An Island within an Island - the Jews of Cuba

Exhibition Curator: Eli Atias | Chief Curator: Orit Shaham Gover
In collaboration with the Joint and the JDOCU Group
On display until September 1, 2014, in the lobby

Free Admittance 

About the Exhibition

“The Island within the Island – A Look at the Jews of Cuba” conveys an understanding of this special Jewish community and tells its story.

From the beginning of the 20th century, Cuba was a safe haven for Jews from Eastern and Western Europe. The immigration movement peaked during World War II, when tens of thousands came to Cuba’s beaches. As a result of the large immigration, synagogues, schools, cemeteries and community institutions were established. They still serve the community, even after many of its members abandoned the island for the United States and Israel. The Jews remaining in Cuba maintain their traditions and continue to foster mutual responsibility for each other, thereby preserving their community.

Sepharadic Synagogue in Havana by Benny Levin

“And They Shall Be as a Sign”. The central synagogue in Havana. Photo: Benny Levin

JDOCU members, a group of amateur photographers most of whom work in high-tech, aims to document Jewish communities worldwide and to expound upon the individual’s contribution and support to society as a whole. The group landed in Cuba on November 2012, fifty years after the missile crisis which threatened world peace in 1963. Subsequently, Cuba faced a strict ongoing economic boycott by the United States. Its economy is in ruins and it’s as if time has stood still. In the heart of this isolated island, the photographers discovered another island – a small Jewish community which is warm and supportive of its members. This exciting story of the community is conveyed through the photo exhibition, “An Island within an Island – a Look at the Jews of Cuba, 2012”.

The Gates to Eternal Life

The Gates to Eternal Life. Entrance to the Jewish cemetery, Havana. Photo: Amir Halevy

Yet, with love and commitment, the Jews who did stay on the island continued to build their Sephardi and Ashkenazi synagogues and schools and communal institutions. The members of Jdocu took pictures, family by family. They are filled with a sense of urgency and pride, and when they look into to the camera you hear them say: We are proud Cubans.  We’ve held on for all these long and difficult years.  And we are proud of who we are. We are part of the Jewish people.

Leisure in Red

Leisure in Red. Havana. Photo: Amir Halevy


Brother. Reflection in a store window

Brother. Reflection in a store window, Havana. Photo: Eli Atias



Reflections. A street in Havana. Photo: Benny Levin

The photographers of JDOCU who travelled to Cuba to document the small Jewish community, in collaboration with the World Joint organization which works for the community, presents them as part of the general public, as a community, as families and as individuals who have tied their fate to the fate of this country. When they look into the cameras’ lens, they declare: We are proud Cubans! We remained on this isolated island, and always preserve who we and the Jewish people.

“We have been privileged to document a community and process human data as digital raw material containing our accumulated experiences. Each time we entered another home or another office, we were astonished by the encounter with the language, the ceremonies in the synagogue, the music and the food, and even more by the love that enveloped us, as if we ourselves were members of their households and their families. We found a society with deep roots, a stable community which hasn’t forgone its past, yet lives in the present”, said Eli Atias, photographer and curator of the exhibition.

JDOCU Photographers

  • Eli Atias
  • Benny Levin
  • Atalia Katz
  • Naphtali (Tali) Idan
  • Amir Halevy
  • Itzik Goren
  • Yossi Beinart
  • Eliezer Yaari
  • Shai Beilis