I just returned from a tour of Florida and my 5th Humanitarian Jewish Mission to Cuba! It was an honor to join Dr. Alan Mason in his farewell Shabbat at the historic Temple Israel in Miami. The Cuba Mission was an exceptional experience filled with rich and emotional encounters with people, artwork, food and most importantly, the Jewish Communities and people of Cuba!
Our group was 30 strong and from the moment we met we were bonded and melded into a loving and caring spiritual community who sang, ate, prayed and laughed together in many sacred moments.
Our diverse itinerary took us to the 3 major synagogues in Havana, Beit Shalom at the Patronato Jewish Community Center, The Sephardic Synagogue and senior lunch program and the Beit YaAkov Orthodox community where we visited the chapel and sanctuary museum. We delivered more that 500 pounds of humanitarian aid ranging from over the counter and prescription drugs to clothing, shoes, food and art supplies as well as crucial cash donations which help them to celebrate Jewishly.
Our trip also included visits to the Jewish communities of Santa Clara and Cienfuegos where my friend Carl Tretter and I performed a concert at Shir Chadash (see picture) with President David Tacher and visited the home of Rebecca Langus, President of the small congregation in Cienfuegos. We enjoyed an exceptional concert from the Coro de Camara Choir. This choir has been known to perform my song: Hallelu/Hinei Ma Tov and I was delighted to finally meet them and take a few pictures! (See below.)
The highlight of the trip, for me, was a concert on St. Valentine's night which included violinist Carl Tretter and Clarinetist David Doggett. I had brought a picture with me from 2006 of all the children I taught at the Religious School and my hope was to meet these children again. Many of them came to the concert and I asked them to join us to dance and sing a few songs and then take another picture! Our cultural itinerary included visits to the Fuster Gallery, Fine Arts Museum, Opera House, Cigar rolling demonstration and Organic Farm!
The hearts and spirits of the Jewish people are well and vibrant in Cuba. And yet their lives are challenging at every turn. While they have access to free education and health care, every day provisions are minimal and access to basic needs are limited. If not for our continued help and support, the Jewish community could not thrive and prosper in the way it has over the past two decades. Their determined strength for survival is an inspiration to us all and that's why we continue returning!
If you would like to join me on my next Music, Arts and Jewish Cultural Humanitarian Exchange Mission to Cuba, please email me and I will send you more information!