Tuesday, October 30, 2007


My fond memories of Israel Benoliel, son of Salomao Benoliel and Carolina Benoliel Carvalho Benoliel, were revived this month during the traditional Jewish "unveiling" ceremony. Israel died on February 5, 2007 on his 90th birthday. Born in Boa Vista, Cape Verde, Israel Benoliel was educated in Porto and Lisbon, Portugal and eventually made his way to the United States where he worked as a telecommunications engineeer in Virginia. He is survived by his wife Sylvia, two children and two grandchildren. His untimely death symbolizes the urgency with with we must chronicle the lives of the Jews of Cape Verde and their descendants, lest the memories be forgotten. Israel insisted on a Jewish burial--a wish that his wife--who is Catholic by birth, lovingly honored. Also in keeping with a more recent Jewish tradition, an "unveiling" ceremony took place this month. It's the formal dedication of the tombstone. Israel was fiercely proud of his Jewish ancestry. His parents were also born in Boa Vista, but his paternal grandparents, Esther Benathar and Abraham Benoliel hailed from Rabat, Morocco and immigrated to Cape Verde in the mid 19th century. (See my first entry to understand the reasons behind the immigration of Sephardic Jews to Cape Verde, then a Portuguese colony.) The Benoliel family was so powerful and benevolent that they practically fueled the economy of Boa Vista.

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