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Seder celebrates a shared history of resilience for Jews and Cabo Verdeans

Steven Siegel of Boston discussed the Ten Plagues from the Biblical story of Exodus with a chart in English, Hebrew, and Cape Verdean Creole during a virtual Cape Verdean-Jewish Passover Seder.LUCAS PHILLIPS

For the 15th year, catchupa, an iconic West African dish, joined charoset on the Passover Seder plate as Boston-area Jews and Cabo Verdeans celebrated the holiday virtually Sunday.

With the multilingual event taking place over Zoom, participants from around the world shared their heritages of resilience as part of the annual Cape Verdean-Jewish Passover Seder, which this year occurred about a week before Jews will gather to retell the Biblical story of Exodus.

“Jews and Cabo Verdeans have much in common,” said Aviva Weinstein, a Brandeis University sophomore who helped lead the event. Both have “histories of enslavement and liberation, far‐flung diasporas, the challenges of migration to the United States, and heritages prevailing over tremendous hardships.”


Although there are certainly differences between the two cultures — for instance, catchupa is not kosher because it traditionally contains pork — there is an echo of the Jewish story of escape from Egyptian enslavement in the history of Cabo Verde as a base for the international slave trade and the subject of oppressive colonial rule, according to speakers.

And there is an even more literal connection, in that many Cabo Verdeans have Jewish ancestors, according to Weinstein. Either fleeing persecution or hard times, or forcibly exiled there, Jewish immigrants came to the islands from Portugal in the 14th and 15th centuries and from Morocco in the 19th.

The 90-minute event followed the stages of a traditional Seder, interspersing Hebrew prayers and Jewish rituals with connections to Cabo Verdean history and culture. It also featured performances from Cabo Verdeans and Jewish youths and reflections from participants of both communities.

“Slavery, despair, poverty, and diaspora are pillars of resistance that empower our peoples with a dimension of resilience, of being able to take the bad into their hands to transform it, live it, and project the future with success,” said Manuel da Luz Gonçalves one of the speakers who participated from Cabo Verde, according to a translation.


With the pandemic still ongoing, he said, that resilience is still a quality very much needed.

Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.