Jamaica Plain residents were well-represented at this year’s Cape Verdean-Jewish Passover Seder. For the past fifteen years, the Cape Verdean-Jewish Passover Seder has brought together Jews and Cabo Verdeans from Massachusetts and Rhode Island to meet face-to-face, share and celebrate their cultures, and explore what they have in common. This year, on March 21, Jews and Cabo Verdeans around the world joined together virtually for an international event whose theme this year was “A Celebration of Resilience.”
During this event, JP resident Rabbi Margie Klein Ronkin explained about the Jewish holiday of Passover, while neighborhood resident Ida Assefa told the story of the Jewish journey from slavery to freedom, as written in Exodus. JPer Stephen Hodin dedicated the traditional First Cup of Wine to “the courage and resilience of our ancestors who overcame slavery and persecution to give us our freedom.”
At this event of cultural connection, presenters shared their messages from Cabo Verde, Portugal, Israel, California, Florida, and Washington, DC, as well as from the Boston area. Approximately 270 Jews and Cabo Verdeans, and their guests, in 10 countries, including South Sudan, Norway, Belgium, Ecuador, France, UK, and 26 US states, including NM, KY, IN, SC, and NE, tuned in to this event.
The Cape Verdean-Jewish Passover Seder is structured around the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the biblical liberation and exodus of Jewish slaves from Egypt. The event shared the stories of each group’s journey from slavery to freedom.
Highlights of the Cape Verdean-Jewish Passover Seder included a performance in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) by Cabo Verdean recording artist Gardenia Benros, whose Jewish grandfather immigrated from Morocco to Cabo Verde, and one by Cabo Verdean superstar Elida Almeida in Cabo Verdean Creole. Second graders in a school in Cabo Verde sang the national anthem, while youth from Temple Beth Zion, in Brookline, MA created a TikTok video about Passover. Speakers included Fabio Freitas, a 21-year-old man with Jewish-Cabo Verdean ancestors who is learning Judaism, in Lisbon, Portugal; Carol Castiel, a Jewish woman who is the founder and president of the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, which has raised funds to restore the Jewish cemeteries and graves in Cabo Verde; and Rabbi David Jaffe of Sharon, MA. Since a Passover seder would typically involve a meal, the planning team produced what is perhaps the first ever Cape Verdean-Jewish Cookbook, with recipes from both cultures. This international event was emceed from Waltham, MA by Aviva Weinstein, a sophomore at Brandeis University and from Praia, Cabo Verde, by Suely Neves.
Speaking from Praia, Cabo Verde, Manuel da Luz Gonçalves, author of the only Cabo Verdean Creole-English dictionary, shared his thoughts on the resilience of both Cabo Verdeans and Jews. Speaking in Cape Verdean Creole, he spoke of the Jewish people’s “capacity to rescue the past and transform the collective suffering into well-being and community success,” and how Cabo Verdeans “turned their dreams into reality due to this existential process of Resilience and determination for a better tomorrow…. Resilience of the Cabo Verdean people led Cabo Verdeans to fight for independence, achieve victory, and create conditions for success in all aspects of life.”
Sofia de Oliveira Lima, a Cabo Verdean with Jewish ancestors from Morocco, stood in the main cemetery of Praia amid ten Jewish graves, each with engravings in Hebrew as well as Portuguese. She reflected on the connection between these two peoples: “The Jews who came to Cabo Verde left deep marks in the economy, in history, together with the Cabo Verdean people, also a resilient people, and together they have suffered many struggles with hunger, drought, lack of rain. Consequently, they identify with each other.” Ms. Lima concluded, “I’m very proud of my Jewish heritage and to be a part of these (Cabo Verdean/Moroccan Jewish) families.”
Due to two waves of Jewish immigration to Cabo Verde and generations of intermarriage, a large number of Cabo Verdeans have Jewish ancestors. Now members of both communities live together in Greater Boston, and around the world.
This year’s sponsors include the Anti-Defamation League of New England; Boston U. – Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies; Boutique NhaTchiku, Cabo Verde; Brandeis U. – Dept. of Anthropology; Bridgewater State University – Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies; Bristol Community College – Holocaust and Genocide Center; Brown U. – Dept. of Anthropology; Cape Verdean American Community Development; Consulate General of Cabo Verde; Congregation Beth Shalom of the Blue Hills, Milton; Kriola’s Professional Association; Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers; Temple Aliyah, Needham; Temple Beth Zion, Brookline; Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, West Roxbury; Temple Israel of Boston; Temple Sinai, Brookline; UMass Boston – Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Unity Peace Festival.
If you would like a copy of the video of the event, please contact us by email or at the phone number listed. To find out more about the Cape Verdean-Jewish Passover Seder, visit www.capeverdeanjewishseder.com