The New Jews of Cuba

In the 1920s, growing anti-semitism in Europe brought 15,000 Jewish immigrants to Cuba. They prospered economically and culturally until the Communist Revolution in 1959 nationalized their businesses. All but 600 Jews fled to Israel, Canada, and neighbouring Miami.

May of the Jews who stayed behind were Communist revolutionaries and fought alongside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They assimilated with atheist society and forgot their Jewish identity, culture, and rituals.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s main benefactor, brought a surge of aid from Jewish organizations in America and Canada. Since the early 1990s, Jews in Cuba have reconnected with their identity. Many young people face the difficult decision of staying in Cuba and face economic and political hardships, or leave their families behind, move to Israel, and begin a new life. 

Photographs by Ronit Novak

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