Here We Come

For the first time in B’nai Jehudah history, our congregation is heading to Cuba. As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel in Miami, along with 22 other congregants. Tomorrowmorning, we board a plane and make the 40-minute flight (90 miles) to another world.
Why are we going? First and foremost, to do some mitzvah work. We are bringing monetary tzedakah for the approximately 1800 Jews who remain in Cuba. In addition, physicians in our congregation have helped us acquire about two large duffel bags full of medicine and medical supplies to give to the Jewish community.
As you might imagine, the economic level of living in Cuba is not near our own standards. By bringing them resources, we permit our Jewish sisters and brothers the opportunity to live lives that have a bit more dignity, a bit more secuity than if they were ignored. We are taught: Kol Yisrael aravin ze le ze…all of Israel is responsible one for the other. We will have the privilege of living out this maxim in the coming week.
During our trip, we will visit the Sephardic center and learn about the traditions and culture that developed “south of the border.” Most of us are Ashkenazic. We will learn about our cousins who came originally from Spain in 1492 and settled on the island of Cuba. We will celebrate Shabbat with the Jewish community of Havana at the Patronato (their equivalent of a Jewish Community Center) and will have Shabbat dinner with them. After Shabbat, we travel to Cienfuegos and vist the small Jewish community there. Before our trip concludes, we will pay our respects at the Jewish cemetery of the Havana Jewish community and visit the first Holocaust memorial ever created in the Western Hemisphere.
We will – of course – learn about the history of Cuba and – especially – of the story of Communism in this country. Some of us may smoke some Cuban cigars. Others may enjoy a mojito or two. Some may go to the ballet, a baseball game, or even spend an evening at the famous Tropicabana!
I promise that we will share all our experiences when we return. However, we are told that internet is relatively slow and relatively expensive. Therefore, we won’t be providing daily updates.
For now, those of us in Miami will go to sleep dreaming of the adventure awaiting us.
How do you say “shalom” in Cuba? Very easy….Shalom!
P.S. Because of the lack of infrastructure (and cost), my Bisseleh Bytes will be on hiatus for one week. I will try to post something as soon as we return on Wednesday, January 31…T”u B’Shevat. But no guarantees. If not, look for this message to return the first week of February.