Humanitarian Mission in Cuba
April 17, 2012 Leave a comment
Doctor Feinerman has long been interested in humanitarian causes and in giving back to the community. This year, he was invited by the Solomon Society to personally participate in a humanitarian mission to help a small Jewish neighborhood in Cuba. The Solomon Society is a branch of the Jewish Federation & Family Services, an organization based in Orange County. It is a brotherhood that emphasizes establishing and building a strong community through social networking and special events with a humanitarian focus. As a symbol of his personal commitment to help Jews who are in need both domestically and abroad, each member donates to a cause in his own name.
The mission was six days long and lasted from March 19th through March 25th. While in Cuba, Dr. Feinerman and his fellow missionaries met with coordinators, community leaders, and officials from the U.S. Department of State as they toured various synagogues, schools, museums, and cemeteries. The purpose of the visit was more than just the distribution of donated goods to the needy, the emphasis was on how to build a stronger community.
The history of Jewish community in Cuba is not well-known to most Americans, but its presence has endured since early colonial times in the 16th century. It reached its peak in 1945, displaying a substantial and well-established population numbering nearly 25,000 people. No one could predict that the direction of this growth would change in less than two decades. When Fidel Castro assumed power and overthrew the Cuban government in 1959, many people of different faiths and socio-economic status fled the country. Many Jews were forced to leave, with an estimated count of only 1,300 members of the community still living in Cuba.
As with many other communities in Cuba, the Jewish populace suffers from a shortage of necessities such as medications and other supplies essential to daily life. In mid-March of 2012, the Solomon Society coordinated a mission to Cuba, bringing luggage packed with prescription and over-the-counter medications that are difficult to obtain. The much-needed drugs were dropped off at local pharmacies for distribution. In support of synagogues and Jewish Sunday schools, religious items were also given out. To assist with home life, supplies such as clothes and blankets collected from U.S. donations were also handed out to families in need.
Upon arrival in Havana, missionaries were able to tour the Old Jewish Quarter of the city, including a visit to Adath Israel, a traditional Orthodox synagogue in Havana. This synagogue is home to Cuba’s only mikvah, a bathing facility in which men and women can purify themselves with water before participating in rituals. Also visited were a Kosher meat shop and the Sephardic Hebrew Center, the only Sephardic synagogue in Havana City, founded in 1954, shortly before the government’s fall. This center celebrates all Jewish festivals and hosts a Sunday school for adults, as well as a Hebrew Teachers’ school. There was also a trip to the Jewish cemetery in Goanabacoa, featuring the first Holocaust Memorial built in the Western Hemisphere. There were also various meetings with community leaders in Santa Clara, as well as with officials at the Swiss embassy and the United States Interests Section.
This mission was so successful that future humanitarian trips to Cuba are being planned. Dr. Feinerman enjoyed his trip and meeting other professionals in service and locals in need. If you would like to donate items or participate, please ask Dr. Feinerman about how you can help. You can also contact Lisa Armory from the Jewish Federation and Family Services at 949-435-3484.