Monday, January 5, 2015

Cuba 2015: Family Trip/Mission/Experience of a Lifetime

The Crew

8 days in Cuba with 3 generations is not easy to describe but my over 700 pictures and videos will definitely help me tell the story.  I suppose all vacations have a story but I think that Cuba's story has many chapters some to be still written.  There are so many facets of this trip that I hope to explore over the next few blog posts.

Cuba is a country full of contradictions, communism vs capitalism, rehabilitated vs dilapidated buildings, poverty of the Cubans vs the opulence for the tourists and no religion under Communism to a new Jewish community. We were able to bring tzedakah to the 3 different synagogues which we visited. I know they appreciated both our monetary tzedakah and the other gifts we brought, including   over the counter medications, makeup and some clothes.  The synagogues are growing smaller by the month.  Many of the young people are making Aliyah and although the remaining remnant knows that this is good it is still sad to see the community shrink.  

El Patronato Synagogue, Havana
We met with the leaders of 3 different synagogues, 2 of these Presidents were women.  There are no Rabbis in Cuba now.  They bring in a Rabbi from Chile to do weddings en masse, B'nai Mitzvah and other rituals. The Jews of Cuba have learned how to conduct services and to have a very meaningful Jewish life without clergy.  We went to Friday night T'filot at El Patronato Synagogue and felt very at home. T'filot were led by 2 congregants one of whom was a teenager.  Of course we could read the Hebrew prayers but we were also surprised that we knew most of the tunes as well.  We did not understand the d'var Torah in Spanish which was given by another congregant.  

I think when there are no clergy sometimes congregants are forced to participate and this gives a special flavor to rituals and t'filot.  I was happy to see that there were many young people in attendance and at the end of the service they all came to the bimah and led us in Adon Olam.    

In other posts I will write about our People To People visits which were with  different cultural and artistic as well as other thoughts on Cuba.