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19 April 2011

The Jewish Community of Cuba

I have written previously about my gggrandfather, Morris David Rosenbaum, a Jew from Poland, who made his way from Fordon in Poland to the United States. In his writings, which have survived to this day he writes of his travels that took him from New York down the coast to New Orleans and eventually around the Cape and on to San Francisco. It has always fascinated me to read of these travels wondering what it would have been like to make such a great journey during the mid 1800's.

While on his travels, even though he was not in any one location very long, probably just long enough for the ship to restock food and supplies, I have always been curious of his stay in what we now call Cuba. Even though some identify one of the men with Christopher Columbus as being Jewish, and thus being the first Jew to arrive in Cuba, the Jewish Community was probably not very large until the early 20th Century.
The early part of the 1900's saw many immigrants arrive in Cuba. The Jewish population of Cuba reached between 15,000 and 20,000 people by the time Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. Prior to that time, the community was well established with most Jews living in Havana, which had 5 synagogues within the city.
Following the rise of power of Fidel Castro, the majority of Jews in Cuba fled to other countries, with a large group making their new home in the United States. Today, the Jewish population is probably around 1,500, most of those living in Havana.
Today, I am finding my heart and thoughts returning to the travels of my gggrandfather. As I read through the records of other Caribbean countries such as Suriname and Curacao, I am finding others who have also travelled to Cuba. Those people left their footprints all through the area and can be found in the records of their new homelands.

Those records are now being added to the Knowles Collection- Jews of the Caribbean and will be available after the next update.

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