B'nai B'rith trip aids the Jews of Cuba.
Special to the Jewish News
ith the many political trouble
spots and disaster areas
around the world, Cuba
seems to be below the international
radar screen. But the country's Jewish
population of 1,500 has been getting
plenty of attention from B'nai B'rith.
The international Jewish service
organization, through its Great Lakes
Region, sponsored another Cuban
Jewish Relief Mission in November
that included 14 Michiganders — 10
from the Detroit area. It was one of
several missions undertaken in the last
10 years as part of the B'nai B'rith
Cuban Relief Project to help the
Jewish population there "survive and
Amazingly, Cuban Jews are free to
worship in five synagogues with no
anti-Semitism under Communist dic-
tator Fidel Castro.
Leading the November mission were
Toni and Corey Rodnick of Midland.
Participants included Jacqueline and
Allen Menuck of Bloomfield Hills;
Lisa and Mark Menuck of
Birmingham; Paula and Melvyn
Menuck, Marilyn and Ronald Gold,
Carol Shaw and Stuart Sinai, all of
West Bloomfield; and Esther Farber
and Judith Jaffe of Essexville. They
visited Havana, Santa Clara and
Like mission participants before
them, the travelers — at their own
expense — took medical supplies,
sports equipment, books, toys and
other goods to distribute to the Jewish
families. B'nai B'rith donated 10 cases
of vitamins and $500 in honor of
each person on the mission to be used
mainly to repair cemeteries.
Cuban Relief Mission of 12 people in
2003 to better understand the diffi-
culties facing the Jewish community
"Cuban Jews are free to come and
go, and Castro doesn't bother them,"
said Melton. "In fact, he even attend-
ed a Chanukah party last year. Things
are better for the Jews than they were
under Batista before he was over-
thrown in 1959. Of course, the Jews
really don't discuss or participate in
politics too much there. They shy
away from that."
Melton brought enough equipment
to outfit an entire Little League base-
B'nai B'rith officials estimate their
missions have transported more than
$6 million worth of medicines,
Judaica and other supplies to Cuba,
including 284 wheelchairs for hospi-
"With the help of generous donors
and concerned friends, we intend to
continue to help our Cuban Jewish
friends as long as the help is needed,"
Medical supplies and other items were
brought to aid Cuban Jews.
B'nai B'rith Great Lakes Region Cuban Relief Mission
participants enter a Cuban synagogue.
"No matter what else is going on in
the world, we can't forget the Jews of
Cuba," said Corey Rodnick. "The
need there is great, and we were happy
to take the trip and help them."
Just before the Rodnicks left for
Cuba, their house in Midland burned
down, destroying all the goods they
had purchased for the trip. No one
was injured and they still don't know
the fire's cause, but it resulted in a
frantic volunteer campaign among
their neighbors and at their synagogue
to replace the goods.
"Everyone was wonderful, and we
received a lot of donations," said Toni.
"We took four large hockey bags filled
with goods, and we paid for 700
pounds overweight on the plane."
Allen Menuck said the group was
surprised to meet up with people on
Cuban missions from several other
Jewish organizations in the United
States. "Everyone wants to join in and
help the Cuban Jews," he said.
"Besides, it's like vacation. We all
want to go to a nice, warm place."
Ken Bassey of Farmington Hills and
Marty Melton of West Bloomfield led
a B'nai B'rith Great Lakes Region
Toni and Corey Rodnick of Midland
led B'nai B'rith Great Lakes Region's
most recent mission to Cuba.
said Fran White, B'nai B'rith Great
Lakes Region director.
In other current projects, the region
is helping place stones on about 3,000
unmarked graves at Jewish cemeteries
in Michigan, is working with Hillel
and BBYO on several projects, and
donated $8,000 to the B'nai B'rith
Tsunami relief fund. 0