Cape Verdean municipalities advance Jewish preservation

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three municipalities in the African island nation of Cape Verde have signed agreements with a preservation group toward maintaining Jewish cemeteries.

The memoranda of understanding with Ribeira Grande (Santo Antao), Praia and Boa Vista will "pave the way for collaboration on physical restoration, research and documentation of the Sephardic Jewish families and on heritage tourism promotion," said a release this week from the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project.

The project, which has garnered the backing of Moroccan, Portuguese and Cape Verdean diplomats, is also asking the Cape Verdean government for monument status for the four Jewish cemeteries, which will facilitate fundraising for their preservation.

There were two waves of Jewish immigration to the former Portuguese colony about 300 miles off Africa’s west coast. The first was of secret Jews who came with Portuguese colonization in the 15th century.

That immigration is difficult to track because of the Jews’ secrecy, and this project focuses more on a wave of immigrants from Morocco in the mid-19th century.

The Portuguese ambassador hosted a fundraiser for the project at his residence in Washington, D.C., honoring U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a Jewish congressman whose Massachusetts district is home to one of the largest U.S. Cape Verdean communities.

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