Jewish Detroit Meets Jewish Cuba

May 17, 2013 | Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit

Twenty-one Detroit Jewish community leaders and professionals had an eye-opening four-day experience in a recent visit to the small, but vibrant Cuban Jewish community in Havana. The purpose was to give participants a face-to-face glimpse of the work the Federation does for Jewish communities around the world.

The mission was organized by the Federation in partnership with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a Federation international beneficiary that is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization.

“The resurgence of the Jewish community in Cuba is a shining example of Jews reaching out to Jews, wherever in the world there is need,” explains Penny Blumenstein, President of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – (JDC). “As the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization, the JDC has been an active presence in Cuba for more than twenty years, working as a lifeline to the community in partnership with Federations across our nation. With our continued support, Jewish teens prepare for bar and bat mitzvah through study programs, families gather weekly to share in Shabbat services and a communal dinner and rabbis from Latin America make regular visits to the island to teach, to celebrate holidays and to perform weddings.”

Although the U.S. government embargo forbids U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, the humanitarian focus of the mission allowed Detroit travelers to bypass the restrictions on tourism. Federation’s trip entailed a full schedule of religious activities, as well as the delivery of medications and supplies to restock the community pharmacy.  Additionally, the Detroit group donated soccer equipment for the team that will compete in the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem in July. 

Reflecting on the visit, Federation Chief Executive Officer Scott Kaufman observes, “To think that this was a Jewish community about to disappear from the map – with 95% of its population having fled the country following the revolution in 1959 – it’s remarkable to see Jewish Cuba’s renewal today.   Proud to be Cuban, proud to be Jewish, clearly the community has taken root again and is making a life.”  

“Our mission to Cuba was truly a unique opportunity,” stated Lowell Salesin, who co-chaired the mission along with Matthew Lester.  Cuba provided a stark backdrop for an experienced group of our local Jewish leaders to witness a JDC success story firsthand. It is apparent that the life of our brothers and sisters in Cuba is enhanced in countless ways by their connection to Judaism. Despite their existence within a regressive society, Jewish life seems to prosper. This mission was a tremendous success and confirmed for me the importance of our Jewish Federation’s campaign both here and abroad.”

(Full story in the June issue of myJewishDetroit, coming May 30.)


Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

NEXTGen Detroit Pop-Up Mis’adah

פּופּ-עפּ מסעדה Thursday, July 27th 7:00 pm NEXTGen Detroit’s Israel Engagement Committee invites you to our Pop-Up Mis’adah featuring Chef Mike Ran of Zahav, Philadelphia’s acclaimed Israeli restaurant. Chef Ran is bringing his flare and flavors home to Detroit for one night only at Chabad in Detroit. Space is limited to 50 diners, so be […]

Sign Up

JWWN: Speed Networking Summer Event

August 2 | 5:30-7:30pm This event will take place at the home of Anita Blender. We will provide the address closer to the event. Questions? Contact Alana Goldstein at Cost: $15 Register

Sign Up

A Special NEXTWork in Partnership with MIBB

Get in on some top tier networking with members of The Michigan Israel Business Bridge (MIBB). These local All-Star business leaders have professional connections here in Metro Detroit and in Israel, and they want to meet you! Rub elbows, swap business cards and join the over 450 young Jewish professionals who have discovered that the […]

Sign Up

Pitch for Detroit

Sign Up