Expert's Corner

Hello! My name is Jacqui Birchall. I am a retired Surrey (BC) high school teacher. My students and I travelled to Cuba with this wonderful people. It was an amazing experience for my students, students who cried as we left Cuba. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about how to organize your trip and any other questions you may have about Cuba. I have been lucky enough to have spent time teaching in Cuba and I have travelled extensively throughout the island. I invite you to take your classroom to Cuba with us!
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American Jews who are active members or staff of religious congregations based in the United States of America are allowed to travel to Cuba under the OFAC General License. Those Jewish Cuba travellers can make Cuba travel arrangements from the USA with any Canadian or US authorized travel provider that organizes full time itineraries of Jewish religious activities and meaningful people to people religious exchanges.

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JoJazz Havana Festival
Havana Jazz Festival
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havana book fair
habano cigar festival
Cuba's Fire Festival

Jewish Heritage Cuba Tour


Jewish Heritage Cuba Tour December 2016 Jews of Cuba in Trinidad History of Cuban Jews national hotel of Cuba Cuba Travel for American Jews

Jewish Heritage Cuba Travel is US Jewry’s Entryway into the World of Cuban Jews
From December 29, 2016 to January 5, 2017


Travel to Havana, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos & Trinidad From $2,999 (tax included)


Referral Discount: $100


Invite 1 Friend and Pay $2,899 only
Invite 2 Friends and Pay $2,799 only
Invite 3 Friends and Pay $2,699 only
Invite 4 Friends and Pay $2,599 only
Invite 10 Friends and Pay $0
And remember every person you invite will also receive a $100 discount!

Havana’s active synagogues today are Centro Sefardita and Synagoga Beth Shalom at the Patronato both built in the 1950’s in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. They practice minyamin each Sabbat and at holidays. The latter being pretty much the center of the Jewish life in the capital city. Old Havana’s Adath Israel, is the Orthodox Shul with daily minyanim. Shevet Achim, the oldest synagogue in the city, located in Old Havana is inactive now as it was deemed structurally unsound, but there are many who are trying to have the old synagogue restored as a museum.

Cuba is also now home to many smaller but active Jewish communities, each with its own character. These communities can be found in provinces outside Havana such as Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Caibarien, Campechuela, Gauntanamo, Manzanillo, and Santiago de Cuba, and all are welcoming to visitors. Santiago de Cuba’s synagogue saw its rededication back in 1995, while 1997 marked the reopening of the synagogue in Camaguey.

Authentic Cuba Travel would love to introduce the Jewish Heritage Cuba Tour that will take place from December 29, 2016 to January 5, 2017. Designed as an educational and cultural tour to Cuba for North American Jewish travellers, this 8 day trip is aimed at helping rural and urban Jewish communities in Cuba and North America to connect and to forge lifetime connections.



It serves as an opening to understand the life of Cuban Jews after the Revolution through explanations of leaders of communities, visits to different synagogues, and the interaction with Jews at their homes to learn firsthand how the community works for a better future. Along the way, you also enjoy visiting the oldest cities founded by the Spaniards in Cuba such as Trinidad and Cienfuegos both declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

With a strong mix of African and Spanish roots, Cuba is the least commercialized and largest of the Caribbean islands. A modern history that is simply enthralling as well as its status as one of the world’s last Communist bastions makes Cuba a truly unique destination, while its history of nearly complete political isolation throughout the course of many years has helped prevent the sprawl of tourism. Cuban locals are quite friendly to those who do visit the country, and our Cuba Jewish heritage tours are certainly one in a lifetime.

