Yaldeinu Young Leaders Travel to Cubaby Leah Koenig | May 3, 2010 | 0 comments
Last month, six young Jewish leaders travelled from their home in Canada to Cuba. Along with them, they brought thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment (to donate to families in need) and a curiosity about Cuba’s small, but tight-knit Jewish community.
Their trip was organized by Yaldeinu, a Toronto-based organization “dedicated to providing formal and informal Jewish education to Jewish children and young adults in Israel and developing countries.” Yaldeinu’s main programs center around providing scholarship money for students in developing countries to attend day school education and bringing kids from countries with a small Jewish population (e.g. Bolivia, where the community stands around 300 people) for a summer camp experience in Canada.
The Cuba trip was designed for young emerging leaders, largely from Toronto, who are already committed to Yaldeinu and were looking for a hands-on way to explore a country and make a difference. According to a statement by founder Michael Ettedgui, the mission was held to “show solidarity with the Cuban Jewish Community’s young leaders.” While there, participants visited the homes of elderly residents, attended cultural briefings with senior Jewish communal leaders, participated in direct service projects (e.g. donating the medical supplies, restoring Cuba’s Jewish cemetery), and experienced Havana’s thriving culture.
Below, a photo slideshow of the Cuba trip, plus three participants’ share their experience in their own words:
With less than 1500 Jewish people across the entire country, the Cuban Jews show the meaning of Tikun Olam. On Wednesday afternoon, the women in the community join together to make Challah for each family…their passion and dedication to daily Mitzvot is contagious. Whether they are providing medication, encouraging the youth to partake in traditions or providing nurturing care to the elderly, this community enables each other and protects one another. —Mission Chair Alexandra Bronfman, 23, Toronto
I feel humbled to have been able to get to know some of the people in this very small, yet very dynamic and vibrant Jewish community. The Cuban Jewish Community can show the rest of the Jewish world what it means to be totally committed and dedicated to Judaism. —Romy Pilarski, 28, Toronto
Today I traveled around the suburbs of Havana delivering essential supplies to Jewish families that either do not have the money to pay for them or do not have the physical capability to go and get them. It was an experienced that humbled me. The Cuban Jewish community has clearly been evolving and growing in recent history, however there is still much that is required to sustain a long term Jewish community. They are heavily reliant on donations and it will be a number of years before they can be a self-reliant Jewish community. Youth educating other youth in the traditional practices of Judaism is an important step that is being taken to sustain the religion here in Cuba and should continue as long as possible. —Josh Gurza, 25, Toronto