Last week I visited one of Cuba’s few operating synagogues. It was founded in 1939 by Sephardic Turkish Jews who immigrated to the eastern Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba in the first decades of the 20th century. Later, they were joined by Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe fleeing Nazi persecution.
The synagogue’s doors were shuttered from 1980-1995. I was told that an Argentine rabbi came in the 1990s and helped to revive Jewish life here. Today, roughly two dozen members attend services. Over the years, the Jewish community in Santiago de Cuba has dwindled. People have opted to leave Cuba to make a new life in Israel. Still, according to congregant Emma Levy (pictured below in the flowered dress), as long as there’s one member, the doors of the Santiago de Cuba’s historic synagogue will remain open and Shabbat candles will illuminate the temple’s sanctuary each Friday.
(All photos by Nancy Rosenbaum)