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February 29, 2008     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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February 29, 2008

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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH I By Larry Luxner While Cuba under Fidel Castro has been stridently MIAMI (JTA)--Fidel Cas- anti-Israel, Cuba's Jews have tro'sannouncementlastweek enjoyed relative religious that he'll step down after 50 freedom in the country. The years as president of Cuba country's new leadership is may be cause for celebration not expected to make any in South Florida--but Cuban immediate changes to the exiles here say precious little status quo on either of these will change for the few Jews two policies. remaining on theisland Stanley Cohen, interna- "This means absolutely tiOnal chairman of the B'nai nothing for the Cuban Jew- B'rith Cuban Jewish Relief ish community," said Jaime Project, said Castro's retire- Suchlicki, director of the Uni- ment will have no effect on versityofMiami'sInstitutefor Cuba's foreign relations. Cuban and Cuban-American Cohen has taken more than Studies. "Why would they 900 Americans to Cuba on be affected? There will be no 35 humanitarian missions change in policy." through B'nai B'rith. Castro's younger brother He estimates that Cuba RafilCastro, wh0hasbeendi- has some 1,300 Jews, many recting the country's day-to- of them converts. day affairs since Fidel took ill "In Cuba, they've resigned aboutayearandahalfago, was themselves to the fact that widely expected to be named Fidel is no longer there. It's hisbrother'sofficialsuccessor the rest of the world that's by Cuba's31-memberCouncil concerned," he said. of State when the council met On Tuesday morning, Feb. in Havana on Feb. 24. 19, the ailing 81-year-old Hoffen sisters make beautiful music for Jewish Pavilion residents On Sunday, Feb. 10, sisters Sarah and Frances Hoffen brightened the afternoon of residents living at the Heritage at Lake Forest as they played music on their instruments of choice: Sarah plays the flute and Frances plays the clarinet. Both are students at the Hebrew Day School. Following the concert, the girls served refreshments and schmoozed with the residents of this assisted-living facility located in Sanford. The Jewish Pavilion serves long-term-care residents living in 40 facilities. Volunteers are always needed. For more information, callArlene van de R ijn, program coordinator, at 407-678-9363 or e-mail her at arlenev@ Madison Chloe Reeber, daughter of Danielle and Cliff Reeber of Maitland, Fla will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah on Saturday, March 8, 2008 at Congregation Ohev Shalom in Orlando. Madison is in the sev- enth grade at Maitland Middle School, where she is a member of the Mai- tland Academic Achieve- ment Program and on the honor roll. She is a member of the RDV Sportsplex Ice Den Skating Acad- emy and competes in competitions throughout the state. She donates her time teaching special-needs children to skate through the Gliding Stars Program. She participates in Kadima and enjoys spending time with family and friends. Sharing in the family's simcha will be Madison's brother, Alec; great-grandmother, Beatrice Yudis; randmothers Roberta Yudis and Sheila Reeber; and cousins from South Florida. revolutionary leader of Cuba said in a letter published on the Web site of the official Communist Party newspaper Granma that he would quit, 19 months after being stricken by an undisclosed illness that has kept him out of public view. "I communicate to you that I will not aspire to nor accept the position of presi- dent of Council of State and commander-in-chief," Castro said. Bernardo Benes, a 73-year- old banker who left Cuba in 1960 and played varsity soc- cer with Rafil, now 76, while both men were students at the University of Havana, said Fidel Castro was not an anti-Semite. He declined to speculate on Rat~l's attitudes toward Jews. "I can assure you that Fidel has great admiration for the Jewish people. I had some conversationswith him about Judaism and Israel, and he showedatremendousamount of interest," said Benes, who was the former legal counsel for Cuba's largest synagogue, the Patronato, until he left Cuba. "In spite of that, his gov- ernment's policy has been horrendous for Israel. Fidel is a difficult personality. Most people don't understand who he is." Indeed, Castro has been no friend of Israel. In 1966, he opened guerrilla training camps