Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jewbans Celebrate Centennial

From JTA:

As the world focuses its attention on Cuba’s ailing President Fidel Castro — who was too sick to attend his own 80th birthday bash in Havana — Cuba’s Jews are enjoying a rare celebration of their own.

For the next month, the island’s tiny Jewish community will mark its 100th anniversary with religious services, music, dancing, parties and speeches...

Jews have been living in Cuba off and on for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1906 that 11 American Jews living on the island established a Reform synagogue, the United Hebrew Congregation, with services in English. They also consecrated a cemetery in Guanabacoa, on the outskirts of Havana, officially marking the start of institutionalized Jewish life in Cuba.

By 1959 Cuba had an estimated 15,000 Jews, for the most part wealthy merchants with shoe factories, department stores and mansions. Following Castro’s sweeping confiscation of private property, most of the Jews fled to South Florida, with smaller numbers immigrating to Israel and various Latin American countries.
Just this past Sunday, I was telling my daughter about this and how my father's family left Cuba at that time. Although they went to New York and not South Florida.

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