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Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, inc.

The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc. (CVJHP) is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization that aims to honor the memory and explore the contributions of the many Sephardic Jewish families who immigrated to Cape Verde from Morocco and Gibraltar in the mid-19th century.

The primary goals of CVJHP are to preserve Cape Verde’s Jewish heritage by restoring and maintaining Jewish burial grounds, to educate future generations about the Jews of Cape Verde, and to encourage Jewish heritage tourism.

CVJHP has the support of the Government of the Republic of Cape Verde and is working in close partnership with both municipal authorities and descendants of Jewish families to achieve these goals. Sofia de Oliveira Lima is CVJHP Representative in Cape Verde.

*Please be advised that CVJHP is not affiliated with Salamith Spencer, president of “Associação Cabo-verdiana para a Preservação da Herança Patrimonial Judaica” (AHJ), an organization registered in Cabo Verde. AHJ does not represent CVJHP and is not authorized to speak for us. Any representation to the contrary by AHJ or its leadership is false, and CVJHP denies any responsibility for actions or statements by AHJ and its leadership.

Project Objectives

  • Restoration and preservation of Jewish burial grounds in Santo Antao, Boa Vista, Sao Tiago
  • Publication of book about the Jews and their descendants based oral and archival research
  • Promotion of Jewish heritage tourism to Cape Verde
  • Establish a Jewish Heritage Museum devoted to telling the story of the Jews of Cabo Verde

Highlights of Accomplishments

  • The Government of Cape Verde classifies Jewish Heritage sites, including cemeteries and other places of memory, as National Historic Patrimony.   Official Resolution and Justification Note.
  • CVJHP signs landmark MOU with the Government of Cape Verde through the Ministry of Culture.
  • CVJHP signs MOU with National Archives of Cape Verde. American Embassy grant. 2015
  • CVJHP leads delegation of Cape Verdean Jewish descendants to Morocco. 2015
  • S. Daniel Abraham, Founder, Center for Middle East Peace, becomes major benefactor. 2014
  • World Monuments Fund Grants for archival/oral research on Sephardic families. 2014
  • Re-dedication of the Jewish burial plot in the capital Praia. May 2013
  • H.M. King Mohammed VI of Morocco becomes a major benefactor of CVJHP. 2011
  • Successful fundraising dinner featuring Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass) at residence of H.E. Joao de Vallera, Ambassador of Portugal to the U.S. 2010
  • MOU’s signed between CVJHP and three Municipalities where cemeteries are located. 2010
  • Kickoff Reception at residence of H.E. Aziz Mekouar, Ambassador of Morocco to US. 2009
  • Creation of website: 2008
  • Letter endorsing Project from Cape Verdean Prime Minister, H.E. Jose Maria Neves. 2007
  • Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc. receives tax-exempt status from IRS. 2007
  • Presentation on the Jews of Cape Verde by Carol Castiel, Jewish Genealogy Conference. 2003
  • Several Presentations of Project at the Cape Verde Embassy in conjunction with the DC Jewish Community Center. 1997, 2003
  • Interviews with more than a dozen descendants of Jews of Cape Verde in Lisbon. 2002
  • Radio spot for the “Voice of America” on the Jews of Cape Verde. 2002
  • Castiel presents Project at World Bank Symposium, “Historic Cities and Sacred Sites.” 1999
  • Meeting between Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, then Prime Minister of Cape Verde, and Vice President of B’nai B’rith International, Daniel Mariaschin. 1998
  • Formation of grass-roots group of Jewish Cape Verdeans in Lisbon, Portugal. 1997
  • Visits of Carol Castiel to H.E. Andre Azoulay, Advisor to the King of Morocco, and the Jewish Community of Casablanca to establish Moroccan linkages for Project. 1996


The Republic of Cape Verde, an archipelago of ten islands, lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 300 miles off the coast of Senegal, West Africa. Cape Verdeans are predominantly Catholic as a result of over 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule. However, some New Christians, or Jews who had converted to Christianity between 1391 and 1496, may have been in Cape Verde along with the Portuguese starting in the 16th century. Because fear of the Inquisition caused them to hide their Jewish identity, no perceptible vestiges of these “Conversos” remain. By the mid-1800’s, Moroccan Jews openly immigrated to Cape Verde, often via Gibraltar, to find economic opportunities. Jews had lived peacefully in Morocco for more than 2,000 years, but deteriorating economic conditions in the mid-1800’s prompted some to depart for Cape Verde, which was an important commercial hub at that time.

The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc. focuses on the second, more verifiable wave of Jewish immigration from Morocco to Cape Verde. These Sephardic Jews freely settled in Cape Verde after Portugal abolished the Inquisition in 1821 and after Portugal and Great Britain signed a trade and navigation treaty in 1842. Because many Moroccan Jews traded with the nearby British territory of Gibraltar, some had obtained citizenship and traveled to Cape Verde with British passports. Hebrew and Portuguese inscriptions on the tombstones in the small Jewish cemeteries throughout the islands indicate that the majority came from the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Tetouan, Rabat, and Mogador (now Essaouira), bearing distinctive Sephardic names such as Anahory, Auday, Benoliel, Benrós, Benathar, Benchimol, Brigham, Cohen, Levy, Maman, Pinto, Seruya and Wahnon.

These families landed primarily on the islands of Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Boa Vista and Sao Tiago where they engaged in international commerce, shipping, administration and other trades. The Jews prospered in Cape Verde and were often considered pillars of the local economy. Because they were few in number and mostly male, many married local Catholic women. As a result of this assimilation, Cape Verde today has virtually no practicing Jews. Yet, descendants of these families, whether in Cape Verde, the United States, Europe or Canada, speak with great pride of their Jewish ancestry. They wish to honor the memory of their forebears by preserving the cemeteries and by documenting their legacy. The first democratically elected prime minister of Cape Verde, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, is of Jewish descent.

