The holiest holidays of the Jewish faith — Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah — are a time of repenting for one’s sins at the start of the New Year on the Jewish calendar. Coincidentally, they often occur during Hispanic Heritage Month in September or October. While you might not think that Hispanic Heritage has much to do with the Jewish New Year, Jewish communities are quite alive in Latin America. Here’s how theses Jewish communities in six countries in Latin America ring in the New Year.
First arriving in the early 1900s from America and then from Europe during the Holocaust, the Jewish community grew to about 20,000 by 1953 when the largest synagogue in Havana was built. It dwindled to around 1,500 by the time the revolution started in 1959 since Fidel Castro banned religion and nationalized Cuban businesses, driving the many Jewish business owners off the island. For this reason, the Jewish community in Cuba has a divergent history—with those in Miami becoming known as “Jewbans” and those remaining in Cuba the “Jubanos.”
The small number of Jubanos are slowly making a comeback — when freedom of religion was allowed again in Cuba in 1992, there was a resurgence of the Jewish community on the island. They continue to thrive, and still make every effort to bring together their people in homes and synagogues for holidays. Havana is home to a proud Sephardic Center showcasing the history of Cuban Jews. You might be surprised to know that actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler of the Sopranos is Jewish — her Cuban mother converted to Judaism after marrying her Greek/Romanian Jewish father.