A forty-four minute flight from Miami is all it takes to be transported into a postcard from some other time and place. As Cuba’s closest neighbor, the U.S. border may be close, but—completely isolated from one another—our daily lives could not be more different.
This tiny island captured our minds and our hearts. With contradictions as thick as the cigar smoke in the air, Cuba displays a richness of spirit deeper than ever imagined. The average person has nothing much in terms of tangible goods. Choice is not a part of their daily vocabulary. Their homes and surroundings stand (barely) in decay. Yet these people are brilliant stars—literally emerging from rubble and bursting with pride for their country, welcoming the stranger on the street, embracing their love of life and expressing it through music, dance and art, no matter which street corner you are standing on.
Experiencing Cuba through a Jewish lens, we were able to get a sense of the resilience of these amazing people. Only 1500 Jews still remain on the island, but their commitment to and love of Judaism are apparent. This was an incredible opportunity to share our commonality through Hebrew language, prayer, Shabbat ritual and familiar tunes. And it provided us with moments of deep clarity regarding what is truly important in our lives: being present, living in the moment, cherishing our loved ones and families, and being kind to each other, the values we have all learned through Torah and our own, very privileged community. We learned that the dishes and glasses do not need to match; that the bar is not set by the embellishments we see, rather by what we are feeling on the inside.
This was a life-changing trip for me; I hope to integrate bits and pieces of Cuba into my life and weave them throughout all my days to come.