An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cubaby Ruth Behar
Pub. Date: 11/01/2007
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Yiddish-speaking Jews thought Cuba was supposed to be a mere layover on the journey to the United States when they arrived in the island country in the 1920s. They even called it “Hotel Cuba.” But then the years passed, and the many Jews who came there from Turkey, Poland, and war-torn Europe stayed in Cuba. The beloved island ceased to be a hotel, and… See more details below
Yiddish-speaking Jews thought Cuba was supposed to be a mere layover on the journey to the United States when they arrived in the island country in the 1920s. They even called it “Hotel Cuba.” But then the years passed, and the many Jews who came there from Turkey, Poland, and war-torn Europe stayed in Cuba. The beloved island ceased to be a hotel, and Cuba eventually became “home.” But after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, the majority of the Jews opposed his communist regime and left in a mass exodus. Though they remade their lives in the United States, they mourned the loss of the Jewish community they had built on the island.
As a child of five, Ruth Behar was caught up in the Jewish exodus from Cuba. Growing up in the United States, she wondered about the Jews who stayed behind. Who were they and why had they stayed? What traces were left of the Jewish presence, of the cemeteries, synagogues, and Torahs? Who was taking care of this legacy? What Jewish memories had managed to survive the years of revolutionary atheism?
An Island Called Home is the story of Behar’s journey back to the island to find answers to these questions. Unlike the exotic image projected by the American media, Behar uncovers a side of Cuban Jews that is poignant and personal. Her moving vignettes of the individuals she meets are coupled with the sensitive photographs of Havana-based photographer Humberto Mayol, who traveled with her.
Together, Behar’s poetic and compassionate prose and Mayol’s shadowy and riveting photographs create an unforgettable portrait of a community that many have seen though few have understood. This book is the first to show both the vitality and the heartbreak that lie behind the project of keeping alive the flame of Jewish memory in Cuba.
Reader Guide (http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/pages/behar_reader_guide.aspx)
- Rutgers University Press
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Table of Contents
Map of Cuba (showing places visited)
Running Away from Home to Run toward Home
Looking for Henry A Kaddish for the Jews Who Rest in Jewish Cemeteries in Cuba and for Raquel's Mother Who Does Not
A Tour of Havana's Synagogues The Kosher Butcher Shop The Shirt That Holds Sadness Los Prinstein In the Realm of Lost Things How to Pack Your Suitcase Enrique Bender's Blue-Green Eyes Remind Me of My Grandfather The Dancing Turk Monday Morning in Luyanó
Danayda Levy's School Report May Day with a Jewish Communist The Whispering Writer The Three Things José Martí Said All Real Men Must Do Einstein in Havana Salomón the Schnorrer Mr. Fisher's Twice-Yearly Gifts Becoming Ruth Berezniak After Everyone Has Left The Ketubah That Became a Passport When I See You Again There Will Be No Pain or Forgetting
Simboulita's Parakeet Seven Jewish Weddings in Camagüey Che Waits for a New Frame Pearls Left in Cienfuegos The Moses of Santa Clara A Conversation Next to El Mamey Villa Elisa The Covenant of Abraham Salvador's Three Wives A Beautiful Pineapple The Last Jew of Palma Soriano The Mizrahi Clan in Guantánamo
Departures My Room on Bitterness Street How This Book Came to Be a Photojourney Chronology Notes Bibliography Acknowledgments List of Photographs About the Author and Photographer
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