YNet Highlights Cuban Delegation on JWRP Trip!
Photo credit: Aviram Valdman
From Cuba to Israel: The Jewish Mother is Making History
By Itamar Eichner
Buena vista Israel: For the first time in history, a delegation of tens of Jewish mothers from Cuba is visiting Israel. “After the reconciliation between Cuba and the United States, the entire Jewish community in Cuba is hoping to revive diplomatic relations with the Israeli people,” said the mothers.
“The Cuban people and government have excellent relations with the local Jewish community. Fidel Castro used to participate in many Jewish ceremonies held by the community,” explains Marlan Fernandez Buroto (45), a lawyer from Havana, Cuba.
“Unfortunately, most of the Cuban people still do not have free access to information on the internet, and when it has to do with the state of Israel, they are primarily fed whatever the government decides to tell them,” she adds, “and the Cuban government, unfortunately, is not particularly pro-Israel.”
“A Miracle Finally Comes True”
Last week, on the eve of Independence Day, Buroto landed in Israel for the first time with a massive delegation of 800 Jewish mothers who arrived from ten states around the world. She herself is a mother of four, and one of ten Jewish mothers that comprises the historic delegation from Cuba.
This vibrant group (which has representatives from, among other countries, the United States, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Germany, Mexico, Panama, and South Africa) is currently visiting Israel within the framework of a 9 day women’s empowerment campaign that has earned the popular nickname “Birthright for Mothers,” a joint project of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) in Maryland, US, and the Minister of Diaspora Affairs under the leadership of Minister Naftali Bennet. The project was born out of the recognition of the unique status of Jewish mothers among their families and communities in their countries of origin.
“To come to Israel for the first time and connect with our roots is a miracle that has finally come true,” saidTamara Cali Martino Zagoulu from Havana, another member of the Cuban delegation.
“Being here is amazing, like a dream! From a spiritual point of view, this completes my Jewish identity. My family is so proud of me. I thank the Lord and all of the people that made this project possible,” added Eliana Caro Chavez, another participant from Havana.
“Group Weddings When the Rabbi Visits”
Today, there are currently around 1,500 Jews living in Cuba, the vast majority in the capital, Havana. There are five synagogues located in the country, three of which are in Havana in addition to several smaller places of worship located throughout the country.
(Translation in picture caption: Beginning in 1992, we have had arabbifrom Chili visit us once a month, and every time he arrives, we perform group weddings that evening. Photographer: Michal Alvarez Freir).
“Our life as Jews is no different than that of anyone else in Cuba, with the exception that we are united as a community, and the connection between members is very strong.” The women describe a variety of communal activities: dance classes, Sunday school for youth and adults, and Maccabi youth movement activities.
Fernandez Boruto adds that “We also have Jewish weddings in the community, but we do not have a permanent official rabbi in Cuba. Beginning in 1992, we havehad arabbi from Chilivisit us once a month, and every time he arrives, we perform group weddings that evening.
“The Journey Home has only Begun”
Another participant in the delegation is Lista Louis (42), who is married and has two children. She is a microbiologist from Havana, who said that she has prayed that “Reconciliation between the United States and Cuba would pave the road for the beginning of diplomatic connections between Cuba and Israel. The entire community has hoped for this.”
The journeys of the mothers across Israel – from the country’s north to south – includes experiences learning about Jewish history and roots, with an emphasis on modern Israel. Israeli mothers, who have held unique and inspiring meetings with the participants, have also taken part in the trip.
“There are not enough words to describe the courage of the 800 Jewish mothers from around the world, who have gathered under one roof and given expression to the energy, inspiration, and worldliness that they carry with them,” said Lori Palatnik, the founder of JWRP. “We always say that the last day of the experience of the mothers in Israel is also the first day of their journey, and we believe that they will return to their families in their countries of origin with a deeper sense of commitment to Israel, Jewish values, and to strengthening their community.”