The isle of Madeira is located at the west of Northern Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the
autonomous regions of Portugal.
The earliest mention of a Jewish cemetery in Funchal was found in the "Diary of a visit in Madeira and
Portugal ? 1853-1854", Isabella de França (Jornal de uma Visita a Madeira e a Portugal ? 1853-1854
, ed. by Junta Geral do Funchal.
1970. 143p, [Portuguese]).
In 1850, the merchants Judah Aloof born in London, UK and Isaac Esnaty born in Rabat, Morocco, bought a small plot of land for a Jewish burial place.
The only source of information on the Jewish community of Funchal in the third quarter of the 19th century is what could be gleaned from the tombstone inscriptions.
Given the very low number of graves- 38- it is obvious that the community was very small. In the thirties of the 20th centuries several Syrian and Lebanese Jews settled there while some from Gibraltar found there a refuge during WWII.
The burials lasted from 1854 till 1976. 14 tombstones are from the second half of the 19th century and 24 from the 20th century.
It is interesting to note that nine graves are of Jews of German nationality (8) and one Austrian.
Except for the Ashkenazi surnames, almost of the other surnames are of North African origin. This can be explained by the fact that Moroccan Jews begin to settle in Funchal from 1819 ? then a British possession - and by the fact that most of the Jews in Gibraltar have their roots mainly in North Africa. As in Madeira, this the case of all isles located in the Atlantic Ocean possessed by Portugal such as Cape Verde and the Azores in San Miguel and Angra de Heroismo..
Asked about the Jewish cemetery of Funchal, a diplomatic counselor of the Israel Embassy in Lisbon told that a wall of the cemetery facing the sea was very much damaged by erosion and some graves may fall down to the sea. As the last Jew who lived in Funchal died in 1976, the Israeli organization ZAKA - Disaster Victim Identification - has recently visited the cemetery to judge its situation and will soon make efforts to restore it.
Abecassis, Jose-Maria. Genealogia Hebraica. Portugal e Gibraltar. Lisbon, 1990. 5v.
Santos, Rui. O cemetreio israelita do Funchal. Islenha, 1992, v.10: 125-164. [Portuguese]
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