Cuba Jewish Travel Highlights

  • Guided tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Meet with Jewish Leaders and Members of The Sephardic Centre
  • Participate in the Daily Activities of Synagogue Beth Shalom
  • Join in for Services at the Adath Israel Temple
  • Travel to Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Travel to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Travel to Santa Clara City in Central Cuba.
  • Explore Cuba's Sugar Mill Valley, a UNESCO Heritage Site.
  • Visit Jewish Communities in Santa Clara and Cienfuegos
  • Tour of Jewish Cemeteries in Havana and Santa Clara
  • Follow in the Footsteps of Ernest Hemingway.
  • Tour Cojimar fishing village, Hemingway's favourite hangout!
  • Explore Finca La Vigia, where Hemingway lived for over 20 years.
  • Attend Shooting of the 9 O'clock Cannon, Cuba's most popular!
  • Guided tour of El Morro Fortress, founded in the 16th Century.

Notice to US citizens:

This Cuba Jewish tour could be licensable for US citizens who are members or staff or Jewish religious communities interested in participating in a Cuba tour of Jewish religious activities.

Authentic Cuba Travel is able to offer the Jewish Heritage Cuba Tour to US Jews and members or staff of US based synagogues and Jewish organizations because of new categories for Cuba legal travel introduced by OFAC last year that allow educational groups to go to Cuba as part of full time programs of religious content under the provisions of the General License.








Rebeca Langus of the Jewish Community in Cienfuegos, Cuba.
The Cuba Jewish Heritage tour will take tour participants to explore Jewish communities beyond Havana City and into the heart of authentic Cuba. We will meet with passionate and energetic Jewish community leaders such as Rebeca Langus Rodriguez who will receive our group at her home in Cienfuegos.
Chevet Ahim Synagigue in Old Havana, Cuba.
The oldest synagogue in Cuba, Old Havana’s Temple Chevet Achim, was founded back in 1914. It remained active, albeit with a fairly small minyan, until the building was determined to be structurally unsound. While still just a dream, there are many working hard to convert the structure into a museum.
Adath Israel Synagogue in Old Havana, Cuba.
Old Havana’s Adath Israel, is the Orthodox Shul that serves the city. Here, North American Jewish travelers will find the island’s only mikye. For years, support for the synagogue came in from Panama, Peru, Florida, and Toronto. For a few weeks during the summer and on each holiday, educators and rabbis were sent for. This is no longer necessary; however, as the synagogue now has enough trained people to maintain both social and religious life programs. Twice daily meals are served for those attending services, with snacks offered to those attending day programs.
Patronato Bet Shalom in Vedado, Havana, Cuba. Built back in 1952, Vedado’s Temple Beth Shalom is known as the headquarters for Cuba’s Jewish community. Only a portion of the building is owned by Jewish people, hwoever, as much of it was sold. The building was repaired extensively in the 90’s and is now home to a Jewish library.
Sephardic Hebrew Center of Cuba in Vedado, Havana, Cuba.
As part of our Jewish Cuba travel experience we will visit El Centro Sefardita. Situated in a modern building in the center of Havana’s downtown Vedado area is the Sephardic Hebrew Center of Cuba. Here, members hold weekly Kabbalat Shabbat services and Saturday morning Shacharit. All of the Jewish festivals are celebrated here, and the building plays host to a Hebrew Teachers School in addition to a Sunday School for Adults.
Hemingway Cuba Tour, Havana.
The American journalist and novelist, Ernest Hemingway settled his residence in Cuba’s Finca La Vigia around the year 1939. Although he met Fidel Castro personally only once, at a marlin fishing contest in 1960, there are numerous photos of the encounter, including one that Life magazine published that captures the moment when Hemingway handed over to Castro the contest trophy as the latter happened to catch the largest marlin.
Santa Clara Jewish Cemetery in Santa Clara, Cuba.
Travel to central Cuba to meet with the Jewish community of Santa Clara is certainly one of the many highlights of the Cuba Jewish tour. Above David Tacher of the Tikun Olam Santa Clara Jewish congregation pays his respects at a Jewish cemetery that we will also visit as part of the Jewish Cuba travel.
Originally the home for a Spanish trader named Celestino Caceres, Palacio de Valle in Cienfuegos was given as a wedding gift to Cuba’s Valle family. Situated in the aristocratic district of Punta Gorda, the palace houses an upscale restaurant today where our group will enjoy a complimentary lunch.
For those looking to immerse in the authentic Cuba that lies beyond popular beach resorts, travel to Trinidad City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and early Spanish colony should be a top priority. Renowned for its incredible preservation of both colonial buildings and streets, the historical centre of Trinidad is one of the few remaining places in the entire Latin America where the 20th century has left only a minimal visual impact on its townscape.

