Passover celebrated in Madeira for the first time in centuries

( A Passover seder was hosted on Madeira, a tiny isolated Portuguese archipelago located 300 miles from Africa, for the first time in centuries, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

Câmara de Lobos in Madeira. Credit: Markus Bernet.

Known more for its famous dessert wine, the islands once had a thriving Jewish community before the Inquisition arrived. Later in the 19th century, Moroccan Jews also established a community there.

The Passover seder in Madeira was led by Marvin Meital and his wife Danby. Marvin, a former professor of Portuguese literature and language at Hebrew University, also has an interest in crypto-Jewish history.

The Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, which focuses on reconnecting descendants of Jews with their people and heritage, helped Meital with the Passover seder by providing funding and even specially designed Portuguese-Hebrew versions of the Passover Haggadah.

Some of the 13 Jewish participants in the Passover seder were Bnei Anousim—descendants of Portuguese Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the Inquisition.

“The holding of a seder in Madeira is truly historic,” Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund told Yedioth Ahronoth.

“More than 500 years after the expulsion of Portugal’s Jews in 1497, the Bnei Anousim are returning to our people. Since Passover commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from bondage, we feel it is especially symbolic to be holding a Seder for the Bnei Anousim in Madeira, for they too are now emerging from the spiritual captivity of the Inquisition,” Freund said.

Posted on March 25, 2013 .