Proud of their religion and heritage, but struggling to sustain a humane standard of life. Their very survival depends on social, economic and Jewish educational assistance from the worldwide Jewish community.
Currently there are upwards of 1,400 Jews spread throughout Cuba in Havana and in very small cities and towns.The primary aim of the Cuban Humanitarian Educational Project (CHEP) is to assist the Jewish Communities in the Central (Camaguey) and Eastern (Santiago, Holguin, Barnes and Guantanimo) regions of Cuba with projects that address their social, economic and educational needs.
1492 - According to popular lore, after their expulsion from Spain, three Jews sailed for the New World with Columbus. These three Jews were Marranos (Jews forced to convert to Catholicism.)
16th-17th centuries - Many Jews emmigrated from Brazil to Cuba. Many of these Jews became traders.
1904 - The First Congregation was founded in Havana, following the Spanish American War. Many Jews from the Dutch Antilles supported the famous Cuban liberator, Jose Martí.
1906 - American Jews founded first Synagogue the United Hebrew Congregation. It was a Reform Synagogue started by American Ashkenazi Jews. Considered the official beginning of the Cuban Jewish Community
1910-1924 - Many Jews emigrated from Turkey (many settled in Guantanimo) and Eastern Europe and helped to develop a prosperous garment industry in Cuba. In 1914 Havana had 5 Synagogues, a Kosher Restaurant, a Jewish high school and 5 Jewish elementary schools. On Cuba's east coast, the Jewish Society of Eastern Cuba was formed in Santiago in 1924. A Synagogue was founded shortly after and is still in existence in Santiango de Cuba. There were approximately 24,000 Jews in Cuba by 1924. Many Jews stayed for only a short time, using Cuba as a stopover on their way to the USA.
1930-1952 - In the 1930's the Central Jewish Committee was founded for all Jewish groups. Jews continued to seek asylum in Cuba during the Holocaust. By 1952 there were approximately 12,000 Jews living in Cuba.
1959 - The year of the Revolution was the beginning of the largest Jewish exit from Cuba. Some Jews left for Israel but mostly went to the USA.
The Present - Cuba's west coast has the largest Jewish Community, mainly living in Havana. Havana has 3 synagogues (Conservative, Orthodox and Sephardic.) The cities of Santa Clara, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus also have small groups of Jews. In central Cuba, Camaguey had 2 synagogues built in the 1920's. There is currently one left. There is a good size Sephardic (Turkish) community in Guantanimo. There are also some Jews in Barnes and Holguin.The Synagogue de Santiago is still used in this small and wonderful community.