Not a member of a Jewish congregation? Visit Cuba legally from US



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  • Day 1. Thursday 29 December 2016. Hello Cuba

    The Jews in Cuba tour starts with an introduction to your Authentic Cuba Travel guide and bus driver upon clearing customs and immigration at the Jose Marti airport at Cuba’s capital city.

    Then tour participants will enjoy an informative bus ride to the National Hotel.

    Please, pay attention to your Cuban guide and ask all sorts of questions. Do not forget to read the orientation letter we send you in preparation of the trip before leaving home.

    With the courteous assistance of the hotel clerks and your guide, hotel checkin will run smoothly. Again, please listen to your Authentic Cuba guide as he/ she provides orientation on the hotel main facilities. Do notice that breakfast is complimentary and served daily at the lower level buffet restaurant.

    Day 2. Friday 30 December 2016. Jewish Communities in Old Havana

    Morning: We begin the day with the chance to get up close and personal with the Jewish community at Adath Israel Temple.

    Adath Israel was originally located in Old Havana, with the Knesseth Israel located next door. The two congregations decided to merge together in February of 1949, some two decades after they split apart. The new single congregation went by the shortly-lived name of Ahdut Yisrael, and on April 1, 1948, Meir Rosenbaum was elected to the position of Rabbi.

    After visiting Adath Israel, we will go for a ride to the other side of Havana's bay to visit Guanabacoa’s Jewish Cemetery.

    Consecrating a separate Jewish cemetery was not a simple affair. Although there was official separation of church and state in post-Spanish Cuba, the Roman Catholic Church still held a monopoly regarding death and burial. The cemetery, consecrated in 1910, is in Guanabacoa, a neighborhood across the Bay of Havana. First settled by Europeans in the 16th century, Guanabacoa was a poor area, until wealthy residents moved in during the 1920s and 1930s.

    There’s a new wave of private restaurants that has swept the Cuban capital offering exciting cuisine in atmospheric surroundings. Today we’ll enjoy a welcome lunch at the stylish La California, a family-run restaurant.

    Afternoon: our afternoon will begin with a guided walking tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Havana.

    Led by the expert hand of our Authentic Cuba Travel guide, we will visit the Cathedral Square, a Cuban colonial plaza that was named after the Cathedral of San Cristobal de La Habana completed in the 18th century using slave labor and coral stones from the area. With an imposing theatrical frame, the Cathedral’s façade is considered by Cuban scholars as the prettiest baroque example of Cuba’s colonial architecture

    Our next stop will be the Plaza de Armas, which Spanish soldiers used as military parade grounds during colonial times, hence its name in English Square of Arms. This is the oldest square in the city and the original site of foundation of Villa de San Cristobal in 1519. A historical event marked by a little chapel known as El Templete at the eastern edge of the square.

    Evidence of the ancient historical pedigree of Plaza de Armas can be found in Castillo de la Real Fuerza, which is the West Indies’ second oldest Spanish-built fortress. In June of 2008, the castle was renovated and then reopened as a stunning maritime museum that charts the naval histories of Spain and Cuba.

    For over two centuries, the Fortress of the Royal Force was the seat of the Spanish rulers in the island until the Palace of the Captain Generals was finished in the late 18th century. The palace stands imposing on the western side of the Square of Arms with wide porticoes and balconies. It was also used as the presidential palace in the early 20th century. Today it contains the Museum of the City.

