As much as possible of Jewish Havana will be included in this fascinating day of the past.
By the 1950s, about 20,000 Jews lived in Havana, concentrated around Calle Belén and Calle Acosta, which bustled with kosher bakeries, cafés, and clothes stores. Jews knew the lessons of Nazi Germany and the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe and so, following the Revolution, became part of the Cuban diaspora. About 95 percent of them fled.
Although the Castro government discouraged Jews from practicing their faith, Jewish religious schools were the only parochial schools allowed to remain open after the Revolution. The government has always made matzo available and even authorized a kosher butcher shop to supply meat for observant Jews. A renaissance in the Jewish faith is occurring. Synagogues have been refurbished and new ones opened, and the faithful are returning in larger numbers and observing the Shabbath. This may have been encouraged by the aid that many of the Jewish organizations began bringing to support to the community, binding it together.
Habana Vieja’s Jewish quarter features the Sinagoga Adath Israel with a wooden altar carved with scenes from Jerusalem and historic Havana. Nearby is the Parque de Los Hebreos (Calle Acosta esq. Damas), with a giant menorah, the Jewish candelabra. Chevet Achim was built in 1914 and is the oldest synagogue in Cuba. The building is owned and maintained by the Centro Sefardi but is not used. It can be viewed by appointment.
In Vedado, the Casa de la Comunidad Hebrea de Cuba or Patronato, is the Jewish community headquarters. Services at the adjacent Bet Shalon Sinagogo hosts a Holocaust museum.
Guanabacoa, on the east side of Havana harbor, has two Jewish cemeteries. The Cementerio de la Comunidad Religiosa Ashkenazi also known as the United Hebrew Congregation Cemetery, is for Ashkenazim. It is entered by an ocher-colored Spanish-colonial frontispiece with a Star of David. A Holocaust memorial immediately to the left of the gate stands in memory of the millions who lost their lives to the Nazis. Behind the Ashkenazi cemetery is the Cementerio de la Unión Sefardi for Sephardic Jews. It too has a memorial to the Holocaust victims.
Your guide will make all the necessary arrangements for your visit to each location and will request a local member to assist with the history of the local families.
Additionally we will include some local stops of interest to all visitors to Havana.
- Please dress comfortably.
- We will always request a Jewish guide and will deliver that upon availability. The closer to your tour date that you make this request, the more difficult that will be to accomplish.
- A stop for lunch at a local paladar will be included.
- You are traveling under a general license, 31 CFR 515.574 - Support for the Cuban People. Travelers must keep a copy of their voucher for 5 years per OFAC regulations.
- We will make arrangements for meaningful dialogue with locals throughout your day! These memories and personal interactions will last a lifetime.
- If you are booking more than one tour while in Cuba, the standard itinerary stops may overlap. Call ShoreTrips at 414-964-2100 to arrange custom alternative stops. We will help make suggestions.
- This tour is not recommended for guests with limited mobility. We must be notified in advance of any walking problems.
- The synagogues all require advance reservations and are not always available. Not everything may be available on your visit. We will do our best to secure as many stops as possible.
- At the conclusion of your tour you will have to return to your cruise ship.
Days offered: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday