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Castro Regime Determined to Protect Jewish Rights; Sephardic Youths in Castro Troops

Officials of the new Castro regime today indicated a clear disposition to protect all Jewish rights and interests and made it obvious that they would not tolerate looting of stores belonging to Jews or to any other elements of the population.

A survey made here by a special correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency established that no damage was done to Jewish institutions or synagogues during the few days of chaos that prevailed in Havana, nor were any Jewish civilians injured. Many Jewish-owned shops were damaged and looted during those days, but the attacks were carried out by criminal elements who exploited the chaos, and not by Castro’s forces. Patrols of revolutionary groups are now protecting business firms which are reopening as life in the city returns to normal.

Informed sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent that the new Castro government includes intellectuals known for their friendship with Jewish religious leaders, as well as for their friendship to Israel. The prevailing opinion among Jews in Havana is that Israel should be among the first states to extend diplomatic recognition to the new regime. Israel Consul S.M. Kaplan, a local Jew, today expressed the hope of an early extension of recognition by Israel. The feeling here is that such recognition would strengthen Israel’s relations throughout the Latin American countries.

Among the Castro troops marching into Havana are Sephardic Jewish youths from Santiago. They wear the “mezuzah” proudly on their chests. In Havana, the leader of an important group of university youths bearing arms in the Castro forces is Max Lesnick, a Jew. In Santiago, Jews have for many years been friends of the Castro family.

Most Havana Jews sought to avoid taking sides in the highly volatile situation, the JTA correspondent established. They avoided involvement in the political strife. But the youths of many Havana Jewish families joined the Castro university movement which was a source of the revolution’s strength. Some officials of the fallen Batista regime had used extortionist methods against businessmen, although Batista himself apparently gave orders to avoid anti-Semitic appearances because of his concern for tourism from the United States.

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