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No Change Expected in Status of Cuba’s Jewish Community

A Jewish leader familiar with Cuba said today that he didn’t expect any change in the status of that country’s small Jewish community to follow Premier Fidel Castro’s surprise announcement yesterday that Cuba was breaking diplomatic relations with Israel. “There is no deducing from this any anti-Jewish feeling” in Cuba, Lavy Becker, honorary consultant to the World Jewish Congress on inter-community affairs. told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today.

Becker, who visited Havana last Feb. said he was “thoroughly surprised” by the break. He said that his talks with Israeli diplomats in Cuba last winter and with the Cuban Minister to Israel in July gave him no hint that a rupture was imminent. Cuba’s Jewish community, which Becker estimated at about 1200, enjoyed a benevolent relationship with the Castro regime, he said, and noted that Jews in Havana have always been well treated and had access to the Israeli legation. There is no evidence of a change of attitude, Becker said.

(Israel radio quoted Moses Baldas, head of the Cuban Jewish community, as saying the community was surprised by Castro’s announcement. Baldas said there had never been any anti-Semitism in Cuba and expressed hope that the Jewish community would not suffer now. Israeli Foreign Ministry sources said there were no Israeli experts in Cuba lately although up to two or three years ago, Castro had asked for Israeli agricultural experts to instruct Cuban farmers in agriculture and irrigation.)

Becker, who is a member of the board of the JTA, said that he was in the process of negotiating with Cuban authorities for the removal of the Jewish archives from that country to Israel.He said the reason for the move was the absence of Jewish scholars in Cuba who could study the archives. Although the first Jew in Cuba landed with Columbus, the modern Cuban Jewish community dates from 1906 and in its heyday after World War II numbered no more than 14,000 most of them in Havana. Becker said.

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