A note from Rabbi Rachel

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

It was an extraordinary joy to travel in Cuba with some of you. Those of us from CBI who went to Cuba are planning a special Kabbalat Shabbat on December 20 when we will share with you some of what we experienced and learned (stay tuned for more on that.) For now, as Shabbat approaches, I’m writing to share with you one of my small takeaways from the trip: the value of lay leaders who give their time and their hearts to keep Jewish community alive.

The rural Jewish communities we visited — in Cienfuegos, in Sancti Spiritus, in Santa Clara, in Camagüey — consist of only tens of people. Some communities meet in people’s homes because they have no dedicated space to call their own. They persist as Jews under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and they are deeply proud.

We met with community leaders in each of those places. (None of them have a rabbi; there is no rabbi in residence on the island of Cuba.) They work tirelessly to keep Jewish life and Jewish community alive.

Rebecca Langus, president of the Cienfuegos Jewish community, speaks to us in her home where the community meets.

In Cienfuegos, we visited the home of a woman named Rebecca Langus, president of the Jewish community there — which consists of eighteen people, three of whom are children. We asked her where she finds hope. “Everything I do,” she said simply, “I do for love.” It would have been obvious even if she hadn’t said so: her love for community and for Jewish tradition shines from her very being.

Visiting these tiny rural Jewish communities highlighted two things for me: the importance of community, and the tremendous hard work undertaken by those who lead and serve Jewish community, especially in small towns like our own.

As Shabbat approaches, join me in cultivating gratitude for our CBI community — and for those who have stepped up to serve our community. Like their Cuban counterparts, our board members and volunteers keep our community going in ways large and small, and I am grateful.

Sending blessings to all for a Shabbat of wholeness and peace,

Rabbi Rachel

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