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

By Ruth Behar

Yiddish-speaking Jews suggestion Cuba used to be presupposed to be an insignificant layover at the trip to the USA once they arrived within the island nation within the Nineteen 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 loved island ceased to be a lodge, and Cuba finally grew to become “home.” yet after Fidel Castro got here to energy in 1959, the vast majority of the Jews adversarial his communist regime and left in a mass exodus. although they remade their lives within the usa, they mourned the lack of the Jewish group they'd equipped at the island.

As a toddler of 5, Ruth Behar used to be stuck up within the Jewish exodus from Cuba. becoming up within the usa, she questioned concerning the Jews who stayed in the back of. Who have been they and why had they stayed? What strains have been left of the Jewish presence, of the cemeteries, synagogues, and Torahs? Who was once taking good care of this legacy? What Jewish stories had controlled to outlive the years of progressive atheism?

An Island referred to as Home is the tale of Behar’s trip again to the island to discover solutions to those questions. in contrast to the unique snapshot projected through the yankee media, Behar uncovers an aspect 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 noticeable notwithstanding few have understood. This ebook is the 1st to teach either the energy and the heartbreak that lie at the back of the venture of preserving 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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They told him he would be well again and celebrate his bar mitzvah on his thirteenth birthday. When he died, Henry was buried in the oldest Jewish cemetery on the island, located across the bay from Havana in Guanabacoa. It rained hard that twenty-second of October in 1954 and the gravediggers struggled with their shovels to keep the earth from collapsing around the casket. Henry became, for all eternity, part of the soil of Cuba. He would be of the island, always of the island. He would never know what it felt like to be uprooted.

I was a professor of anthropology, but all I could do was write poem after poem about my reencounter with Cuba. I was accustomed to going to other places to do fieldwork. But could Cuba be a fieldsite? Cuba was my native land. How could I be an anthropologist there? . In the early 1990s you couldn’t even find a map of Cuba for sale in the United States. On the rare occasions when I flew to Havana from Toronto, I would encounter planeloads of Canadians going on $500-a-week, all-inclusive trips to beach resorts in Varadero.

They built Ashkenazic and Sephardic synagogues of their own in the heart of Miami Beach, and rose up the ranks of the Jewish Federation in Miami. 30 This, too, is a striking contrast with the Jewish community still in Cuba, which exists under a communist system and would not be able to survive without the charitable assistance of the Joint Distribution Committee and the various American Jewish missions. Thanks to “el Joint” and other American Jewish assistance, Cuba now has an organized Jewish community.

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