Preserving the Remnants of Jewish Life off the Coast of West Africa

The island nation of Cape Verde, an archipelago some 300 miles off the coast of Senegal, was first settled by Portuguese colonists in the 15th century, and only gained independence in 1975. In the 19th century, Sephardi Jews whose ancestors had fled persecution in Spain and Portugal four centuries earlier began to migrate there. Now all that remains of the Jewish community are graves, which a group of American Jews and Cape Verdeans is trying to preserve. Rosanne Skirble writes:

Four cemeteries were identified for restoration. Modeled after Jewish burial grounds in Morocco, each has white horizontal stones with inscriptions in Hebrew and Portuguese. All [have] languished and were in various stages of deterioration. One was overrun with grasses and weeds, so much so that the graves were barely visible. . . .

Archival records [suggest] that about 100 Jewish settlers immigrated to Cape Verde. The small Jewish cemeteries scattered in the islands contain dozens of graves. Cape Verde’s [current] population hovers around 550,000. Among them, more than 1,000 claim Jewish [descent], which is held in high esteem. . . .

[The historian] Angela Sofia Benoliel Coutinho [believes] a confluence of events in the 19th century—[most importantly] the end of the Portuguese Inquisition in 1821 and the economic treaty between Portugal and England in 1842—sent Jewish Moroccans to the seas in search of greater religious freedom and a better life. . . . The new Jewish arrivals were largely single men; they married Catholic women and quickly assimilated. They never built a synagogue, but . . . they did build cemeteries.

In this way, Cape Verde’s Jews resembled Jewish communities throughout history and across the globe, which generally built cemeteries before synagogues since prayers could always be held informally in a private home, but custom dictates that Jews must be buried together in a graveyard of their own.

Read more at Moment

More about: African Jewry, History & Ideas, Jewish cemeteries, Moroccan Jewry, Sephardim

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University