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Federation Women Support Nutrition and Education in Cuba

Cuba’s Jewish population, once 15,000 strong, is now a tiny remnant estimated at about 1,100 people. Since the government lifted the ban on religious practice, they are thriving as a community, however they remain economically fragile. Like all Cubans, Jews live with food rationing and lack many basic resources. Milk, which has so many nutritional benefits, is a commodity in short supply and is only provided to children under the age of seven. That’s why, on their recent Federation and Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) mission to Cuba, Atlanta women took on the mitzvah of supporting a milk program and a Sunday school for Cuban Jewish children and teenagers. The Sunday school is held at El Patronato, Havana’s Jewish Community Center and Conservative synagogue. Children learn about Jewish holidays, and culture, study bible and learn Hebrew. Adults have classes at the nearby Sephardic Hebrew Center. “Cuba’s Jews are so vulnerable,” said Debbie Schafer, Director of Women’s Philanthropy. “The Atlanta women chose the milk project because they are mothers! It was a simple and satisfying way enhance the educational and nutritional needs of children and teens.”

In Cuba, the government provides 1 kg. of powdered milk per month per child through its ration stores. Thanks to the generosity of our Women’s Mission, extra powdered milk is now given to all Jewish students (under age 25) who attend classes at El Patronato, are enrolled in school during the week and do not have jobs. The same 1 kg. of milk is also given to the fourteen Sunday school teachers. In addition, all students — children, teens, youth and adults — are offered a glass of milk with their snack during a break in Sunday school.

This October 10-14, Federation and JDC are offering another Atlanta community mission to Cuba to shine a light on Jewish community needs. Like all JDC-sponsored trips, participants will also have opportunities to support ongoing projects in Cuba to make the lives of Cuban Jews better. Reservations are on a first-come-first-served basis. If you would like more information about the trip, please contact Staci Eichelbaum, Director of Philanthropy.

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