The history and heritage of the Jews of Cuba is rich, many layered, and influenced by an amalgam of Jews primarily from Turkey, Eastern Europe, and those who fled Europe prior to the Holocaust. Powerfully impacted by the emigration of more than 90% of its Jewish population following the 1959 Revolution, Cuban Jewry has nevertheless managed to survive as a unique and creative community.
Members of the Museum of Jewish Heritage are invited to join a special mission to Cuba and enjoy an opportunity to experience this fascinating country with a focus on its varied and diverse Jewish community. Led by Dr. Aryeh Maidenbaum, who has been organizing and leading trips to Cuba for more than a dozen years, our group will be traveling to Cuba under the auspices of an approved Treasury Department license. This unique program will include presentations by experts on Jewish Cuba, meetings with local scholars and leaders of the Jewish community on the island, and an opportunity to experience the wonderfully diverse music, spirit, and culture of this exotic island.
Our base will be the five star, Meliá Cohiba Hotel in Havana. During our stay in Havana, we will meet with representatives of the Jewish community, participate in moving services at the Patronato Synagogue, hear presentations by local and accompanying scholars, and visit world class museums and the Holocaust exhibit at the Sephardic Center. From Havana, we will take an overnight excursion to the outlying provinces of Santa Clara and Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we will visit Cuba’s newest synagogue in Santa Clara and meet with members of the small but dedicated Jewish communities in Santa Clara and Cienfuegos. We invite you to join us!
Early morning departure from Miami on charter flight to Havana. Check in to deluxe Meliá Cohiba Hotel, one of the best in Havana. Presentation by Professor Maritza Corrales on “The Jews of Cuba,” followed by orientation, reception, and sumptuous buffet dinner at our hotel (included).
Dr. Maritza Corrales is a Cuban historian who has dedicated her life’s work to researching the history of Jews in Cuba. Based in Havana, she has been a consulting scholar to numerous research and academic institutions in Cuba, and has lectured at Universities in the United States, Israel, Spain, and South America.
We will begin this morning by meeting with a leading Cuban authority on Cuban art and the architecture of Havana, followed by a visit the Sephardic Center in Old Havana to meet with Mayra Levy, President of the Center.
Dr. Levy, a physician, and one of Havana’s Jewish community leaders, will discuss the history and role of Sephardic Jews in Cuba and a history dating back to the first Jewish immigration from Turkey following WWI.
Following our meeting with Dr. Levy, we will visit the Sephardic Center’s small, but moving Holocaust museum – the first exhibit about the Holocaust displayed in Cuba.
Following lunch (included) and a walk in Old Havana, return to our hotel for discussion, dialogue, and music.
Evening free: dinner on our own.
Accompanied by Professor Corrales, we will visit the Jewish cemeteries of Havana- time permitting, both Ashkenazi and Sephardic. Following lunch (included) at La Barracca (outdoor restaurant of the Hotel Nacional), walk through Central Havana before an afternoon visit to Adath Israel, the Orthodox Jewish congregation, where we will learn about the work they are doing with the elderly and impoverished Jews in Havana and ascertain the needs they have for continuing this special project.
Evening: panel discussion and dialogue with scholars. Dinner on our own or optional activities.
Morning: private guided tour of the National Museum of Fine Arts led by the Deputy Curator of the museum and who is also a member of Havana’s Jewish community. Lunch at El Aljibe restaurant (included) and afternoon meeting with leaders of the Patronato — center of the Jewish community in Cuba.
This evening, we will attend services at the Beth Shalom, the Conservative Synagogue of Havana, with a festive Shabbat dinner at the hotel (included) to follow.
(Optional) Attend services at one of Havana’s three Jewish synagogues, or free to rest, enjoy the Cohiba’s amenities, and/or explore Havana on our own.
Evening: (optional) attend a cultural activity in Havana.
Early morning departure from Havana for Santa Clara (our rooms will be kept at the Cohiba; only an overnight bag needed). See the newest Synagogue in Cuba; meet Jewish community leaders, and visit the rededicated cemetery which includes a moving memorial to the Holocaust. Following lunch (included) in Santa Clara, proceed to Cienfuegos. Check into La Jagua Hotel in Cienfuegos for dinner (included) and overnight stay.
Meet with Jewish community representatives in Cienfuegos and understand firsthand the dedication needed to maintaining Jewish life in this small community. Visit the home of its president which serves as a Jewish center on Shabbat and holidays and deliver donations of food and medications we will bring with us. Return to Havana with time to rest, relax or walk about Havana on our own before an evening closing meeting and dinner (included) at our hotel.
Afternoon: Free to explore Havana on our own.
Following breakfast, depart for the airport and return trip home.
Hotel Meliá Cohiba
The Meliá Cohiba in Havana is a five star, deluxe, Spanish operated hotel one of finest hotels in Havana. It is located in the residential neighborhood of Vedado, overlooks the sea and is a five minute drive from Old Havana.