Beth Shalom Synagogue: a symbol of the Jewish Cuba

Apr 17, 2024By Abel Hernández Eskenazi
Abel Hernández Eskenazi

The History of the Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana

Beth Shalom Synagogue, located in the heart of Havana, is a testament to the rich Jewish heritage that has thrived in Cuba for centuries. This historic synagogue stands as a symbol of resilience and community, reflecting the diverse cultural tapestry of the country.

Origins and Architecture

Founded in 1953, Beth Shalom Synagogue was built during a time of prosperity for the Cuban Jewish community. It is part of a huge building: El Patronato de la Casa de la Comunidad Hebrea de Cuba, supported by the most wealthy part of the Ashkenazi community in Havana. The architect of this site was Aquiles Capablanca, family member of the famous Cuban chess player José Raúl Capablanca. Aquiles designed a unique and beautiful space for worship and reflection.

Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana

Cultural Significance

Throughout its history, Beth Shalom Synagogue has served as a hub for Jewish cultural and religious activities in Havana. From weekly Shabbat services to holiday celebrations, the synagogue plays a vital role in preserving Jewish traditions in Cuba.

The temple is full of allegorical symbols of this millenary culture: the menorah, the 12 tribes of Israel, an arch that symbolizes the rainbow after the flood that God sent over the world and that is told in Genesis, among others.

Community Outreach

In addition to its religious services, Synagogue Beth Shalom is actively involved in community outreach programs. The synagogue hosts educational events, cultural exchanges, and charitable initiatives to support both the Jewish community and the wider Cuban society.

Religious service in Beth Shalom Synagogue

Restoration Efforts

In 1999 this synagogue was in a very deteriorated state due to the inactivity and the migrations suffered by the Cuban Jewish community between the 1960s and 1980s. Thanks to the leadership of important Jewish personalities in the Cuban community such as Dr. José Miller and Adela Dworin; as well as the economic support of the JDC (American Joint Distribution Committee), Cuban Jewish families living in South Florida and other donors from the United States, it was possible to carry out a total restoration of the building that lasted several years and that resulted in the appearance it preserves today.

Inside of the Beth Shalom Synagogue

Visiting Synagogue Beth Shalom

For those interested in exploring the history of Cuban Jewry, a visit to Beth Shalom Synagogue is a must. Guided tours are available for visitors to learn about the synagogue's past, present, and future, providing a deeper understanding of the Jewish experience in Cuba.

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Beth Shalom Synagogue Visit

Legacy and Future

As Beth Shalom continues to thrive in Havana, its legacy serves as a reminder of the enduring strength of the Cuban Jewish community. With a commitment to tradition and innovation, the synagogue looks towards the future with hope and resilience.

Exploring the rich history of Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana offers a glimpse into the vibrant cultural heritage of Cuba's Jewish population. From its architectural beauty to its community engagement, the synagogue stands as a beacon of faith and unity in the heart of the Caribbean.

Hanukkah celebration in Beth Shalom Synagogue