Cuban Jews Flock to Miami; Community Alerted to New Refugee Problem
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Cuban Jews Flock to Miami; Community Alerted to New Refugee Problem

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Between 500 and 1,500 Cuban Jews have migrated to this city in recent months, and the potentials of a new Jewish refugee problem may be shaping up, it was revealed here today. Leaders of the Jewish community are quick to point out, however, that the Jewish migration from Cuba has not been caused by any signs of official anti-Semitism on the island, or by any Cuban governmental actions that affect Jews specifically.

The Jewish community is on the alert, against the possibility that a further influx of Cuban Jews may in the near future have an impact upon the facilities of the various local and national Jewish organizations concerned with immigration, resettlement, and vocational guidance.

Sam J. Heiman, president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, and the organization’s executive director, Samuel Cohen, have confirmed that one of the first tasks facing the Jewish community here is the ascertainment of the exact number of Cuban Jews who have come here. The 500-1,500 figure is an “educated” guess within a wide range, while some Jews here believe that the number of Cuban Jews who have arrived in Miami and vicinity recently may run to as high a figure as 2,000.


United Hias Service, Inc., the international immigrant aid society, has sent two department heads from its national headquarters in New York to look into the situation here. The executives, Ann S. Petluck and Harvey M. Friedman, agreed with the local leaders that the influx of Cuban Jewry needs careful watching. “We are concerned with the possible emergence of future problems,” Miss Petluck stated, “and we wish to ascertain what existing agencies can do now to assist those Jewish Cuban refugees who may need service.”

One of the immediate problems concerning the Cuban Jewish refugees is their status as immigrants. The majority are here with tourist visas, and most of them do not seem to know how to extend their stay in the United States.

Various steps have been taken by the Jewish community to try to find out the exact number of Jewish refugees from Cuba here, and to try to direct those Cuban Jewish refugees who may need services to the proper agencies. Signs in Spanish have been posted at airports, informing Cuban Jewish refugees of the names and addresses of some of the local Jewish agencies. American immigration authorities have also been contacted with requests that they direct Cuban Jews to some of the major Jewish social welfare and aid agencies here.

Cuba’s Jewish population, at the time the Castro regime took over the government of that country, was about 11,000. Of the total, about 7,000 lived in Havana, About three-quarters of the Jews in Cuba were in small retail trade, about 15 percent were connected with larger mercantile establishments, and approximately 10 percent were in various consumer-goods, professional or service categories.

Most of the Cuban Jews here seem to have brought along enough money to meet their immediate needs for some time, Jewish leaders here believe. But many of them need direction and guidance, not only in regard to their immigrant status but also about business and job possibilities and about Jewish religious facilities available to them.

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