Boynton Beach-Ross Palm Beach Gardens
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PALM BEACH GARDENS (March 20, 2013) – Earlier this year, two dozen participants joined the JCC for a week-long inspirational and educational trip to Cuba. The trip this year, which was filled to capacity, also included JCC development director, Carolyn Rose, and travel associate, Eileen Shapiro, along with Rabbi Howard Shapiro, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel.

During the journey, the group enjoyed a walking tour of the old city, and enjoyed dinner at a government-run restaurant. Music is everywhere in Havana and this dinner was no exception.

“One of our participants, Dan Ephriam, joined the trio of performers on the piano where they played a rousing version of Hava Nagila, which was the topic of the opening night film of this year’s Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival, and got many diners in Cuba on their feet for song and dance,” said Shapiro.

During the trip, they also had the opportunity to visit two synagogues and deliver important donations of prescription and over-the-counter medicine, eye glasses, school supplies, religious goods, ballet shoes and leotards. They traveled to museums, visited Las Terrazas, a Biosphere reserve outside of the city, and heard lectures including one from Dr. Marritza Corrales, professor at the University of Havana and a Jewish historian.

The 24 attendees patronized craft markets, Tropicana night club and the Ballet, spent time at a Jewish cemetery undergoing refurbishment, and visited the Holocaust Memorial, the first one erected in the Western Hemisphere, where they said the Jewish mourners Kaddish. They saw Hemmingway’s estate, and met some of the 1,500 Jews (an unofficial count) who live in Cuba; it was a revealing moment.

A major highlight of the trip was Shabbat services at the Patronato Synogogue where Rabbi Shapiro gave the sermon. Sharon Seidner, a participant from Boynton Beach and a retired Spanish teacher, would translate the Rabbi’s sermon to the congregation.

“During the trip we asked our guide how Cubans live because pay is so limited and therefore the people are so poor; she requested we ask her again at the end of the trip after you see their faces, speak to them and learn more about their culture,” shared Shapiro. “We discovered that Cubans seem to be happy, and at least at peace with their world.”

The JCC is currently reserving spaces for its next three missions, and also offer private tours. For those interested in traveling with friend and family. A leadership trip for professionals is being planned as well. For details, contact Shapiro at 561-712-5234 or [email protected]

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