Asociacion Femenina de Cuba

The first Jewish women’s organization in Cuba was founded in 1917 as the Ezra Societ-Menora Sisterhood, and the “Yidisher Froein Farin”, today known as the Asociación Femenina Hebrea de Cuba – ICJW’s affiliate on the island – was founded in 1926.

They are based at the Patronato de la Casa de la Comunidad Hebrea de Cuba, the Jewish community center in the capital, Havana, and welcome women of all ages. They address diverse subjects related to women such as violence, civil rights, health, current affairs and Jewish traditions, and at each meeting they include some entertainment and give a small present to the participants. They rely on the financial support of the three synagogues in Havana, B´nai B´rith, and the American Joint Distribution Committee (“The Joint”), as well as items donated by visitors and supporters.

The Asociación Femenina Hebrea de Cuba has introduced three very successful projects over the past four years.

Challot Project: Once a month, a group of women and men meet at the community center to make challah (traditional Jewish bread) to be distributed to local Jewish families for Shabbat. This program issupported by The Joint, who also helps the group to prepare Hamentashen cakes for Purim and cookies for Chanukah.

“Beauty Day” Project: A mobile beauty parlor visits one of the three Havana synagogues for one day each month, with eight women on hand to offer haircuts and dyeing, manicures, pedicures, and eyebrow treatments. All the equipment has been donated by friends and visitors, which makes it possible for local women to visit the beauty parlor free of charge. Donations are requested to cover the cost of materials and to help with transportation for people who cannot reach the synagogue because of health problems.

Yadisha Craft Workshop: A recreational and fundraising venture, teaching community members different craft skills, making handbags, challah covers for Shabbat, different knitted items, and handmade jewelry. Everything is sold and the money raised helps to cover the Asociación meeting expenses and charitable activities.

The Asociación also supports community activities for senior citizens in projects organized by the three synagogues in Havana, including art, dance, theater, ceramics, and exercise classes, with breakfast, lunch and sometimes tea in the afternoon provided to the participants.

Our members give the best of themselves, having created a warm Jewish community sisterhood through their love and responsibility. The success of women’s leadership in Cuba, as elsewhere, is based on the values of an educated woman, and her ability to transmit these values to her children. Although The Joint has been sending Conservative Rabbis to Cuba since 1992 to provide for the community’s religious needs, in the absence of a permanent Rabbi, most of the community’s religious leaders are women, and women play an important supporting role in festivities and Shabbat services all year round.

Based on a report by Sara Yaech, translated from Spanish by Sara Winkowski