In the AJT’s Sept. 15 issue, reader Richard Sherman responded to Lisa Potash. He opposed her characterization of Castro’s Cuba being a bastion of tolerance. I agree with him on that point. Where we differ is his claim that “Castro ethnically cleanse[d] Cuba’s substantial middle class from Cuba shortly after taking power.”
Ethnic cleansing is defined as “the mass expulsion or killing of members of an unwanted ethnic or religious group in a society.” In my research and my visit with a Temple Sinai mission to the Cuban Jewish community, led by a noted local Cuban American, I have found no report to support the ethnic cleansing assertion.
What happened is that Castro changed a capitalist system to a communist one. To advance, Cuba’s Jews had to choose to be apolitical and not experience professional advancement or to support the party and jettison any connection to the Jewish community. Many Cuban Jews who stayed chose the former while many others (90 percent of Jews) fled to the US and elsewhere and had to start over.
While both groups of Jews experienced great financial hardship, they were not victims of ethnic cleansing. This neither justifies Castro’s actions nor diminishes the suffering of those who fled elsewhere, but it’s a far cry from ethnic cleansing of Jews by Hitler, Armenians by post-WWI Turkey, or the Uyghurs in contemporary China. Words matter.
Rich Lapin, Dunwoody, Ga.