Many descendants of the Jewish families are collaborating on various aspects of CVJHP’s mission, such as providing oral testimony, technical support and financial assistance.  For example, Lisbon-based architect, Rafael Benoliel, designed the blueprint for the restoration of the Jewish cemetery in Boa Vista and the logo for the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project. In addition, several descendants serve on CVJHP’s board of directors.

Project in Print

  • “Maryland synagogue to celebrate Cape Verde’s Jewish heritage”, March 10, The Times of Israel, March 8, 2018
  • “Cape Verde Lists Jewish Cemeteries as Heritage Sites”, JTA, August 6, 2017
  • “Cape Verde Lists Jewish Cemeteries as Heritage Sites”, The Times of Israel, August 6, 2017
  • “Cape Verde’s Jewish history stays alive,” The Washington Post, July 10, 2013
  • “Rededicated burial site among ‘beautiful vestiges’ of Cape Verde’s Jewish presence,”, May 26, 2013
  • “On an Atlantic isle, Morocco honours its lost Sephardim,”  The Jewish Chronicle Online, UK May 17, 2013
  • “Reclaiming a Jewish legacy in an unlikely place” Washington Times, May 9, 2013
  • “Jewish burial site restored off African coast with help from Morocco’s king,” HAARETZ , May 9, 2013
  • “Jewish burial site restored off African coast,” The Times of Israel, May 3, 2013
  • “Africa’s Jewish Heritage In Cape Verde,” National Public Radio, May 2, 2013
  • “Descendants remember Cape Verde’s Jewish past,” AFP, Apr 26, 2013
  • “Morocco king co-funds renovation of Cape Verde Jewish burial site,” JTA,  April 26, 2013
  • “Cemitério judaico em reabilitação na Boa Vista,” A Semana, Dezembro 5, 2012
  • “Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project Gets Help from Frank,” Jerusalem Post, Dec 2010
  • “Cape Verdean Municipalities Advance Jewish Preservation,” Jewish Telegraph Service, Dec 2010
  • “Rediscovering the Jewish Heritage of Cape Verde,” B’nai B’rith Magazine, December, 2009
  • “Honoring Cape Verde’s Jewish History,” The Forward, April 3, 2009
  • “Cape Verde’s Jewish Roots,” Diplomatic Pouch, March 30, 2009
  • “Preserving a Jewish Niche: Group Seeks to Honor the Ghosts of Cape Verde,” Washington Jewish Week, March 26, 2009
  • “Cape Verde Heritage Project Launched,” Jewish Telegraph Service, March 19, 2009
  • “Recovering Jewish Heritage in the Cape Verde Islands,” Carol Castiel, Historic Cities and Sacred Places, proceedings of World Bank Symposium. 2000
  • The Presence of Jews in Cape Verde: Inventory of Historical Documents from 1840-1927, Claudia Correia, Cape Verdean historian. Doctoral dissertation. 1998
  • The Jews of Cape Verde: A Brief History, M. Mitchell Serels, Sepher-Hermon Press, Inc. 1997
  • “Book review of The Jews of Cape Verde: A Brief History,” Israel Benoliel, Cimboa, Cultural Magazine of Cape Verde, Boston. 1997
  • “Cape Verde Hosts Jews,” Carol Castiel, Washington Jewish Week, 1995
  • Portuguese and French translations of the above article appeared respectively in the newspapers Novo Jornal of Cape Verde and Le Maroc Hebdo of Morocco. 1995


CVJHP Board of Directors

Carol Castiel, President; Director, Current Affairs Programming, Voice of America

John Wahnon, Vice President; business consultant

Ambassador Herman Cohen, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

Jack Edlow, CEO, Edlow International

Allan Reich, Partner, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP


Advisory Board

H.E. Andre Azoulay, Counselor, King Mohammed VI of Morocco

The Honorable Howard Berman, former Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee, US Congress

Rafael Benoliel de Carvalho, Architect

Peter A. Benoliel, Chairman Emeritus, Quaker Chemical Corporation

H.E. Maria de Fatima Lima da Veiga, former Ambassador of Cape Verde to the U.S.

H.E. Aziz Mekouar, former Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the U.S.

H.E. Joao de Vallera, former Ambassador of Portugal to the U.S.; Ambassador of Portugal to UK

H.E. Vernon Penner, former U.S. Ambassador to Cape Verde

Edward Bergman, Innovative Development Services; African Travel Association

Toby Dershowitz, President, The Dershowitz Group

Professor Aomar Boum, Department of Anthropology, UCLA

Professor David M. Gitlitz, Department of Languages, University of Rhode Island

*Professor Russell G. Hamilton, former Dean, Graduate School, Vanderbilt University

Sofia de Oliveira Lima, CVJHP Representative, Cape Verde

Daniel Mariaschin, Executive Vice President, B’nai B’rith International

Nuno Wahnon Martins, Director, European Affairs, European Jewish Congress

*Professor Sulayman S. Nyang, Department of African Studies, Howard University

Professor Daniel J. Schroeter, Department of History, University of Minnesota

Professor José Alberto Tavim, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, Lisbon

José Tomás Veiga, former Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs, Cape Verde

Gwen Zuares, American Sephardi Federation


For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact: Carol Castiel, President, Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project Inc. 400 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Suite 812, Washington, DC 20001.  Tel: 202.841.9925;  Email:

© 2014 Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc