Welcome! You've made it to the homepage of Temple Solel's 2010 mission to Cuba. From here you will be able to follow our progress as our group of 15 spends time in Havana, and beyond.

A special word of thanks to the many generous members of the Temple Solel community, who lovingly donated much-needed supplies and money that will go to directly support Cuban Jews and non-Jews alike who are in need - many of whom we will have the privilege of meeting during our trip.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Days Seven and Eight

We began Day Seven in Cienfuegos.  After checking out of our hotel there, we drove two minutes to the downtown area.  Jorge led us on a walking tour of the area that included the main shopping boulevard - a well-maintained promenade that hinted at the former elegance and beauty of pre-Revolution Cuba:

The walk ended in a major plaza surrounded by municipal buildings, and a still-working theatre from the beginning of the century.

From Cienfuegos, we about an hour or so to Santa Clara, where we had the privilege of meeting David Tascher, the president of the Jewish community there.  Although Santa Clara's Jewish community is about the same size as Cienfuegos' (about 20 families), a decision was made to establish Santa Clara as a sort of regional Jewish center.  As part of that effort: they are in the process of building a small synagogue and community center to serve the Jews of the region.

We met with David at the Santa Clara Jewish cemetery (much smaller than the one we visited in Havana).  The cemetery is dominated by the striking Holocaust Memorial that was erected there several years ago:

It's remarkable how each of the Jewish communal interactions that we had on the trip were different, influenced by the different personalities of the presidents and the communities that they represented.  In the case of Santa Clara, the welcome we received was so warm (I know, I keep coming back to that word in describing these meetings).  In addition to his shpiel about life in Santa Clara and their community, we also met another member of his community that shared a Holocaust reflection with us.  And, although we had travelled to them to present them with gifts of tzedakah and supplies, we were left speechless and moved when they presented us with a gift: a wooden carving of a dove and the word shalom

After our meeting with David in Santa Clara, we stopped at the nearby memorial to Che Guevara.  (I was feeling kind of sick at the time so I'll leave it to others to post their thoughts and pictures about that....)

Then, we headed back on the road for the long drive to Havana.

Our final dinner of the trip: at the lovely Cafe Oriente, where we enjoyed fine food and music, toasted new friendships, and even enjoyed a visit with Pierre, the travel agent who helped to arrange our trip (thanks Pierre!).

The following morning, we made a few sightseeing stops before heading to the airport.  We spent some time walking around the campus of the University of Havana.  It was kind of like a smaller scale version of any American college campus I've been to....with the only addition being the assortment of war memorials dedicated to university students who took part in various battles of the Revolution:

Then a quick stop at the memorial (only in Havana...) dedicated to the memories of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg:

Then, a final stop at Revolutionary Square (akin to the Mall in Washington - one of Havana's main central gathering places) for our final group picture in front of the monument to Jose Marti:

From there, it was off to the airport....Homeward Bound.

I'll try to summarize some of my final reflections in a separate posting.  In the meantime, I'll echo the thanks that our group offered up on the final morning to our guide Jorge, and our driver Jesus, for leading us on an incredible adventure.

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About Me

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Jeff has served as Associate Rabbi of Temple Solel from 2005-2012.