Oy, Caramba! Cubans Turn to Judaism

But for some, religious awakening looks a lot like exit strategy
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2009 8:25 AM CST
Worshipers stand outside Havana's Patronato synagogue.   (jewishcuba.org)
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(Newser) – Cuba's Jewish community is growing for the first time in decades, the Wall Street Journal reports. The country's Jewish population dwindled to 1,000 by the late 1980s but has now hit 1,500. Hundreds of other Cuban Jews have recently emigrated, landing in Israel, Canada, and the US. Many are rediscovering long-hidden Jewish roots, but the lure for some converts is a ticket off the island.

Religious classes in Havana are packed with students interested in the lengthy conversion process. Many dream of a better life abroad. "I would be less than honest if I didn't tell you that some people want to be Jews because it offers them the chance to leave," says one Cuban Jew. Few can get the documents and funding required to emigrate, but Israel foots the bill for many.