    Next we will walk towards San Francisco Square that dates back to the 16th century when it was used to provide Spanish galleons with water and supplies before continuing on journey to Las Americas. Named after the former Basilica de San Francisco whose church tower stands as the highest in Old Havana, the Plaza had an active mercantile life during colonial times.

    From here, we will move to the only Havana civic square that dates back to colonial times, Plaza Vieja. Observant travellers will note that there are no government or religious buildings in this section. Instead, however, there are many major institutions for Cuban visual arts.

    Tour participants of this Cuban Jews discovery tour will then enjoy free time at Old Havana’s famed handicraft market, where locally made souvenirs and crafts are available for purchase.

    We will then return to the hotel for some refreshments before tonight's evening venue.

    Evening: before the night draws to a close, tour participants of this authentic Cuba tour will have the opportunity to attend the Fire of the Cannon of 9 O'Clock, a tradition held at the Fortress of San Carlos de Cabana that dates back to colonial times and it is considered one of Havana’s oldest and most popular ceremonies.

    Day 3. Saturday 31 December 2017. Follow in the Footsteps of Ernest Hemingway

    Morning: this morning our Jewish Heritage Cuba tour will take us to The Sephardic Centre to participate in morning services. We will also meet with Mayra Levy who will give us a tour the temple and learn more about the history of Cuba’s Sephardic Jews. Afterwards we will enjoy a bus ride to Old Havana where we will pay a visit to Chevet Achim, the oldest synagogue in Cuba, which was built back in 1914 and is today maintained by the Centro Sefardita.

    Next our Authentic Cuba journey will take us to Cojimar, a fishing village where famed novelist and writer Ernest Hemingway parked Pilar, his beloved boat. A commemorative bust of the author, created from melted propellers and encircled by a gazebo, can be found here as a remembrance of the prescence of the author in Cojimar.

    Lunch is not included in tour cost today, and we suggest Las Terrazas restaurant if you are up to a venue filled with Hemingway’s atmosphere and décor.

    From the village, we will move on to visit Finca La Vigia, a villa situated on a hilltop about 20 km east of the city of Havana. This villa is where Ernest Hemingway resided from 1939 until 1960. Popular Hemingway works such as Islands in the Stream, The Old Man and the Sea, and Across the River and Into the Trees were written here.

    For the past 49 years, the villa has served as a museum displaying manuscripts of the writer’s books and short stories, more than 3000 photos, letters, and more. There is an art collection that is considered priceless as well as a library of more than 9000 volumes, including many highly sought after first editions by Hemingway and other writers.

    The author’s guns and fishing tackle are also on display here. The village of Finca Vigia is included on two endangered places lists: 11 Most Endangered Places by The National Trust for Historic Preservation and 100 Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund.

    Evening: celebrate New Year’s Eve at a venue of your choosing tonight (optional/ not included in tour costs). Your tour guide will give you advice on the numerous venues in the city where you can partake in the celebrations for New Year’s Eve. He will also help you book your favourite dinner and event. Your hotel tour desk can also help with booking events for this special night where one more anniversary of the Cuba Revolution is also celebrated.

    Day 4. Sunday 1 January 2017. Exploring Havana

    This morning we will learn about Cuba’s maritime history at the Fortaleza de Los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (El Morro Fortress). The fortress was built in the 16th century to guard the entrance to the Bay of Havana from the attack of pirates and corsairs. Sitting on a rocky bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean it displays breathtaking views over Havana city. Showcasing an iconic lighthouse, 3 metter thick walls and deep moats, The Fortress has been a landmark of Cuba’s military architecture for centuries.

    Inside the Fortress, there’s also a Cigar Store that carries all brands of Habanos. Your tour guide will show you to the store where you can puff the famous Cuban cigars.

    Lunch is optional today, and your Authentic Cuba Travel guide will point you in the right direction to find excellent eateries abundant in the area. Ask him about local authentic Cuba's Paladares (private businesses)!

