An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba by Ruth Behar

By Ruth Behar

Yiddish-speaking Jews concept Cuba used to be speculated to be an insignificant layover at the trip to the USA after they arrived within the island state within the Twenties. They even referred to as it “Hotel Cuba.” yet then the years handed, and the numerous Jews who got here there from Turkey, Poland, and war-torn Europe stayed in Cuba. The loved island ceased to be a inn, and Cuba finally grew to become “home.” yet after Fidel Castro got here to energy in 1959, nearly all of the Jews hostile his communist regime and left in a mass exodus. even though they remade their lives within the usa, they mourned the lack of the Jewish group that they had outfitted at the island.

As a toddler of 5, Ruth Behar was once stuck up within the Jewish exodus from Cuba. starting to be up within the usa, she questioned in regards to the Jews who stayed in the back of. Who have been they and why had they stayed? What strains have been left of the Jewish presence, of the cemeteries, synagogues, and Torahs? Who was once caring for this legacy? What Jewish stories had controlled to outlive the years of progressive atheism?

An Island referred to as Home is the tale of Behar’s trip again to the island to discover solutions to those questions. in contrast to the unique photo projected through the yankee media, Behar uncovers a facet of Cuban Jews that's poignant and private. Her relocating vignettes of the participants she meets are coupled with the delicate photos of Havana-based photographer Humberto Mayol, who traveled with her.

jointly, Behar’s poetic and compassionate prose and Mayol’s shadowy and riveting pictures create an unforgettable portrait of a neighborhood that many have noticeable although few have understood. This e-book is the 1st to teach either the energy and the heartbreak that lie at the back of the undertaking of preserving alive the flame of Jewish reminiscence in Cuba.

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Sample text

Undergraduate students thought it was “cool” to study Spanish in Cuba, while graduate students in anthropology flocked to do fieldwork on the “hot” topics of prostitution and Santería. Journalists from mainstream and minor newspapers were soon covering Cuba more consistently and addressing not only the island’s troubles but its cultural and carnal charms. On one end of the spectrum was Andre Codrescu’s Ay Cuba! A Socio-Erotic Journey, which originally aired on National Public Radio in 1998. ”18 In my own conversations with several neighbors in Ann Arbor who traveled to the island, what stood out as the allure of Cuba was that the United States wasn’t there, McDonald’s wasn’t there, other Americans weren’t there.

My fellow Cuban travelers paid exorbitant overweight fees in Miami. Then in Havana they had to pay duty on all the goods they were importing. On the way back from their trip, they had nothing. Everything stayed in Cuba. Everything. Even their suitcases. . The more I went to Cuba, the more I needed to go. I had become a Cuba addict. And like any addict, I needed my fix. My Cuba fix. Not even my grandmother’s admonitions, my mother’s paranoia, my father’s disapproval, my husband’s quiet relinquishing of time we might have spent together, my son’s tears, or even my own heartbreak every time I said goodbye was enough to stop me.

They wanted to see his tomb again—in a photograph at least—to make sure that the letters of his name had remained intact and were still honoring his memory. Jews are a people who won’t let go of the dead. The dead are honored through the recitation of the Kaddish at religious services. When Jews build temples, they cover the walls with the names of the dead. But before they build temples of worship, Jews build cemeteries. They want to be buried amid Stars of David. They want to be with members of the tribe when they return to dust.

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