Jewish Cuba

Cuba has been a refuge for Jews since 1492, when conversos sought a safe haven from the Spanish Inquisition. Today, a tiny but united community of one thousand remains after more than five hundred years of history and five distinct waves of Jewish immigration.  Our journey affords you a unique opportunity to interact with people from the community, participate in an Erev Shabbat service at one of the oldest synagogues in Havana and provide much needed assistance and aid to those who share our lineage.   

Beyond Judaism, you will also have the chance to interact with Cuban artists, educators, historians, musicians, shop owners and everyday people to learn about the Cuban culture, including the similarities and differences between the Jewish-American experience and the Jewish-Cuban experience. 

Finally, we’ll get to see all of the iconic places that make Cuba a must-see destination.  We’ll ride in classic American cars, dance the salsa, eat delicious Cuban food and tour Old Havana, where we can listen to Cuban jazz, drink rum and learn how Cuban cigars are made.  

 

Upon arrival, your private guide will meet you at the airport for a trouble-free beginning to your island adventure.

While your luggage is being delivered to your room, your first stop will be the Plaza de la Revolución, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site.  Here you will learn about the historical significance of this square as a key political stage not only for Cuban leaders such as Fidel Castro, but foreign dignitaries as well, such as Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.

Following your visit to the plaza, Chateau Blanc welcomes you with a classic Cuban cocktail as you check in and get settled for your next adventure.   

A delicious authentic Cuban welcome dinner awaits you at Chateau Blanc, where you can relax on the rooftop bar and enjoy a cocktail or sample some of the finest habanos (cigars).

Following dinner, we will attend the changing of the guard ceremony at the Fortress San Carlos de le Cabaña, also known as el Canoñazo, to watch the nightly firing of the cannon, whose loud bursts can be heard throughout the city for miles.  This ceremony signals the traditional closing of the gates to the city at exactly 9:00 PM.

Included in your itinerary:

  • transfer from airport
  • transportation
  • entry fees
  • dinner

After breakfast, a short ride takes you to Habana Vieja (Colonial Havana), where the city was born and recently celebrated the 500th anniversary of its founding.  Painted in the pastel colors typical of the region but with the feel of a continental European capital, you’ll walk down quaint cobblestone streets lined with shops, eateries, music halls and other attractions and explore the four main plazas in the area: San Francisco Square, Old Square, Main Square and Cathedral Square, as well as visit the Capitol Building, Grand Theatre of Havana, Central Park and Obispo Street.   Take your time to soak in the spirit of the city and interact with the locals.

We begin with a tour of the old city and visit to Museo de La Revolución (Museum of The Revolution), where you can see history of world events told from the Cuban point of view.  From there the tour continues and includes:

 

  • Walk through the four main squares of Old Havana.
  • Visit to the Hotel Raquel and the Orthodox Synagogue, Adath Israel.
  • A stop at the legendary Hemingway hangouts (Bodeguita del Medio, Sloppy Joe’s, Ambos Mundos Hotel) where you can relax with a drink.
  • At 3:30PM we’ll convene at POSH to hear a speaker on The History of Jews in Cuba.

Following dinner, visit the iconic Hotel Nacional, a seaside hotel frequented by the rich and famous, and the best place in the city to enjoy a cigar by the water. Take your time, roam the garden, watch the peacocks and take in the majestic view of the El Morro in the distance.

 

Optional: Take in some great Cuban jazz at La Zorra y el Cuervo (the “Fox and the Raven”) or the Jazz Club. (Cover is normally 10 CUC$ which also entitles you to a couple of drinks).

Included in your itinerary:

  • continental breakfast 
  • transportation
  • entrance fees
  • lunch
  • dinner

We begin with a visit to El Patronato, the conservative Jewish community synagogue which also serves as the Jewish community center of Cuba. We’ll meet with community leaders and listen to a presentation of the history of Jews in Cuba – before and after the revolution – and have an opportunity to ask questions from the people who lived through both eras.

Visit the Havana Club Rum Museum to learn the history of rum in Cuba, including free samples and a store where you can purchase high quality Cuban rums.

Visit to the Almacenes de San Jose, a mile-long local craft market in Havana, where you’ll find booths filled to the rim with locally produced pottery, jewelry, musical instruments and paintings.  You are encouraged to speak directly to the artists, ask questions while giving them a welcomed chance to practice their English.  As with most places, prices are negotiable and many quality works can be purchased at reasonable prices.

A stay in Cuba would not be complete without taking a trip in one of the famous American classics. Awaiting you  will be 1940s and 1950s-era gems from a foregone era ready to take you back to Chateau Blanc through El Bosque de La Habana, a serene wooded area where the hanging green curtains of the giant jaguey trees dazzle and where the banks are host to some fascinating Santeria rituals.,

We’ll wrap up our day with a relaxing  dinner at POSH.

Optional: Following dinner we are off to Fabrica de Arte Cubano or F.A.C.  This Cuban art “factory”, was originally the headquarters for Havana’s electric company and then converted to an olive oil factory prior to becoming the “it” place in Havana for art, music, cinema and dance.  This amazing place was voted Top 100 Places by Time Magazine. Join in and become a part of this unique Cuban experience.

Included in your itinerary:

  • continental breakfast
  • transportation
  • lunch
  • Dinner
  • Entry fees
 

Breakfast at Chateau Blanc.

Following breakfast, we’ll visit the United Hebrew Congregation Cemetery – the first of its kind in Cuba – on the outskirts of the city.  While in a state of  some disrepair, youth groups from the US have come to restore the graves and grounds to dignify the ancestors and history of Cuban Jews. 

On our way back to town, we’ll stop at Finca Vigía or the “Lookout House”, where Ernest Hemingway penned some of his most important works including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.  The house remains exactly the way he left it on July 25, 1960, and artifacts from his life there are on display.

Once back in the city, we’ll visit the Centro Hebreo Sefaradí Synagogue, which is affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.   We’ll walk through the Holocaust Museum and meet with community members to discuss religion in Cuba.                                                   

Optional: Live music at a local club featuring popular local artists.

 Included in your itinerary:
  • breakfast
  • lunch
  • entrance fees
  • dinner

After breakfast, we will stroll through the whimsical, mosaic-filled neighborhood known as Fusterlandia created by the “Picasso of the Caribbean”, José Rodríguez Fuster.  This art installation, which encompasses the entire block, includes the artist’s home where you might bump into the Fuster himself and pick up a memento or two at his gallery.c tile.

We’ll explore the Muraleando Community Project (//www.muraleando.org/) where the streets are filled with murals and art installations made by local artists.   Originally a series of art workshops for locals conducted by local artists Manuel Diaz Baldrich and Ernesto Quirch Paz, Muraleando (mural-making) has evolved into its own subculture,  transforming the neighborhood into an art gallery with murals, sculptures and other art forms depicting everyday life in Cuba. 

Finally, we’ll learn the history of tobacco in Cuba and see a cigar rolling demonstration, where you’ll have an opportunity to purchase your own cigars to take with you.

Visit the studio of one of Cuba’s special artists; Enrique Avila,  the man who created the world-famous Che Guevara sculpture you saw upon your arrival. You will have an opportunity to speak to the artist himself, see his work, and hear about his fascinating life.

We’ll wrap up the day with our farewell Dinner at Chateau Blanc

 

Breakfast at Chateau Blanc before taking your private transfer to José Martí International Airport for your return home.