    Afternoon: next, we will visit the Cuban Art Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts. Here, we will see how Cuban visual arts have evolved over the course of three centuries influenced by the particular demographics of the country a mix of African, Spanish and Chinese bloods; by European and American trends; and by the socio- economic realities of the country at different point times of its history.

    Evening: tonight we will visit La Zorra y El Cuervo, where we will have the opportunity to listen to Sonjazz, Cubajazz, and Afrojazz. Widely renowned as the most famous of Havana’s Jazz clubs, tour Cuba travellers will get to enjoy live performances by local Cuban soloists and bands. This event is optional and is not included in tour pricing.

    Day 5. Monday 2 January 2017. Cuba Explorer Hats On!

    Morning: it is time to wear our Cuba explorer hats and hit the road to visit Cuba’s countryside. We will head eastern towards Santa Clara city, the capital city of Villa Clara province. Founded in 1689 by inhabitants of the coastal town of Remedios who grew tired of pirate attacks and wanted a more inland location, the city is renowned for being the last battle site in the Cuban Revolution.

    Led by famed revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, the battle took place at the end of 1958 with Guevara and his column capturing the Fomento garrison. A bulldozer was used to destroy the city’s railroad tracks, derailing a train loaded with Batista’s supplies and troops. Once the city had been taken, it was a matter of less than twelve hours before Batista fled the island.

    Our Jewish Heritage tour will take the time to explore the Ernesto Che Guevara Square of Revolution and Mausoleum, the final resting place of Che as well as 16 of Guevara’s men who were killed in a 1967 battle in Bolivia. The complex also contains a large square where parades and rallies are held, a mausoleum crypt featuring a display with photos, memorabilia, and artifacts regarding Che Guevara, and a monument of Santa Clara's heroic guerilla fighter, all together to give visitors an in-depth look at the life of the revolutionary.

    From the museum, we will head to the Los Caneyes Hotel for a late yet complimentary lunch.

    Afternoon: meeting with leader, David Tacher and members of Jewish Community Tikun Olam in Santa Clara.

    Visit to the Jewish Cemetery and new synagogue.

    Around 4 o'clock, we will continue our journey and head to the Caribbean southern-central city of Cienfuegos, one of the largest industrial cities of Cuba today. Perhaps better known for the dormant unfinished nuclear power plant started by the Soviets just before the collapse of the Socialist block in Eastern Europe, the plant was never finished.

    Cienfuegos' Historical Centre was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the well-preserved wealth of imposing neoclassical buildings it contains.

    Upon arrival at the city we will head straight to the Jagua Hotel for check in. The hotel is located in Punta Gorda, a district in the southern part of Cienfuegos with beautiful views over the waters of the Bay of Cienfuegos. Dinner is complimentary at the hotel tonight.

    Day 6. Tuesday 3 January 2017. Day trip to Trinidad

    Morning: today we will embark on the exploration of one of Cuba’s most authentic colonial cities. In fact, no other city is Cuba is charge with such a colonial atmosphere as beautiful Trinidad.

    The best way to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site is by foot. Trinidad is a faultless remnant of the early colonial days with beautifully conserved cobblestone streets and mansions with barely a trace modern times.

    We will pay a visit to the Museum of Municipal History of Trinidad.

    We will visit the Architecture Museum of Trinidad which houses an incredible array of samples representative of the Trinitarian architectural development in the 1700’s and 1800’s. The mansion was the former residence of one of Trinidad’s wealthiest families, the Sanchez Iznaga who owned extensive sugar cane plantations in the Sugar Mill Valley.

    Another mansion surrounding the Plaza Mayor (town’s central square) is the one of the Counts of Brunet housing today the arguably most visited of museums in Trinidad. The Romantic Museum showcases the typical domestic daily life and decorative objects (porcelain, glass, paintings and furniture) of Trinidad’s aristocracy.

