Monday, May 12, 2008

The lost members of the tribe in Cuba

I think there are less Jews in Cuba than at Langer's at any given time, but this small community (it's actually numbers about 1,500) has spent the past decade on the rebound. Here's what led to the decline in numbers so small that the synagogue, which still has no rabbi, couldn't form a minyan, courtesy of Cox News Service:
when Castro's government adopted communist ideals and began confiscating private businesses and properties, most Jews fled, many to the U.S.

"But they didn't leave because of anti-Semitism," [Adela] Dworin said. "In Cuba the behavior of the people toward the Jews was always very nice. There was never any persecution. I decided to stay because I always felt like a Cuban, proud of being born here, very Cuban and very Jewish."

The long years that followed were difficult, but Dworin remained optimistic. When Castro met with religious leaders in the 1990s and reversed the state's discouragement of organized religion, Dworin and others, including Dr. Jose Miller, began seeking out Cubans with Jewish roots.

Most of the island's Jews by then had married outside the faith, stopped attending services and lost touch with Jewish traditions. With the help of American and international Jewish support groups, the small number of faithful in Cuba began rebuilding their membership and refurbishing their facilities.

"I cried a lot when we re-opened the big sanctuary in 2000," Dworin said, noting that the extensive remodeling job was supported by American Jewish groups. "For so long we used the small chapel, but we grew so much we no longer had enough room for services there."
The Forward originally did this article last September, which is where Cox seemingly found Dworin. Here too is a Web site dedicated to Cuba's Jews.

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