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June 27, 1980     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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June 27, 1980
 

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West CUBA EXODUS TO FREEDOM,,, Violeta Mitrani (I) reached her final destination Orlando -- where she met with Jewish Family Service executive director Alvin Gamson (r). ], ' **** **** **** **** Took the Mogen David r, From Around My Neck' by Barbara Coenson-Roth he came here with nothing but the clothes on her ,k, without money, without the Mogen David that I% was around her neck ... without her family. lieta Mitrani, ] Cuban Jewish refugee a 6-year-old her family and home in Havana to make an nCertain" journey to the United States -- a trip that k her more than a month to reach her final tination -- Orlando. he just did not have. Violeta, however, was given a choice, to stay with the family she loved or venture out on a lonely and dangerous journey to an unfamiliar country. It was a decision most 16-year-olds would rather not have to make. Violeta, who speaks no English, said that her father thought it was best that she go. He felt, she said, that if Violeta got out of Cuba, "there would be a better opportunity for the rest of the family to get out later 4]rrT h t tee months ago, even before the Freedom Flotilla 1 eventually landed some 114,000 Cuban refugees tLKey West began, Violeta's father, a prominent p'Vana cardiologist, applied for exit visas for his family  Violeta's mother, who is a pharmacist, her younger her and sister, and grandparents -- to leave Cuba ome to the U.S. r weeks nothing was heard of the application. one day a knock on the door at the Mitrani brought Cuban immigration officers. All those had applied for exit visas were assembled to be lrted to the center of town to prepare to leave ut. But not everyone was to leave. Exit visas were on." Her father also believed the "society in the U.S. is a better environment for her." If Violeta had stayed in Cuba, she would soon be eligible for draft into the 'army. So the decision was made. She would go. Before she was to leave her home of 16 years, Violeta was searched by Cuban immigration officers. "They took all my clothes and money," she said. "They took the Mogen David from around my neck." For eight days Violeta was transported from military compound until she reached the port of Mariel -- her point of departure ... still wearing the same clothes, missing her family. Two more days passed befOre she boarded the fishing boat Captain Hcnl on which she spent 14 nded out ... but not everyone received one. "rocky" hours traveling to Key West "jammed together /rnigration authorities demanded $20,000 from with 250 other people" all uncertain of their future. 1 " leta's father if he wanted his family to go ... $20,000 (Continued on Page 5) ] To ve,to 'PraYemrdinawSChhOO! ' Bill "arlman t .... Reaches Orlando by Barbara Coenson-Roth would like to practice their One of 75 known Cuban Spanish," Gamson suggested. Violeta is one of 75 Cuban Jews among the more than Jewish refugees identified by | 14,000 Cuban refugees who HIAS, who have entered the have fled to the United States U.S. in recent months. in recent months, has made her home in Orlando. According to Leimsidor "'all cases have not yet been Sixteen-year-old Vioteta sifted," but no more than 25 Mitrani, the first and only additional Cuban Jews are known Jewish Cuban refugee expected. During the current to come to the Orlando area, arrived here June 6. Shecame wave of immigration, HIAS expects the total number of here alone, leaving behind a Jews to reach no more than family who was prevented 100. Leimsidor said he is not from leaving Cuba. surprised at the low number of Violeta's father had applied, Cuban Jews who have fled to three months ago. for exit the count, recently, because visas for his family, but was there were only about 1,200 prevented from leaving when left after the last wave of he couldn't afford the $20,000 demanded by Cuban immigration in the early immigration officers. Violeta 1960s. Many of the remaining was the only member of her Jews, he said, "are too elderly to make the difficult voyage to family -- consisting of father, the U.S." mother, sister, brother and HIAS has identified the grandparents -- that was Jewish Cuban Refugees allowed to leave the country at no cost except for the clothes through its operations at three process centers in Ft. McCoy, and money the authorities Wisc,: [ndiantown Gap, Pa,; took from her before her and Miami. FI. departure. They have helped Cuban Violeta, who is living with an Jews come tothe U.S, by three Orlando family, a friend of her father's for more than 30 methods, according to Leimsidor -- via the Freedom years, said she feels "her Flotilla which has now beer family will soon be allowed to stopped by the U.S. leave Cuba." The teenager government, throucjh orderly traveled by fishing boat "packed with 250 people" departures with exit visas, and through the Venezualian from the port of MadeltoKey embassy prior to the West. She was then beginning of the Freedom transported to Miami where Flotilla. - she stayed for a couple of The Miami Refugees weeks before coming to Resettlement Agency. a Orlando to stay with the family - consortium of seven agencies of Andres and Laida Fojo. under Miami's Jewish Federa- HERITAGE has learned that the national HIAS head- tion, reported that ofthe2,000 Cuban refugees the agency quarters in Hew York may be has helped to resettle, only 24 able to help Violeta's family or so families were Jewish. come to the U.S. HIAS Agency supervisor, /Vdeline spokesman Bruce Leimsidor Arenson, said most of the said that when cases are Jewish Cubanrefugeesleftthe reported about families ami area to live with relatives required to pay large amounts across the U.S. She said some of money for exit visas, HIAS families went to California, will make attemptstohelpget Hew Jersey, New York, the family out of the country. Connecticut, Chicago, and He said that HIAS sometimes will go as far as "ransoming one to Orlando -- Violeta.The the family out." agency "provided them with a little pocket money and This information has been airplane tickets," according to relayed to Alvin Gamson, Arensen. executive director of Orlando's Jewish Family A spokesman for the Cuban Service. who has been in Hebrew Congregation in Miami said 42 Cuban Jews contact with Violeta and the have come to the congrega- Fojo family. Leimsidor said tion for help.'most of whom that Violeta must contact him have already left the area. One herself. HIAS will verify her family left for Philadelphia just story out and begin working last week. it was said. on the parents" release as Leimsidor said he believes soon as possible, that most refugees who have Orlando's JFS has asked left the Miami area. especially theJewishCommunitytohelp those without relatives Violeta who is said to need elsewhere in the LLS., will clothing, She has said she return to South Florida would like to meet Jewish because of its already large youth, "Maybe someone Cuban population. Inside HERITAGE ... State Dept., 'Leaks' and Saudi Arms ........... Page 2 Talks with Carter, Reagan ..................... Page 4 Camp JCC Opens .......................... Pages 6-7 Sewing for Sunland .......................... Page 12 REGULAR FEATURES Women's Organizations .................. Page 8 Scene Around ...... . .................... Page 9 What's Happening ...................... Page 10 HERITAGE Office Closes for July 4th The HERITAGE office will be closed Fri., July 4. Deadline for news. Bar Mitzvahs. etc.. for the Jubi 1 I issue will be Thurs., July 3. HERITAGE will still publish July 4.