Cuba is Filled with Mystical & Cultural Contrasts

Cuba is Filled with Mystical & Cultural Contrasts

Miriam Saul took part in a recent mission to support the Cuban people.

This tobacco farmer impressed many on the tour with his expertise and knowledge // Photo Credit: Eddie Golberg
This tobacco farmer impressed many on the tour with his expertise and knowledge // Photo Credit: Eddie Golberg

Miriam Saul, born in Cuba, was sent to the United States as a child, and still leads missions to support the Cuban people. Preparing for their recent trip, each traveler packed a suitcase filled with items to support the needs of the Cuban people. These included medicines, clothes, children’s toys, books and toiletries. Cubans either lack the money or the items are not available.

Read on to learn about some of the highlights of Saul’s most recent mission to Cuba.

Cuban Cigars & the Tobacco Farm

The travelers visited a tobacco farm and watched as the proud owner rolled a Cuban cigar.

Traveler Eddie Goldberg shared, “Charleston, S.C., was a large southern town when I grew up in the 1960s surrounded by tobacco fields and the city housed a large cigar factory in the downtown skyline. I went to Cuba in 2007 with Miriam Saul then and enjoyed the trip immensely because it was like going back to the 1950s. When Miriam offered a chance to revisit this past spring, I was delighted to go and join a long list of friends. This trip differed from the first one because it included a tour of a tobacco farm and included a demonstration of cigar rolling.

“The experience was another reminder of perceived happier times of the 1950s. It was a real treat to be with friends as we learned about curing of the famous Cuban cigars and watched the farm owner roll and smoke a cigar straight off the curing rock. I, being an avid non-smoker, did not participate, but I enjoyed watching my friends shock me and light up. Most were women!”

Centro Hebreo de Cuba // Photo Credit: Judy Robkin

Cemeteries & Synagogues

Traveler Bonnie Cook discussed the tour’s stops at local cemeteries and synagogues.

She shared, “We visited the two synagogues in Havana. The Sephardic Center, where we heard from a delightful man who told us the history of the Jewish community in Cuba, from the time of Christopher Columbus. A small but warm group of people welcomed us with open arms, so appreciative of the little help we could bring them so that they keep up their place of gathering, worshiping, taking care of the elderly, and keeping Jewish life alive in Cuba.

Large mosaic sculpture by Fuster // Photo Credit: Ron Rosen

“We also visited the Conservative synagogue, Beth Shalom. There are less than 1,000 Jews in Cuba today, the majority living in Havana. They are proud Jews and embrace their Judaism. They have lived peacefully, for the most part, amongst their neighbors. Only recently have they begun to witness some antisemitic events and language.

“It is amazing to see synagogues without any security, because it is not needed. The highlight of our visit there was the Kabbalat Shabbat service where the youth of the congregation lead the entire service very accomplished and absolutely delightful. And the service was the same as if you were in any country in the world with our common language of Hebrew and tradition.”

Making a Difference

Saul reflected, “Our group really made a difference; we shared gifts everywhere we went, and we heard how bad the situation is in Cuba for the Cubans. Every stop we made we brought things that were needed and will hopefully make the next few months a little easier to bear.

Miriam Saul enjoys leading missions to her home country of Cuba // Photo Credit: Danny Saul

“We also brought a tremendous amount of material and monetary support to both synagogues in Havana. The private Jewish pharmacy will be able to continue to dispense life-saving medications and over-the-counter meds to its members and beyond. I have my own selfish reasons for continuing these trips. I continue to admire the braveness of my parents by making the ultimate sacrifice of sending me to family abroad. I can never forget that or ignore the hardships of how my life would have been.”

Due to many new requests for another personal trip to Cuba, Saul will be planning a Spring 2025 Cuba trip.

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