Beth El’s special relationship with the Jewish community in Cienfuegos, Cuba began in 2001, after a group of congregants visited Havana and Cienfuegos led by Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler and her husband, Arnold, under a special religious license. Following the trip, Linda Hirsch volunteered to coordinate what became known as the “Cuba Connection.” Linda and her husband Gary co-founded the Cuba Fund, returning to the island nation in 2002 on their own to connect with Cienfuegos Jews, and led a subsequent group trip in 2004. Subsequently, Linda returned to represent Beth El at the B’nai Mitzvah of two “Kadima” youths (Dec. 2004) and to attend Centennial celebrations of Cuban Jewry (Dec. 2006).
Following the 2001 trip, Beth El established a sister-community relationship with the Jews of Cienfuegos, (known also as “Kadima”, Hebrew for “Going Forward”), a small (35-member) community with limited resources. We provided funds, educational materials, Judaica, medicines and other forms of assistance to them, as well as to other communities on the island nation. Donated computers and software enabled the Cienfuegos community to build an ongoing, on-line communication between our congregations.
Through donations and two grants from the Puffin Foundation (2007 & 2009), Beth El helped begin “Lifestories,” a program where Jewish and Interfaith Cuban youths document their lives and community through multi-media and connect to Jews throughout the Disapora and in Israel.
And in 2009, Beth El hosted Rebecca Langus Rodriguez, leader of Kadima, in her first trip outside Cuba. She spent three weeks visiting Beth El, as well as temples and communities around Boston and in the Washington DC / Maryland area. The unforgettable visit strengthened ties between our two communities.
Please join our communal connection! Paz y luz (Peace & light)
Media coverage of our ”Cuban Connection”: