An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba by Ruth Behar

By Ruth Behar

Yiddish-speaking Jews suggestion Cuba used to be alleged to be an insignificant layover at the trip to the U.S. after they arrived within the island kingdom within the Twenties. They even referred to as it “Hotel Cuba.” yet then the years handed, and the various Jews who got here there from Turkey, Poland, and war-torn Europe stayed in Cuba. The cherished island ceased to be a lodge, and Cuba finally grew to become “home.” yet after Fidel Castro got here to strength in 1959, the vast majority of the Jews antagonistic his communist regime and left in a mass exodus. even though they remade their lives within the usa, they mourned the lack of the Jewish neighborhood that they had equipped at the island.

As a baby of 5, Ruth Behar used to be stuck up within the Jewish exodus from Cuba. growing to be up within the usa, she puzzled concerning the Jews who stayed at the back of. Who have been they and why had they stayed? What lines have been left of the Jewish presence, of the cemeteries, synagogues, and Torahs? Who used to be caring for this legacy? What Jewish stories had controlled to outlive the years of innovative atheism?

An Island known as Home is the tale of Behar’s trip again to the island to discover solutions to those questions. in contrast to the unique photo projected by means of the yank media, Behar uncovers a facet of Cuban Jews that's poignant and private. Her relocating vignettes of the participants she meets are coupled with the delicate photos of Havana-based photographer Humberto Mayol, who traveled with her.

jointly, Behar’s poetic and compassionate prose and Mayol’s shadowy and riveting pictures create an unforgettable portrait of a neighborhood that many have obvious although few have understood. This ebook is the 1st to teach either the power and the heartbreak that lie in the back of the undertaking of holding alive the flame of Jewish reminiscence in Cuba.

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Extra resources for An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba

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A Socio-Erotic Journey, which originally aired on National Public Radio in 1998. ”18 In my own conversations with several neighbors in Ann Arbor who traveled to the island, what stood out as the allure of Cuba was that the United States wasn’t there, McDonald’s wasn’t there, other Americans weren’t there. Only one place remained in the world where Americans could take short vacations from themselves and learn that it was possible to be happy with less—that place was Cuba. You’d think I would have felt pleased that other Americans were becoming Cuba addicts.

Built in 1942, it is watched over by an Afrocuban family who live next door to the train tracks. Despite the family’s vigilance, they tell me that Jewish bones are often looted from the cemetery for use in palo monte rituals, which derive from a mixture of the Bantu culture of Central Africa and Spanish Catholicism. Paleros believe that magical power can be drawn from these Jewish bones because they belonged to unbaptized souls. No one visits the Sephardic cemetery unless you have family buried there.

In normal circumstances, the minyan consists of a quorum of ten Jewish adults. In the Orthodox tradition it is ten Jewish men. The minyan is the minimum number of Jews needed to carry out a complete religious service. qxd:Behar design 7/30/07 2:14 PM Page 24 An Island Called Home Jews were present, however many Torahs were needed to fill in for people, and God. . Under these circumstances, how could the Jews of Cuba be led back to their history and to the synagogues? The prospects looked dim, except to Dr.

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