African Island's Lost Jewish Heritage

Morocco King Funds Spruce-Up of Cape Verde Cemetery

Strange Companions: Sephardic rabbi and a Moroccan diplomat rededicate Jewish graves in the African island of Cape Verde, where many Portuguese Jews once lived.
jta
Strange Companions: Sephardic rabbi and a Moroccan diplomat rededicate Jewish graves in the African island of Cape Verde, where many Portuguese Jews once lived.

By JTA

Published May 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

A Moroccan diplomat, who spoke to JTA on condition of anonymity, said the restoration project could bring political dividends for Morocco, which has been accused of human rights abuses in Western Sahara, a disputed territory to which the kingdom lays partial claim.

“To Morocco’s great consternation, the U.S. last month proposed the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara help monitor human rights,” the diplomat said. “It’s very useful for us to have someone — a strong lobby group, perhaps — to help talk the State Department out of this idea. The Jewish lobby is a very strong one.”

The board of the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project includes Howard Berman, a former California congressman who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee until his defeat last year; Daniel Mariaschin, the executive director of B’nai B’rith International; Herman Cohen, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state; and Toby Dershowitz, who heads a Washington public affairs consultancy.

But Azoulay grows indignant at any suggestion the king has his eye on the economic or political benefits of his largesse.

“This effort is the concrete manifestation of a consensus in Moroccan society, that our society is partly built on Jewish culture, a culture deeply rooted in three millennia of history,” he said.

“You have to understand the purity of it,” Azoulay added. “Those who think it is to attract tourists are just out of order.”

As popular revolutions have swept the Arab world since late 2010, Jewish heritage has suffered under newly empowered Islamist governments. Two Jewish cemeteries were desecrated earlier this year in Tunisia, prompting Israel to express concerns for the safety of the country’s Jews, the daily Maariv reported.

In Egypt, the government prevented several dozen Israelis from making the annual Passover pilgrimage to Alexandria’s main synagogue, one of the few properly maintained and functioning Jewish sites in the country. Egypt also briefly censored a film about the flight of its Jews following Israel’s establishment.

But in Morocco, a similar film, titled “Tinghir-Jerusalem: Echoes from the Mellah,” won a prize last month at the Tangier Film Festival. It also triggered protests from a few hundred Islamists and left-wing activists saying the film promoted “normalization” of ties with Israel, The Associated Press reported.

Still, many Jewish visitors speak of Morocco as a friendly place. Nuno Wahnon Martins, the director of European Affairs at B’nai B’rith International, said he felt safe enough to abandon all caution when asking for directions to synagogues during a recent visit. And Rubinfeld said he was surprised to hear a Hebrew song blasting from the stereo of a shop in Casablanca’s main market.

“Being a Jew in Morocco is safer today than on some streets in Brussels,” said Rubinfeld.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.