In first, Cubans to join ‘Birthright for Jewish moms’ to Israel

Momentum Israel trip, partly funded by Diaspora Ministry, begins reaching out to Spanish speakers across Latin America

Participants in an Israel trip aimed at Jewish mothers sponsored by the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project. (Aviram Waldman/JTA)
Participants in an Israel trip aimed at Jewish mothers sponsored by the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project. (Aviram Waldman/JTA)

The first Cuban delegation will participate in the “Birthright for Jewish moms” trip to Israel, as the sponsoring group works to expand its reach in Latin America.

Sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, the participants in Momentum Israel, as the trip is actually called, will visit the country from May 9 to May 18, and will observe Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day.

“The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project is investing in expanding our partnerships in Latin America, engaging Spanish-speaking translators, teachers and trip leaders,” Lori Palatnik, founding director of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, told JTA.

The trip will be the first made up only of Spanish-speaking participants. Groups from all over Latin American will join the participants in Israel, including 10 people from Cancun, Mexico; 10 from Cuba; nine from Cordoba, Argentina; 56 from Mexico City; 23 from Panama City, and 20 from Santiago, Chile. A second Spanish-speaking group arriving on May 16 will include 28 participants from Mexico, 26 from Buenos Aires; 11 from Miami, and 10 from Madrid.

“In the synagogue in Havana, I saw four yartzeit (memorial) boards with 200 plaques, remembering those from past generations. There were no bulbs beside the names, because you cannot buy them there. I took pictures of the socket, thinking I would buy bulbs in the US and bring them back. But then I realized, those who founded the community are not asking for bulbs to be remembered, they are crying out for us to save their grandchildren and great-grandchildren from further assimilation,” Palatnik said.

The Templo Beth Shalom synagogue in Havana, Cuba. (CC BY-SA 3.0 NYC2TLV/Wikipedia)
The Templo Beth Shalom synagogue in Havana, Cuba. (CC BY-SA 3.0 NYC2TLV/Wikipedia)

Since 2009, more than 7,300 women from 150 partner organizations in 26 countries have participated in Momentum Israel, according to the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.

Galia Rubinstein, who oversees the group’s Latin American partnerships, underlined that growth in the region is an integral piece of this effort. “Our goal is to engage as many Jews as possible — where many are disconnected to Jewish values. We want to increase our presence in Latin America, as well as our impact,” Rubinstein said.

Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is partnering with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project in bringing Jewish women on trips to Israel. The ministry announced in March a $12.5 million expansion of the program during the AIPAC policy conference in Washington. The Israeli government will provide $5.1 million and the group will raise the rest.

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