Jews of Cuba and Cuba-Israel relations

I’d forgotten how prominent Cuba once was on the world stage, but our guide in Havana reminded us that Cuba and Israel are still on bad terms. Wikipedia notes that Cuba was a military ally for Egypt and relations were broken off by Cuba in 1973, when the countries were at comparable levels of economic development. Apparently not enough has changed in the intervening 45 years for relations to be reestablished!

Our guide said that roughly 1,500 Jews remained in Cuba and that most were elderly, the young Jews having emigrated to Israel. These facts are consistent with Wikipedia.

It makes me wonder what the point of having physical embassies might be. If relations were established tomorrow, could it really make sense for cash-strapped Cuba to set up and run an embassy in Israel where almost everything costs more than in the U.S.? Similarly for Israel, why pay someone an Israeli wage to sit around Havana and drink mojitos when almost any conceivable issue between two nations could be negotiated at the UN in New York and/or via Skype?

[A fellow guest at dinner shared her theory that all of the casinos in Cuba were funded with “Jewish money” and that, following the revolution, this money was used to build Las Vegas (see also the Wikipedia history of Las Vegas). That’s one of the beauties of cruising, in my opinion. One is exposed to a much broader range of people and opinions than at home. (This theorist was an African American from Connecticut, retired from a government job.)]

9 thoughts on “Jews of Cuba and Cuba-Israel relations

  1. Meyer Lansky (along with the Italian Mafia and the dictator Batista) figured prominently in the casino operations of Cuba, so there is an element of truth in there:

    However, the money invested in Cuba was largely lost when Castro took power so it’s hard to say that money was used to build Las Vegas. And unlike Cuba, where the mobsters could operate more or less openly, Nevada had very strict laws against mob involvement so the mob investment had to be disguised. Most of this history is recounted in fictional form in the Godfather movies.

  2. All that being said, there seems to be a remarkable streak of open anti-Semitism in the black community (for example it seems to be widely accepted among blacks that Jews ran the slave trade) while most American whites are remarkably NOT anti-Semitic, even admiring of Jews. Evangelicals are just wild about Israel, even more so that American Jews. But somehow American Jews think that blacks are their friends and white Christians are their enemies. Strange.

    • How many American Jews do you know of who think that white Christians are their enemies? I’ve never heard of any. Given the very large amount of out-marriage in the American Jewish population, a significant portion of the community would have be marrying those that they consider to be enemies.

  3. (This theorist was an African American from Connecticut, retired from a government job.)

    It’s unclear which of these three characteristics is relevant and why.

    • Whoa Vince you are being a little harsh on our friend Phil. If you were at Phil’s dinner table and he was telling you this story you would likely want to know a little more about this person who was so witless (i) as to be an antisemite and (ii) to fail to consider that Phil might be a member of the Hebrew persuasion notwithstanding that she could not see his horns.

    • Calling my statement harsh is quite an exaggeration. Rhetorical anti-antisemitism of this variety is common. If I was talking to a Jewish person who heard such a remark, I probably wouldn’t have an interest in learning about the person who made the remark. Even if some people wanted to know a little about the person, it’s unclear what would be interesting about the person’s race, state of residence or employment status as opposed to other personal characteristics.

    • They’re all relevant! “African American” -> not Jewish. From CT -> not an expert on local matters. Retired from a government job -> not an expert historian or someone from the financial services or casino industries.

  4. Well, we all know that Hyman Roth was behind the Havana casinos while Moe Green bankrolled Las Vegas as a stopover for GIs flying west. She was probably way too witless to figure out your ethnicity so if you were more alert you could have buttered her up by pointing out that although Michael’s father respected Hyman Roth and did business with Hyman Roth he never trusted Hyman Roth (presumably because Roth was a member of the Tribe). You might have also tried to get her to be a bit more open minded by pointing out that despite what Moe Green did for Las Vegas they even built him a statue.

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