Religion & Beliefs

Our Man In Havana—Sending Help To Cuba’s Jewish Community

A family friend in Chicago just told me about a group of students from Northwestern who are collecting new and used Jewish educational books and other resources for the Jewish community in Cuba. I’ve been in touch with Marshall Miller, … Read More

By / May 29, 2007

A family friend in Chicago just told me about a group of students from Northwestern who are collecting new and used Jewish educational books and other resources for the Jewish community in Cuba. I’ve been in touch with Marshall Miller, the student spearheading this effort, and he’s sent me some information. If there are any Jewcers out there who think they have contributions you can send me a message through Jewcy, or you can e-mail Marshall at mhm777 [at] northwestern[dot]edu. Here’s Marshall’s message:

At the end of this past March, twenty-five Northwestern students spent 8 days visiting the Cuban Jewish community on a trip sponsored by Northwestern Hillel. We were a diverse group of Jews and non-Jews, but we all had the same mission of connecting with and supporting the small but strong Cuban Jewish community. There are approximately 1,500 Jews in Cuba, most highly concentrated in Havana. Because of the trade sanctions placed upon Cuba under the Castro regime, Cuban Jews, along with all other Cubans, have been cut off from the rest of the world both in information and supplies. They lack clothing, medicine, and Judaic materials, which they desperately need in order to keep their community together. It was our mission to collect as much of these things as we could and deliver them to the Patronato, the center of Jewish life in Havana, which holds services, Hebrew classes, social events, and hosts the only private pharmacy in Cuba.

After the experience we had in Cuba, we in the Hillel group that went have been trying to stay involved and continuing to support the Havana Jewish community. One of the ways we know we can do that is by continuing to collect aid to be sent on trips to Cuba taken by other groups. While we were at the synagogues in Cuba, Jewish leaders told us that something they would really like us to send is Jewish educational materials, such as Hebrew books or workbooks and Jewish and Israeli history books. This would help them to generate enthusiasm in the culture, and also to prepare the members of the community who are likely enough to obtain the resources to make aliyah to Israel.

We are looking to the Jewish community for support in our ongoing mission. We are hoping that local synagogues and Hebrew schools are willing to donate some new or used Jewish educational materials of any sort that we can send along to Cuba through future trips.

Marshall’s especially interested in communities in and around Chicago that might be able to help out, but if you’re from farther afield it’s still worth it to shoot him an e-mail and see if you can work something out. For more information on the Jewish community in Cuba, check out this recent article from the NY Times.