The synagogue of Guantanamo, Cuba, on the second floor of the Mizrahi household, on the eve of the community's 90th anniversary celebration (Photo/Laura Paull)
The synagogue of Guantanamo, Cuba, located on the second floor of the Mizrahi household, on the eve of the community's 90th anniversary celebration (Photo/Laura Paull)

Local fundraising event to aid Cuban Jews

A fundraiser to support the Cuban Jewish community, which is in crisis and facing shortages of food, money and medical supplies related to the pandemic, will be held on Aug. 26 with a free film screening and panel discussion.

Hosted by the Jewish Community Library, “Jewish Cuba: The Struggle to Survive” is an online event to raise humanitarian aid for the country’s 1,500 Jews, most of them in Havana but also in several pockets in towns across the island. Despite the distances, they are extremely close-knit.

The pandemic has hit Cuba particularly hard, with the loss of income from tourism, growing isolation and a slow rate of vaccinations. Nationwide protests erupted in July over shortages of food and medicine and the lackluster government response to the crisis. With the delta variant surging, Cuba has the highest contagion rate per capita in Latin America, according to NBC News, with 25 percent of the population fully vaccinated. (Cuba has developed its own vaccines.)

The Aug. 26 virtual event, from 5 to 7 p.m., will start with the screening of “Havana Nagila: The Jews in Cuba,” an hourlong documentary made in 1995 by writer and artist (and former J. culture editor) Laura Paull. She will moderate the panel featuring Ariel Goldstein, who has led tours to Jewish Cuba through the JCC of San Francisco and as owner-operator of Tiyul Jewish Journeys; Manuel Castillo, a Cuban living in Atlanta who also has led several Jewish Cuba tours; historian Fred Rosenbaum, founder of Lehrhaus Judaica and a participant in Jewish tours to Cuba; Mayra Levy, president of the Centro Sefaradi in Havana; and William Miller, former vice president of the Jewish Community of Cuba.

Register online; a Zoom link will be sent prior to the event. “Havana Nagila,” which recently was digitized, can be streamed for a small fee anytime at vimeo.com/ondemand/havananagila.

Sue Barnett

Sue Barnett is J.'s managing editor. She can be reached at [email protected].