A Marriage of Different Cultures

The Jews of Cuba

January 29—February 5, 2019

Cuban Women | Jewish Heritage Travel

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Trip Leader

Miriam Levinson, born in Cuba, moved to the United States with her family at the age of thirteen. Over the years, she has designed, organized and led over 250 trips to her native land as well as lectured extensively to various organizations on the topic of Latin American Jewish migration. Founder and owner of Great Time Tours in Chicago, for many years she has coordinated travel itineraries for groups visiting Cuba. As a young adult Miriam began to recall and write about her childhood in Cuba and is presently writing a book on her recollections of life in Cuba.


Maritza Corrales is a Cuban historian who has dedicated her life’s work to researching the history of Jews in Cuba. Born in 1948, she is a graduate of the University of Havana (1972) and lives in Havana. She has been a consulting scholar to numerous research and academic institutions in Cuba and has published numerous articles on the history of Cuban Jews. She has lectured at universities in Israel, Spain, Mexico and Cuba.


Program Overview

The heritage of Cuba is rich and layered, influenced by African, Caribbean, Spanish, and American culture. During the course of our trip, we will visit with several Jewish communities on the island and experience this fascinating country through its music, art, and culture. Under the auspices of an approved Treasury Department license, our program will include meetings with leaders of the Jewish communities; presentations, dialogue, and discussions with local scholars and professors; and performances of Cuban music.

Led by Miriam Levinson, our exploration of Cuba will begin in Havana, where we will familiarize ourselves with Jewish cultural and religious life in Cuba by visiting its synagogues and other points of interest, including the world-class National Museum of Fine Arts. From Havana, we will travel to the outlying provinces of Santa Clara and Cienfuegos (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), where we will visit Cuba’s newest synagogue (Santa Clara) and meet with members of the small but dedicated Jewish communities in Santa Clara and Cienfuegos.

Through our travels, we will familiarize ourselves with the way Cuban Jewry has sustained itself over the years, meet Cuban artists, and experience the wonderfully diverse music, spirit, and culture of this exotic island.

We invite you to join us on this extraordinary program, limited to 30 participants. (Please note: we expect this trip to fill quickly; last year, we had to turn away many interested people. Please register early to ensure your participation.)

Cuba street scene


Tentative Daily Itinerary*

Tuesday, January 29

Departure from Miami to Havana. Upon arrival in Havana, check in to the deluxe, five star Meliá Cohiba Hotel- one of the best in Havana. Afternoon walking tour through two of Old Havana’s four famous squares. Evening Orientation meeting and Reception followed by a sumptuous buffet dinner at our hotel.

Wednesday, January 30

Morning: Presentation by Professor Maritza Corrales a Cuban historian who has dedicated her life’s work to researching the history of Jews in Cuba, on “The Jews of Cuba.”
Following Dr. Corrales’ talk, we will visit the Sephardic Center to meet with Mayra Levy, a retired physician, President of the Center and one of Havana’s Jewish community leaders. Here, we will also have time to see the Center’s small, but moving Holocaust museum – the first exhibit about the Holocaust displayed in Cuba- before departing for lunch at the lovely San Cristobal Paladar (included).
Following lunch, continue exploring Old Havana with a walk through the other two squares of Old Havana before returning to our hotel for authentic Cuban music by one of the leading groups on the island.
Evening free; dinner on our own.

Finca la Vigia home of Ernest Hemingway from 1939 to 1960 in Havana, Cuba. The period when he wrote some of his famous books, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea.

Thursday, January 31

Accompanied by Dr. Corrales, we will begin the day by visiting the Jewish Cemetery in Havana before a tour of “Finca La Vigia” (Hemingway House) followed by lunch at the nearby, picturesque El Divino Paladar (included). Afternoon visit to Patronato, center of the Jewish community of Cuba, where we will meet with leaders of the community and learn firsthand about the work they are doing with the Jewish Community of Havana – including its youth and elderly.
Evening: Presentation and discussion with Professor Marta Nunez on “Gender and Social issues in Cuba.” Dinner on our own.

