Sunday, November 22, 2015


The Jewish cemeteries in Penha de França and Ponta do Sol have been officially classified as Municipal Cultural Patrimony or  "Património Cultural Municipal" by the Camara Municipal de Ribeira Grande (CMRG) -- City Hall in Ribeira Grande, island of Santo Antao.

I received the following message from Francisco Dias, Vereador da CMRG in late August 2015. 

"Ontem foi um dia muito especial para os Cemitérios dos Judeus. Foi aprovado por unanimidade por todos os deputados municipais, a elevação dos cemitérios dos Judeus de Ribeira Grande (Ponta do Sol e Penha de França) a património cultural municipal. O processo seguirá brevemente para o governo requerendo a elevação a categoria de património cultural nacional."
----Francisco Dias, Vereador da CMRG - Santo Antão, 29 de Agosto, 2015

Engineer Orlando Delgado, President (Mayor) of CMRG, told me in late July 2015, when I was in Ribeira Grande on a site visit to evaluate the status of restoration of the two cemeteries, that he would press for this designation. CVJHP Inc. salutes the CMRG for fulfilling its commitment. 
Above is the refurbished Penha de Franca cemetery in Ribeira Grande. Finishing touches such as painting and signage will be completed in the coming months by early 2016.
The Jewish cemeteries are in the process of being restored and preserved with financing and advice from CVJHP Inc. and by a capable technical team from the CMRG. Their recent designation as "municipal cultural patrimony" is an important first step toward their eventual designation as cultural patrimony by the central government. Why is this so critical? It means that the people of Ribeira Grande value and honor the contributions and legacy of the many Sephardic Jews who once lived and prospered on the island. The designation legally protects the cemeteries from attempts by developers, the state or individuals to destroy, alter or deface the cemeteries. Most of all, it reflects the view by the CMRG and the citizens therein that the cemeteries are an inextricable part of their history and identity, even if no practicing Jews remain on the island today. Thanks to the CMRG, the memory of the many Jewish families: The Benros, the Brigham, the Cohens, the Pinto, the Wahnon and many more .... will live on through the poignant cemeteries and the many descendants in Cape Verde and abroad.  It will also help to promote cultural tourism in the island of Santo Antao. CVJHP Inc. fervently hopes that the other municipalities with Jewish cemeteries, namely Praia and Boa Vista, will emulate the measure taken by CMRG and vote to designate their respective cemeteries as "património cultural municipal." Such a move will greatly benefit the economic and cultural development of the entire country. 
Antonio Mota and Francisco Dias, Terrace of Ponta do Sol Cemetery, RG

Francisco Dias, Antonio Mota Ponta do Sol, RG  

Saturday, November 14, 2015


We apologize for the gap in communication, but CVJHP has been on the move since we last connected and in the next posts I will catch you up with our activities regarding cemetery restoration and research. For now, we'd like to share the article below, which appeared in the newspaper Panorama in Gibraltar after CVJHP historian Ângela Sofia Benoliel Coutinho and I traveled there in June 2015 on a research visit. John Culatto interviewed us and wrote the following:

If you have trouble viewing the article, you can read it on our website at:

Se tiver dificuldade em ler o artigo, favor ver nosso website:  

In the first photo below, Carol Castiel stands next to Rabbi Ronnie Hassid outside the Nefusot Yehuda Synagogue, also known as the Flemish Synagogue, on Line Wall Road. 

I took the following photo in the office of Mr. Mesod Belilo, archivist for the Jewish community of Gibraltar. He is sharing 19th century marriage records with Ângela Sofia Benoliel Coutinho, CVJHP historian, as part of our research on the Moroccan Jews who settled in the archipelago in the mid-1800's. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Documenting the Jews of Cape Verde

If you've been following and liking us on you know that with the help of generous donors such as World Monuments Fund and Mr. S. Daniel Abraham, CVJHP is promoting and underwriting archival research into the Sephardim who immigrated to Cabo Verde from Morocco and Gibraltar in the 19th century. 
However, we also want to pay tribute to Claudia Correia, whose book, "Presença de Judeus em Cabo Verde: Inventariação na Documentação do Arquivo Histórico Nacional (1840 - 1927), published in 1998, is an indispensable source of data and information for this research. We are very grateful to Dr. Correia for conducting and publishing her pioneering study --- one of the first archivists / historians to begin documenting the presence and legacy of the Sephardim in Cabo Verde.

