a small community of Jews, mostly from Morocco.
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Sephardic Outpost: The African island of Cape Verde once had a small community of Jews, mostly from Morocco.

By JTA

Published April 28, 2013.
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Descendants of Jews from Cape Verde plan to rededicate a burial plot in the West African island state next week, largely thanks to funding by the king of Morocco.

The rededication ceremony is scheduled to take place in Praia, the capital, on May 2 and is expected to be attended by a small group of Jews from four continents, including Andre Azoulay, a senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

Several hundred Jews from Morocco settled in Cape Verde in the 19th century, when it was still a Portuguese colony. The community has since disappeared, but the Moroccan government has been a “major benefactor, along with a variety of other Jewish and non-Jewish donors, for efforts to preserve and restore its heritage sites,” according to Carol Castiel, who is overseeing the works as president of the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project.

The Moroccan involvement in restoring the Praia burial site, one of several scattered across the 10 islands that make up Cape Verde, is part of a broader effort that recently led to the renovation of Casablanca’s Jewish museum, the reopening of the ancient synagogue in Fez, and plaques at Jewish schools across Morocco.

John Wahnon, a board member of the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, said the rededication would teach locals about what used to be a prominent Jewish community and educate Jewish descendants of the Cape Verde community.

“When my generation passes, the ones that come after may not have any source to learn about their Jewish background and legacy,” Wahnon said at a recent reception at the residence of the Moroccan ambassador to the United States.


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