A Post Chanukah Story and Thanks

Catching up on my e-mail messages I came across an article by Rabbi Michael Gold of Temple Beth Torah Sha’aray Tzedek in Tamarac, Florida. Rabbi Gold was the scholar-in-residence at Beth Ami about nine years ago. In his message, Rabbi Gold states that on the previous Friday, he saw the miracle of Chanukah first hand when he and his family visited Havana, Cuba. His wife’s mother and aunt grew up in Cuba. Rabbi Gold recounts visiting the Conservative synagogue and meeting its President. He continues. . . . .

We met with Adela Dworin, president of Beth Shalom, also known as El Patronato. Her English was perfect as she shared wonderful stories about her synagogue. My favorite was how she approached Fidel Castro and asked why he had never visited their synagogue. He answered that he had never been invited. So, she invited him to come on Chanukah. He asked, “What is Chanukah?” Knowing that he was a revolutionary, she answered, “It was a Jewish revolution.” “Then I’ll come.” He came and spoke (for a long time as he usually did.) There is a picture of him on the wall.

We stayed for services and a Shabbat dinner. The entire service was led by teenagers, almost the same as ours except accompanied by a piano. There were over 200 worshipers there. . . . The synagogue was alive and filled with enthusiasm.

Adela shared with us that there were periods of time in the past, under strict Communist rule, that they struggled. Religion was discouraged by the government and she said that it was often difficult to get a minyan. On the other hand, the government allowed Jews to use their ration cards to buy kosher meat since they would not use it to buy pork like other Cubans. Today it is still not easy to be a practicing Jew in Cuba. But Jewish life is coming back.

That is the true miracle of Chanukah. When the day is at its darkest, we light candles, increasing the number each day. We move from darkness to light. In Cuba, our family watched a community moving towards the light. Listening to those teenagers sing those prayers with joy and enthusiasm, we knew that Judaism will continue to grow and thrive.

Here at Beth Ami, on the eighth night we held our annual Chanukah celebration. To an extent, it too was a miracle. It was attended by 250 adults and children. I have received many positive comments about the evening. The evening’s success was due to the efforts of many individuals–volunteers and staff. A huge thank-you to Bobbie Rosenthal who coordinated the celebration. The names of volunteers and staff listed below make it apparent that “It takes a village” to create a successful event. Thank-you to everyone.

Latke Makers
Richard Kahn, Amanda Oquist
Mel Decker, Bobbie Rosenthal
Laurie Felciano, Leanne Schy
Russ Gurvetich, Ahuva Simon Sa’ar
Natalie Hoytt, Beibei Sun
Myrna Morse

Decorations
Bonnie Boren
Lyla Nathan

Nursery School Staff
Priscilla Lowell Lauren Kalmanson
Lara Brown Francis Valente
Amanda Burwasser Sarah Welton
Jessica Joerger

Catering and Clean-up
Marg Ballo, Barb McGee
Dave Ballo, Carolyn Metz
Patty Bernstein, Ken Plattner
Betty Boyd, Mark Rosen
Bernice Fox, Mark Stoelting
Judi Hyman, Myra Thomas
Judy Kupfer

Caterers
Michael Markowitz
Aaron Markowitz
Arie Markowitz

DJ, Music
Benjamin Salgado, Lisa Iskin

Staff Support
Judy Gunnar
Andrea Nett

Photographer
Jerry Newman

Publicity
Jessica Joerger
Leanne Schy

I apologize if anyone’s name has been omitted.

Shabbat Shalom,

Henry S. Cohn
President