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 over 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 where they will enjoy an opportunity to experience this fascinating country with a special focus on its varied and diverse Jewish community. Led by Dr. Aryeh Maidenbaum, who has been organizing and leading trips to Cuba for many 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 5-star, Meliá Cohiba Hotel in Havana. During our stay in Havana, we will meet with leaders 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, there will be 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!
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- 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 authentic Cuban music by one of the leading groups on the island.
Evening free: dinner on our own.
Accompanied by Professor Corrales, we will visit the Jewish cemetery of Havana before a visit to “Finca La Vigia” (Hemingway House) and lunch nearby at 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: panel discussion and dialogue with scholars. Dinner on our own.
Morning: private guided tour of the world class National Museum of Fine Arts- Cuban collection- led by our own scholar and/or Deputy Curator of the museum. Lunch at El Aljibe restaurant (included).
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. This afternoon, optional activities led by our guide will be offered.
Evening: (optional) attend a cultural activity in Havana.
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 a lovely Paladar by the sea (included) and overnight stay.
Meet with Jewish community representatives in Cienfuegos and understand firsthand the dedication to maintain Jewish life is like for this small community. Visit with Rebecca Langus, whose home serves as a Jewish center on Shabbat and holidays; deliver donations of food and medications we will bring with us. 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).
Following breakfast, depart for the airport and return trip home.
Hotel Meliá Cohiba
Hotel Meliá Cohiba (Havana)
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.