The National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana

Friday, February 1

Morning: Private guided tour of the world class National Museum of Fine Arts- Cuban collection. Lunch on our own; afternoon free.
This evening, we will attend services at Beth Shalom- the Conservative Synagogue of Havana, followed by a festive Shabbat dinner at our hotel (included).

Saturday, February 2

(Optional) Attend services at one of Havana’s Synagogues… OR…free to rest, enjoy the Cohiba’s amenities, and/or explore Havana on our own. This afternoon, optional activities led by our guide will be offered.
Evening: (optional) Attend a music or dance performance (subject to availability).

Sunday, February 3

Check out of Melia Cohiba for early morning departure to Santa Clara (only an overnight bag will be needed; luggage will be stored by the Cohiba and brought to rooms when we check back in on Monday). In Santa Clara, we will visit 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 at Finca del Mar- a lovely Paladar by the sea (included) and performance by famed Cienfuegos Choir- one of the leading choral groups in Cuba.

Cienfuegos Valle Palace

Monday, February 4

Meet with Rebecca Langus, whose home serves as a Jewish center on Shabbat and holidays in Cienfuegos to learn firsthand about the dedication needed to maintain Jewish life in this small community. Return to Havana and check back in to the Melia Cohiba – with time to rest, relax or walk about Havana on our own.
Afternoon: Free to explore Old Havana and visit sites of personal interest.
Evening: Festive closing dinner at our hotel (included).

Tuesday, February 5

Following breakfast, depart for the airport and return trip home.

*Please Note: Daily schedule may be modified subject to weather or unanticipated changes.


Hotel Melia Cohiba lobby | jhtravel.orgHotel Meliá Cohiba

The Meliá Cohiba 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.

Hotel Jagua Cienfuegos Cuba Guest Room | jhtravel.orgLa Jagua Hotel (Cienfuegos)
A four star hotel in the picturesque city of Cienfuegos, La Jagua is considered the best hotel in Cienfuegos. Located on the bay, within walking distance of town, one can enjoy spectacular views of the bay from each of its rooms.

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Hotel Jagua Cienfuegos Cuba Lobby | jhtravel.org
Hotel Melia Cohiba Cuba Pool | jhtravel.org

Travel in comfort. We stay at a five star, deluxe hotel in Havana and the best hotel in Cienfuegos. Accommodations for this trip listed below.

Program Details

Program Details (cost and what it includes)
Program cost: $4,980*
(plus $54 Museum of Jewish Heritage membership fee for nonmembers)
Program fee includes:

  • Roundtrip airfare Miami-Havana
  • Seven nights’ accommodations (six nights at Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana and overnight in Cienfuegos at La Jagua hotel)
  • Breakfast daily; three lunches; four dinners
  • All group transportation within Cuba via deluxe air-conditioned coach.

*Per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement available for $995. Gratuities: ($150) and visa fee ($80) additional.

A nonrefundable deposit of $1,500 due upon registration; Balance due 90 days prior to trip departure. (Subject to availability of space, participants may still register after this date, at an additional cost of $200. )


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Registration Information

Limited to 28 participants, the program will entail considerable walking in Havana, including uneven terrain. Participants need to be in active, good health and able to keep up with the group. Feel free to contact us at (845-256-0197) or info@jhtravel.org with any questions.

Participants are strongly urged to purchase travel insurance for losses necessitated by having to cancel participation due to health issues. For your convenience, insurance forms will be sent upon registration or consult your own agent. Please contact The Jewish Heritage Travel Program at 845.256.0197 for more information.

Please Note: due to the terms and conditions related to visa applications and hotel and air refund policies, there can be NO substitutions of names, nor any refunds for deposits or payments made for this trip. For this reason, we strongly recommend travel insurance for losses necessitated by having to cancel participation.


All rights are reserved by the Program Directors to make faculty substitutions and/or to modify the itinerary (including hotels) as needed.