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Letters to the editor

We must all co-exist

I get so frustrated to see such blatant and pervasive bad journalism where lies are painted as truth as news stories, and where broadcasters and “Hollyweed” actors/actresses are suddenly experts in geopolitical/social/environmental issues.

Few humans truly exemplify righteous values. No one escapes his/her “animalistic tendencies,” yet we can learn/grow to better understand, appreciate and respect our unique differences and at the same time strive to work together.

We must all work together to abolish bigotry, selfishness/greed and for justice/fairness. We are of one race — the human race in a world created by a “cosmic force” (or whatever one chooses to call it). Our very survival depends on our kindness and learned abilities to interact and co-exist with this, our world.

John Fasbinder, DDS

Lenexa, Kansas

Support Cuba’s Jewish community

Last month I visited Cuba with an educational group during the period of mourning and burial of Fidel Castro. My experience in this evolving dictatorship was not what I had anticipated. Because of the rapid liberalization of the past three years and President Obama’s diplomatic overtures, we enjoyed total freedom of movement on our own. Cubans spoke freely about the regime’s history of oppression and hope for the future, with Raul Castro stepping down from power at the end of this year. Censorship has been loosened, with alternative newspapers, increased Internet access, and media feeds from the West, including U.S. news channels, entertainment programs, and music. The people could not have been more friendly and welcoming to us Americans. 

In Havana we had the opportunity to visit Beth Shalom Synagogue, the largest Jewish congregation in Cuba. It is housed in a modernist building built in 1957 that also encompasses Havana’s Jewish community center, called El Patronato. With a membership of 1,200, Beth Shalom offers weekly Shabbat services and dinner, daily minyans, adult studies, Passover seders, and community celebrations of Jewish holidays. A part-time rabbi from Miami volunteers his time. The building complex also has a religious school, library, medical clinic and adult daycare activities. Founded by Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews and now affiliated with Judaism’s Conservative movement, Beth Shalom has faced membership challenges — 90 percent of Cuba’s Jews fled after the 1959 Revolution, and there is a high rate of intermarriage. To meet these challenges, the congregation has embraced Jews of all backgrounds, lifestyles and religious practices, as well as blended families with gentile relatives.

We attended a presentation given by Adela Dworin, president of the synagogue. She also serves as president of Cuba’s Hadassah, vice president of El Patronato, and historian of Havana’s Jewish community. For over 25 years, she has been the representative of Cuba’s Jews with the regime, foreign diplomats and other religious groups. She represented the Jewish community during Castro’s rapprochement with religious communities in 1992 when religions were fully legalized, and she was Cuba’s Jewish emissary to meet two popes. Dworin is an animated storyteller. She recounted a story about meeting Fidel Castro for the first time. She confronted him as to why he had never visited a Jewish institution, and he replied that he was never asked. She challenged him by inviting him to Beth Shalom’s Hanukkah celebration, and he actually attended, wore a kippah, and joined in singing and dancing.

The U.S embargo has stifled Cuba’s economic development for decades. Cubans are poor by Western standards, with an average salary of $30 a month. Cuba now permits foreign philanthropy to religious institutions. For its survival Beth Shalom must rely on financial assistance from other Jewish communities in the Diaspora, particularly the U.S. and Canada. It requires donations to support operations and maintenance and is in desperate need of siddurim, books, classroom materials and religious objects. Anyone interested is supporting Havana’s Jewish community can contribute through the Joint Distribution Committee and the Miami Jewish Federation.

Jeffrey B. Levine

Kansas City, Missouri

‘First Jewish Baby’ gift in poor taste

I am a long-time reader of The Chronicle. Each year I read the “First Jewish Baby” articles and note the gifts that are offered to the family. One of these gifts really bothered me this year.

On page 12 of the Dec. 29, 2016, issue is an ad for Gates BBQ offering the new baby his or her “first rib.” I found this quite disturbing because, obviously, Gates does not serve kosher meat, and the rib they refer to is, no doubt, a pork rib. Thus the ad is encouraging a Jewish child (and his or her family) to eat traif. And, if the new baby’s family does keep kosher, they would not be able to utilize this gift.

While not many Jews keep kosher these days, I think it is disrespectful to promote the disobedience of Jewish law. Surely The Chronicle can solicit baby gifts that do not dishonor the religion of the baby and reject ads that do.

Frieda Soble

Norwood, Massachusetts