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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Members of Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest traveled to Cuba with the mission to build a relationship with the 1,500 Jewish people who live there.

For Cantor Rachelle Nelson, it was a trip that came just a few weeks before losing her mother.

“I was really there in memory for my mother who was born in Cuba of Russian immigrant parents,” Nelson explained. “Her dream was always to come back into visit her homeland where she spent the first three years of life. To her, it was her homeland. And her love of the Cuban people of how they so graciously opened their arms to the Jews.”

It was a very personal journey for Nelson – for others, the trip was a mission.

The group brought along medical supplies and medication to stock the shelves of the temple in Havana.

It was also an education on the lives of Jewish people on the island under the Castro government.

“The people that we spoke with felt that there was no prejudice and they felt that there was no prejudice over time against religious expression, you know, whether it be Jewish or Catholic or whatever,” said Lynn Neifeld. “They feel like they can express their opinions they could worship without any bias.”

Although language and culture separated the two congregations, they say they bonded in faith and through music.

“It was beautiful because they don’t have a lot of material things but they have spirit,” said Marsha Reisman. “This was a moment when we all said whatever the politics it’s not important here.”

They spent four days in Havana before coming home Monday afternoon.


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