In 1945, about 25,000 Jews lived in Cuba. Today there are 1,500. Why do these few remaining still carry on as Cubans and as Jews? This is the fascinating story that Jonathan Alpeyrie tells in The Last Jews of Cuba.
The first Cuban Jews were predominantly Sephardic, having fled Spanish oppression in medieval Spain and Portugal. In the 1930s-40s, yet another branch of Jews fled Eastern Europe’s turmoil for a safe haven in Cuba. But with the arrival of Fidel Castro and Communism came an end to a free market economy and opportunities for professional growth and much of the community found themselves relocating to the United States for increased opportunities.
Never persecuted, Cuba's remaining Jewish Community fared relatively well despite enforced Atheism across the country. Castro praised Jews for their commitment to preserving tradition, religion and culture. Consequently, it is said that half of Cuba’s remain- ing Jewish population is comprised of converts, given the preferential treatment of the community by the regime.
Today, the small community that remains in Havana plus its welcomed additions remains highly active in maintaining their common bond. Alpeyrie was commissioned by Anastasia Photo to research and photograph Havana’s remaining Jewish community as part of his long-term project exploring remaining Jewish enclaves in cities internationally.