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September 19, 2013 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-09-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

On her second trip, she took her mother,
father and brother. Then, through the
Marcus Jewish Community Center of
Atlanta, she started leading groups

Travel To Cuba Limited
Because the United States has no diplo-
matic relations with Cuba, Americans
interested in traveling to the island have to
cut through significant red tape. Tourism is
not permitted, but groups planning visits for
religious, educational, scientific or cultural
purposes may apply for a license from the
Office of Foreign Assets Control in the U.S.
Department of Treasury. Travelers on these
"People to People" trips have strict spend-
ing limits and may not bring anything back
from Cuba other than art and informational
materials.
Working through licensed organizations,
Saul began leading group tours for Jewish
Americans to interact with the 1,500 Jews of
Cuba.
Before long, she was leading a group every

six months. The travelers brought thou-
sands of pounds of supplies to Cuba: Judaica
(including Haggadahs in Hebrew, English
and Spanish), school supplies, baby items, art
supplies. Before every trip, she would spend
long hours collecting, classifying and packag-
ing the materials. Whitesman flew to Atlanta
to help.
Whitesman began leading groups in 2006,
for Jewish federations, university Hillel
groups, synagogues and families celebrating
bar or bat mitzvahs.
She did as many as 10 in a year, some-
times doing four groups back to back.
The women saw that people on both sides
of the "90-mile gap' between Cuba and the
United States were starved for meaningful
interactions.

Aiding The Jewish Community
Whitesman's and Saul's groups brought a ner
tamid (eternal light) to the Jewish communi-
ty in Guantanamo; brought a lulav and etrog
for Sukkot to Santa Clara; started Hebrew

classes in Santiago de Cuba; and helped
restore Jewish cemeteries. They provided
"Macabi Cuba" jerseys to Cuban athletes,
which they still proudly wear years later.
On one trip, Saul met a man who wanted
to build a Holocaust memorial in Cuba. He
asked her to bring something that had sur-
vived the Holocaust.
In Washington, D.C., for a bar mitzvah,
Saul visited the National Holocaust Museum
to see what she could beg. She wound up
with some cobblestones from the Warsaw
Ghetto.
"It took an enormous amount of work
to get clearance to bring them to Cuba:'
she said. One of the stones went to Havana.
The others are in Santa Clara, in a monu-
ment that is the centerpiece of the new-
est Holocaust memorial in the Western
Hemisphere.
Whitesman said a large majority of
Cuba's Jews left after the revolution. Most

Clockwise from top left:
A tour group visits the colorful home,
west of Havana, of famed Cuban artist
Jose Fuester, known as the Picasso of
the Caribbean.

The entrance to the Ashkenazi Cuba
cemetery in Guanabacoa, Havana

Or Hadash, the newest synagogue on
the island, which opened in December
2012, is located in Santa Clara.

Travelers bring aid, including medical

supplies and food, to the Jewish
communities in Cuba.

Inside Beth Shalom Synagogue, part
of the Patronato, which has long been
a hub of Jewish activity in Havana

Photos by Marla Whitesman

To Cuba on page 10

September 19 • 2013

9

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