for Palestin- ians, beginning a lifelong relationshipwith the Palestin- ians and their leader, Yasser Arafat. Speaking to the First Party Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in 1975, two years after breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel and assisting the Syr- ians in the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel, Castro de- clared, "YasserArafat is a man we deeply love and admire and to whom we have always shown our solidarity." In 1975, Cuba co -sponsored a U.N. resolution equating Zionism with racism, and in 1991, it voted against the U.N. proposal to revoke that reso- Cuban exiles play chess at Maximo Gomez Park in Miami's Lit a hotbed of anti-Castro sentiment in South Florida. lution. And at the first U.N. Ascribing the large num- un Worlct Conference Against ber of Cuban converts to th( Racism in Durban, South Judaism to Cuba's favorable he Africa, in2001, Castro called treatmentofJews, Asisspecu- del on delegates to"put an end to lated thatabout 80 percent of ha the ongoing genocide against the peoplewhoattendweekly col the Palestinian people" by synagogue services in Cuba sa] Israel. "have nothing to do with Despite the lack of diplo- Jewish life." rel matic ties between Jerusalem Among other things, Jews sel and Havana, private Israeli areentitiedtokoshermeatra- businessmen are among tionsthreetimesamonthand as the top investors in Cuba's frequently receive generous in citrus-export industry and "care packages" fromwealthy hu have poured tens of millions Jewish communities in the Pil of dollars into a subUrban United States and Canada. "H Havana office complex. "Actually, if you compare it aw Estimating the number of withotherformerCommunist off Jews in Cuba is virtually im- countries, the situation for possible, experts say, because Jews in Cuba is better," said wi while large numbers of Jews Asfs, who now lives in the Mi- tn have left the island in recent ami suburb of Kendall, Fla. ur years, there also have been "Fidel Castro was hostile in numerous conversions to to religion in general, but Judaism. Mois~s Asfs says the not to Jews in particular. He it2 island has no more than 400 was more hostile toCatholics, 20 or so bona fide Jews left. Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists Co Asis, a former Hebrew and Seventh-DayAdventists, sa~ teacher in Havana and gen- but because the Jews were so iol eral-secretary of Cuba's B'nai few--and most of the people go B'rith lodge, says the Jewish attending serviceswere elder- lal community in Cuba fre- ly--theyweren't a challenge quently eXaggerates its size ~o his power. For that reason, rel "in order to show that they he was very tolerant of the sil: need more assistance and Jewish community." "tt more money." Asis said he doesn't expect in1 He said approximately 800 any dramatic changes in Ab Cuban Jews haveleftfor Israel Cuba'sMiddleEastpolicy--or it's since 1992; about half stayed in anything else--as long as im in Israel, with the rest emi- Castro remains alive, is grating to the United States. "He will be giving opinions to eQ In December, between the Chanukah and Christmas sea- son, Jewish Family Services delivered nearly 100 nutri- tious meals to homebound senior adults. The recipients of the meals were apprecia- tive of a warm and kosher meal delivered right to their doorstep. JFS' next food delivery will be in March, right in time for Purim baskets. If you are interested in helping with the cteliveries or would like to learn about the various volunteer opportunities with JFS, contact Marni S. Chepe- nik at 407-644-7593, ext. 227 or e-mail marni.chepenik@ ~ ~ Pictured here are volunteers Jeannie Finkelstein and her chila ting readH to deliver Chanukah meals to JFS' homebound client Clermont shul offers course in Jew! Congregation Sinai in no formal background inenceroomofPeople'sBank, by Clermont has announced Jewish study, andwhowish located off Hancock Road ga that itwill start a new adult to become more knowledge- and State Road 50, alongside wa education class on Thurs- able about modern Jewish Walgreen's Pharmacy. 34 day, March 13. values and customs. Tuition for the coursein( "Judaica 101" will be The course will be eight is $50 per person. Each wi presented by Rabbi Steven hours in length, and given two-hour session will have Cardonick. The class is on fot~r Thursday nights: a ten-minute break on the co designed to meet the needs March 13,20,27andApri110 hour. 35 of those who have little or from 7- 9 p.m in the confer- Check should be received ea'~ i