    Displaying a collection of trucks, weapons, items related to the Cuban Revolution struggle to get rid of counter-revolutionary military gangs operating in the Escambray Mountains in the early 1960’s, we will visit the Museo de La Lucha contra Bandidos that occupies the area of the former Convento de San Francisco.

    Lunch on your own.

    Trinidad is famous for its many pottery makers, and before departing, we will take the time to meet The Santanders; a family that’s been passing down the authentic Cuba’s tradition of making pottery for generations.

    We will make a stop at a lookout point over the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sugar Mill Valley for a panoramic view of the breathtaking natural beauty of the fertile plains where Trinidad’s sugar cane plantation owners established their estates and mills.

    Before heading back to our hotel in Cienfuegos, we will enjoy some free time in the historical center for some last minute shopping in the array of street markets that of the city.

    Dinner is complimentary today at paladar El Tranvia, one of the top paladares in Cienfuegos city.

    Day 7. Wednesday 4 January 2017. Strengthening ties with Cienfuegos Jews

    Morning: our morning will start with the opportunity to meet Rebecca Langus and members of Cienfuegos’ Jewish Community. Please do notice that Cienfuegos does not have a synagogue for prayers, with Jewish community members instead attending Shabbat services at the apartment of leader Rebecca Langus every Friday night. Langus, 43, resides in an apartment on the second floor with her two sons and her husband. The apartment is notably decorated with Jewish prayer books and other religious items, as well as beautiful Jewish art.

    Our Jewish Heritage tour participants will spend some time on a Cienfuegos Historical Center walking tour guided by our expert Authentic Cuba Travel guide, giving us the chance to see another of Cuba’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The surroundings of Jose Marti Square and Paseo del Prado will be a large part of our tour and will provide visitors with the opportunity to see some of the town’s neoclassical style buildings.

    One of the first buildings we will visit is the Tomas Terry Theatre. Built in 1895, the theatre is named for a Venezuelan sugar baron who was actually poor when he arrived on the island of Cuba, only to gain wealth by purchasing sick slaves at very low prices and nursing them to health before reselling them at a higher price. We will also visit the Casa de la Cultura, a gorgeous neoclassical mansion that was once the home of a different Cuban sugar baron.

    The Cathedral is also on our list of city’s attractions to visit, and inside Cuba tour participants will have the opportunity to view original French imported stained glass reproductions depicting the biblical 12 apostles. Another French contribution to the Cathedral is the clock tower’s inner machinery, which is still functioning to this day. The Cathedral was funded by donations from wealthy families of the time, including the Terrys, the Lebrancs, and the Albis families.

    Last, we will visit the Galeria de Arte Maroya and their magnificent collections of antiques, sculptures, and paintings before returning to the hotel.

    Then we will visit the famed Palacio de Valle. The Moorish-style palace was built at a cost of over 1 million pesos. Artisans from Italy, Spain and Cuba worked on a variety of expensive materials such as marble and alabaster brought in from Europe and United States. The entryway is a sort of eclectic Gothic style that opens to the lavish dining room of clearly Moorish influence in an attempt to duplicate the famous Patio de Los Leones in Granada.

    Today it houses a restaurant which is among Cienfuegos' best where we will enjoy a complimentary lunch. As we wait for our lunch to be served, it's worthy to go to the rooftop of the building for a unique view of the Bay and City of Cienfuegos. Do not miss the dome of the nuclear power plant across the bay.

    Afternoon: Transfer to Havana City.

    Check in at Hotel Nacional.

    In the late afternoon, we will visit the Ashkenazic Beth Shalom Synagogue, El Patronato Synagogue, where tour participants will get to meet Adela Dworin, a Jewish community leader. We will partake in the religious services. Then we will have dinner at El Patronato.

    Day 8. Thursday 5 January 2017. The Jewish Heritage Cuba Tour Comes to an End

    Visit to the Beth Shalom synagogue, better known as El Patronato de La Comunidad Hebrea to part take in the services (optional).

    We will depart early in the morning to Havana City International Airport so that our tour participants may catch their flights back home.



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