Mission and Travel

UJF Young Leadership Mission to Cuba

by Amanda Shapiro, President, YLD


Twenty-two members of the Young Leadership Division of Greater Stamford have just returned from a mission trip to Havana, Cuba (March 5-9). 


Led by Federation CEO James A. Cohen and Vice President Rebekah Raz and guided by Jewish Cuba Connection, attendees brought needed pharmaceutical supplies, medicine, goods and clothing to the Jewish Community Center and visited Havana's three synagogues- Patronato/Beth Shalom, Centro Sefardi and Adath Israel. 


At each of the synagogues, they met with leaders and presented monetary donations to help sustain the vibrant Cuban Jewish community that goes back to 1492.  Currently, there are only 1,500 Jews (800 in Havana) and eight active synagogues throughout the country.  Prior to the Revolution in 1959, up to 15,000 Jews lived in Cuba having come from from Spain, Turkey, Syria, Eastern Europe, Germany and Russia.


Highlights of the trip included visiting the newest Holocaust exhibit guided by William Miller, World ORT's* representative in Cuba, a Kabbalah Shabbat service and dinner with the Jewish community and visiting, on Cuba's National Women's Day, The Joshua White Community Center outside Havana.  Those who attended were able to see first hand the positive impact JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) and ORT have made to improve the lives of both the Jewish and non-Jewish Cuban people on a daily basis since 1925.


Cultural highlights included visiting the home of renowned artist Jose Fuster (The Gaudi of Cuba), a walking tour of Havana Veija, old city Havana (a UNESCO World Heritage site).  We also visited The Museum of the Revolution, The Belles Artes Museum and The International Museum.  The trip ended at the famous Tropicana Night Club (opened since 1939) where everyone celebrated the mission's success with live music, cabaret dancers and real Cuban cigars. The Cuban people and Jewish Community's warmth and strong commitment to family has left us all wanting to go back for more and has inspired us to continue the tradition of Tikkun Olam.  Young Leadership looks forward to another mission in the near future.


  * World ORT (ORT was founded in Tsarist Russia in 1880. The name 'ORT' was coined from the acronym of the Russian words Obshestvo Remeslenofo zemledelcheskofo Truda, meaning The Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor.)


Celebrating with Dr. Mayra Levy, The President of the Centro Sefaradi Center, the Jewish Community's fully stocked pharmacy after unloading all donations the group brought on the mission. Celebrating National Women's Day at The Joshua White Community Center. Giving a helping hand...