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Visitors to Cuba are likely part of a person-to-person tour group, but if they are in Havana on a Friday evening and have some free time, a visit to Temple Beth Shalom may be of interest.
Cuba had a thriving Jewish community before the revolution, with as many 24,000 Jews living there in the 1920s. Today, estimates put the number of Jews at approximately 1,500.
Temple Beth Shalom, located in the Vedado neighborhood of downtown Havana, was built in 1952 and is considered to be the headquarters of the Cuban Jewish community. With much of the original temple sold to the state, only part of the structure remains in Jewish hands today. Extensive repairs were undertaken in the 1990s.
Visitors are always welcome to attend Friday night services at the synagogue, but keep in mind that it’s a conservative congregation, so they adhere to traditions such as keeping men and women separated. Also, if you’re part of a larger group, it’s best to call ahead in case the temple needs to add seats to accommodate the group. Services are free, but donations are very welcome.
Finally, it’s also possible to stay for Shabbat dinner at the temple. Reservations are required, and the cost is about $15.