After the revolution, many Jews fled Cuba. These are among the ones who remain.
In 1945, there were about 25,000 Jews in Cuba. But after the revolution of the 1950s, many fled the country. Only 1,500 remain today, and while they are a relatively small group, they are proud of their heritage and active observers of their faith.
Jonathan Alpeyrie has photographed Jewish enclaves in the United States and Ukraine, drawn to their positions as living links to history. In the summer, he spent several weeks in Havana, on a commission from Anastasia Photo, documenting the Jewish community at Beth Shalom, a large synagogue in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, and a smaller, mostly Sephardic synagogue in old Havana. His series, “Last Jews of Cuba,” will be on display at Anastasia’s New York gallery through Oct. 31.
“As a foreigner it is poignant to see how loyal and connected the members of that same community feel towards each other. The will to help, and protect each other is very apparent, as it is traceable through a common history born out of pain and incessant struggles,” Alpeyrie said via e-mail.
According to Alpeyrie, Jews in Havana have avoided persecution, even under a Castro regime that insisted on atheism. As a result, they have integrated easily into Cuban society, even while maintaining a close connection to their religious identity.
“Though it is true that they are Jews, the members of that community feel above all Cuban,” Alpeyrie said.