Catholic, Jewish or "CaJu"?

On my first trip to Cape Verde, I discovered the Cashew fruit. I had always known the cashew, which is pronounced “Caju” in Portuguese, to be a nut. But it’s actually a fruit AND a nut. All these years, I believed the cashew was only a nut – Who knew?!?!? It was during this same trip that I first realized my own Jewish ancestry – Who knew?!?!? All this time I believed my family was Catholic but, as I learned more of my ancestry, I realized that many of our traditions were, in fact, based in the Jewish faith.

So, if you’re born and raised in the Catholic Church but practiced Jewish traditions, are you Catholic or Jewish? This is a questions that many Cape Verdeans may begin asking themselves as we begin to seriously consider the impact of Jewish ancestry in Cape Verde. I jokingly referred to being a “CaJu” with a friend of mine, who also recently found out about his Jewish roots. Is it possible to be Catholic AND Jewish – basically, a “Ca-Ju”?

I was baptized in the Church, confirmed in the Church, and went to Catholic schools all the way through high school. But when it came to certain practices, what my family practiced differed a bit from what I was being taught in school. The starkest difference was the practice of the Nodjadu, or mourning period, which closely resembles the Jewish practice of sitting Shiva. As with many traditions passed down through my family, I cannot imagine doing things any differently.

Last week, I was honored to participate in the Annual Cape Verdean Jewish Sedar in Boston and was struck by the truth of this reality. I am a descendant of two groups of very strong people who survived a history of indescribable horrors for merely being who they were. So it was with great pride that I spoke to this group of Jews and Cape Verdeans about our shared history.  Because of our ancestors, we all have the freedom to be and to live how we’d like to. We are free to worship how we’d like. And I am free to be a Catholic or a Jew and even a “CaJu” if I please.

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4 Comments on “Catholic, Jewish or "CaJu"?

  1. GOOG JOB. UMD.(DARTMOUTH) ONCE DID A PROGRAM WITH A jEWISH ORGANIZATION SHOWING THE MANY SIMILARITIES WE HAD AND WHY. tHEY TALKED OF THE jEWISH EXILE TO CABO VERDE. I ALSO WORKED FOR A JEWISH COMPANY IN NEW BEDFORD AND WHENHE ASKED ME WHAT NATIONALITY I WAS, I REPLIED " YOU PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF IT" HE GAVE ME A FULL BLOWN REPORT OF HIS PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS HAVING BEEN EXILED IN CABO VERDE AND THE COSTUMES THEY HAVE RETAINED BECAUSE OF IT. umd DID A BIG STUDY ON IT.. tHANKS FOR THE INFO

  2. Hi and thank you for your comment. I would love to get information on the study done at UMass Dartmouth. Is there a particular person or department I can contact?

  3. I love reading your blogs. I am from Santo Antao and living in Holland. In october last year I went to a Jewish museum in Castelo de Vide in Portugal and read about the Jewish people whom were sent to Cabo Verde. I saw the surnames of my people. I already knew that Pinto was a serfadisch Jewish name, but my greatgrandfather was a priest named Pinto, so that was strange for me. I had seen similar dishes in a Jewish cookbook that we also did eat at home. But last november I was telling about Castelo de Vide and the Jewish names. My mother told me for the first time (I am 47 years old) that her father told her that they were jewish, but she was not allowed to talk about it. My mother did the mourning period when she was a child. My greatgrand father was a Silva Pinto, his companion was a Silva. My grandmother is a Delgado. My grandfather from my father’s side is a Lima Santos:-)

  4. Robertina, I was intrigued to see your comment on Anna’s blog! I am an anthropologist writing a book about Cape Verdeans who have (or think they might have) Jewish ancestry. I’d love to speak with you, perhaps over Skype, if you’re willing. Feel free to e-mail me at: ajgottli@illinois.edu. -Alma Gottlieb

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