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

By Ruth Behar

Yiddish-speaking Jews idea Cuba used to be imagined to be an insignificant layover at the trip to the us once they arrived within the island state within the Nineteen Twenties. They even referred to as it “Hotel Cuba.” yet then the years handed, and the various Jews who got here there from Turkey, Poland, and war-torn Europe stayed in Cuba. The cherished island ceased to be a resort, and Cuba ultimately turned “home.” yet after Fidel Castro got here to energy in 1959, nearly all of the Jews adverse his communist regime and left in a mass exodus. notwithstanding they remade their lives within the usa, they mourned the lack of the Jewish group that they had outfitted at the island.

As a baby of 5, Ruth Behar used to be stuck up within the Jewish exodus from Cuba. growing 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 thoughts had controlled to outlive the years of innovative atheism?

An Island referred to as Home is the tale of Behar’s trip again to the island to discover solutions to those questions. not like the unique snapshot projected by way of the yankee media, Behar uncovers a facet of Cuban Jews that's poignant and private. Her relocating vignettes of the contributors she meets are coupled with the delicate images of Havana-based photographer Humberto Mayol, who traveled with her.

jointly, Behar’s poetic and compassionate prose and Mayol’s shadowy and riveting photos create an unforgettable portrait of a neighborhood that many have noticeable notwithstanding few have understood. This publication is the 1st to teach either the energy and the heartbreak that lie in the back of the venture of holding alive the flame of Jewish reminiscence in Cuba.

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His parents tried to make him feel hopeful. They told him he would be well again and celebrate his bar mitzvah on his thirteenth birthday. When he died, Henry was buried in the oldest Jewish cemetery on the island, located across the bay from Havana in Guanabacoa. It rained hard that twenty-second of October in 1954 and the gravediggers struggled with their shovels to keep the earth from collapsing around the casket. Henry became, for all eternity, part of the soil of Cuba. He would be of the island, always of the island.

One man finally knew how to lead us there, but only after he’d rephrased our question. ” he said. “To get to the cemetery of the Poles, take that road over there. ” When we finally arrived at the cemetery, I had my camera ready. I imagined the rest would be easy: I’d find the tomb, snap the picture, and leave. But from the moment I got there I could feel myself becoming tense—what if I didn’t find Henry? Or what if I found him and he didn’t let me go? According to Tere, the Afrocuban nanny who cared for Henry until his death and continued to visit his grave after my family left, you had to be careful with dead spirits; they could attach themselves to your shadow and haunt you, try to take you with them into the other world.

He said. “To get to the cemetery of the Poles, take that road over there. ” When we finally arrived at the cemetery, I had my camera ready. I imagined the rest would be easy: I’d find the tomb, snap the picture, and leave. But from the moment I got there I could feel myself becoming tense—what if I didn’t find Henry? Or what if I found him and he didn’t let me go? According to Tere, the Afrocuban nanny who cared for Henry until his death and continued to visit his grave after my family left, you had to be careful with dead spirits; they could attach themselves to your shadow and haunt you, try to take you with them into the other world.

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