CVJHP recently engaged historian Angela Sofia Benoliel Coutinho, a descendant of the legendary Benoliel family, to build upon the work of Claudia Correia and others, by conducting archival research in Portugal, Cape Verde, London, Gibraltar and Morocco, to help us gain an even better and clearer understanding of the commercial, social, political and religious activities of the Jews, their relationships with one another and their role within the larger Catholic community, particularly in the islands of Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Boa Vista and Sao Tiago, where the majority of Jews settled. Dra. Angela Sofia Benoliel Coutinho intends to expand and deepen our understanding of the contributions of the Jews and their descendants in Cabo Verde by building upon Dra. Correia's foundational study.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March 2014 Update

We regret the delay in updating events via the blog, but you can read about major developments over the past year on the CVJHP Facebook Fan Page. To summarize the latest, CVJHP in conjunction with Praia City Hall or Camara da Praia, held a re-dedication ceremony, replete with many descendants and international dignitaries, of the recently restored Jewish burial plot in Praia in May 2013. CVJHP financed the work, which was executed by Praia City Hall. Please see the numerous articles written about this event on our publications page. CVJHP is proud of the generous support provided by His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, which enables CVJHP to underwrite physical restoration efforts of Jewish cemeteries throughout the archipelago, namely in Praia and in the islands of Boa Vista and Santo Antão. In Santo Antão there are two cemeteries - Ponta do Sol and Penha de França - in the vila of Ribeira Grande.  Below are two photos from the May 2013 planning visit to Santo Antão.

Penha de França cemetery, Ribeira Grande
Ponta do Sol cemetery, Ribeira Grande
Physical restoration of these two cemeteries should commence over the coming months. Meantime, thanks to generous start-up support from World Monuments Fund CVJHP has engaged historian Ângela Sofia Benoliel Coutinho, a native of Cape Verde and a descendant of the legendary Benoliel family of Boa Vista, to scour relevant archives in Lisbon and Cape Verde, as well as to interview descendants and others, to obtain a fuller understanding and detailed portrait of the Sephardic Jews of Cape Verde.  Finishing touches are being made to the cemetery in Boa Vista, after which CVJHP will work with Boa Vista City Hall and other stakeholders as well as the Ministry of Culture to create signage and documentation for the many tourists expected to visit the site. In Praia, CVJHP is also negotiating with Praia City Hall to improve the walkway, lighting and signage leading to the restored Jewish burial plot, which will not only enhance the site as a historical monument but also as a potential tourist attraction.

Friday, March 15, 2013


 Jacob Azencot, faleceu 25 Agosto 1864
During restoration work on the Jewish burial plot within Varzea, the contractors for Camara da Praia uncovered the tombstone of young Jacob Azencot! It was an extraordinary and moving discovery. Jacob Azencot's grave was uncovered beside that of Benjamin Alves. This brings the total number of graves in the Varzea cemetery to 10. In a subsequent post, I will list the names but for now, we are seeking descendants or anyone who knows if Mr. Abraham Tarregano and Miriam Tarregano, who are both buried in Praia, have any living descendants. In addition, we are seeking to find out if Mr. El Baz, also buried in the newly restored Jewish plot in Praia, has any descendants in Cape Verde or abroad. We also seek information about any descendants of Mr. Samuel Serruya, whose tombstone is among the most majestic in the cemetery. Please send any information you may have regarding these three families / individuals as well as Jacob Azencot. In addition to restoration work, we are simultaneously planning to document the history and contributions of the Jewish families to Cape Verde. Meantime thank you to the team working for the Camara da Praia who uncovered the precious tombstone of Jacob Azencot. Parabens!

SAVE THE DATE: MAY 2, 2013 Re-dedication

Thanks to all of you who have made financial contributions to Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project Inc. and especially to His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, we have completed the restoration of the Sephardic Jewish cemetery in the capital, Praia. Take a peak at the Before and After photo:

Jewish burial plot within the Varzea cemetery in Praia, before and after restoration


On May 2, 2013, Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project is organizing a ceremony in Praia to re-consecrate the Jewish burial plot inside the Varzea Cemetary, which was recently restored under an agreement between CVJHP and the Municipality of Praia (Camara da Praia). It is the first of four small Jewish cemeteries that CVJHP will rehabilitate and preserve in Cape Verde in partnership with local and central government authorities. CVJHP financed the restoration, which was designed and executed by the "Camara da Praia." CVJHP is also grateful to central government authorities, in particular Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves and Minister of Culture, Mario Lucio, for their cooperation and support. Distinguished dignitaries from Morocco and Gibraltar (the birthplace of most of the Jews who immigrated to Cape Verde in the 19th century) are expected to attend, as is the chief Rabbi of Lisbon. We also look forward to having many descendants from the United States and Europe join in the commemoration. It is not too late to sign up for the trip! Please contact us at: by March 29 if you wish to participate. Note: Each person is responsible for covering his/her trip expenses including air fare, hotel and most meals. However, we have identified a travel agent in Cape Verde who is working to obtain the best air fares and hotel rates for our group. It's an opportunity to appreciate the poignant remnants of the Sephardic Jewish presence in Cape Verde and to mingle with local descendants of the Auday, Benros, Benoliel, Benchimol, Brighham, Cohen, Levy, Wahnon and other Jewish families, meet Cape Verdean local and central government officials as well as Embassy representatives. Meetings, receptions and other excursions will be planned. Enjoy Cape Verdean "Morabeza" or hospitality. Visit our website: CVJHP.  Let's preserve memory and re-live history on May 2!