Synopsis: Why would Jews in Morocco, a country in which they have lived for over 2000 years, and where Sephardim found refuge from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, set sail for Portuguese territory in the 19th century, specifically Cabo Verde? Moroccan Jews arrived in Cabo Verde and other Portuguese territories after 1821, the year in which the Inquisition had been abolished, removing fears of religious persecution. The book explores the many other “push and pull” factors which prompted some Jews to set sail for the then-Portuguese colony of Cabo Verde.

The role of tiny, but influential, British Gibraltar, is also highlighted in the Portuguese-language book “Os Judeus Marroquinos de Cabo Verde: Século XIX,” recently published by Edições Colibri in Lisbon.

Co-author, Ângela Benoliel Coutinho, conducted research in the archives of Gibraltar, Lisbon, London and Cabo Verde to trace and document the migration of the mostly male Moroccan Jews from Tangier, Tetouan, Mogador (now Essaouira) and Rabat, who settled in the islands of São Vicente, Santo Antão, Boavista and Santiago in the mid to late 1800’s in search of economic opportunities and greater religious freedom. A trade and friendship treaty between Portugal and Britain and the proximity between Gibraltar and Morocco, help explain the migratory pattern. Auday, Anahory, Azancot, Benoliel, Benrós, Benaim, Brigham (Ohayon), Benchimol, Cagi, Cohen, ElBaz, Levy, Levy-Bentub, Maman, Pinto, Seruya, Taregano, Wahnon and Zagury are just some of the Sephardic families that Benoliel Coutinho documents in this pioneering book.

For the benefit of Cabo Verdean readers, who are descendants of the Moroccan Jews (and others who may be unfamiliar with Moroccan Jewish customs), Benoliel Coutinho cites passages from author Haim Zafrani’s classic book “Two Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Morocco,” which describe the birth, marriage and death rituals that their ancestors might have experienced.

For his part, co-author and CVJHP advisory board member, José Alberto Tavim, summarizes the history of Jews in Portugal, and discusses the earlier presence of some “conversos” or New Christians, in the then-Portuguese colony of Cabo Verde.

In her preface, book coordinator, Carol Castiel, describes the personal journey which led her to collaborate with the Cabo Verdean descendants of the Moroccan Jews, who in the 1990’s, were pressing for the restoration and preservation of their ancestors’ Jewish cemeteries which dot the archipelago. To better support this goal and to honor the memory and document the presence of the Moroccan Jews of Cabo Verde, Castiel founded the non-profit, Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project Inc., (CVJHP) in 2008.

A book launch is also scheduled for Praia, Cabo Verde, on Friday, May 26, at the National Archives (ANCV).

Plans for a translation of the book into English and French are currently underway.