Castro attends Chanukah fete in historic Havana synagogue visit

TORONTO, Jan. 6 (JTA) — Cuban President Fidel Castro was an honored guest at a Havana synagogue recently, where he mingled with 200 congregants during Chanukah celebrations last month. The visit was Castro’s first to a synagogue, according to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, whose local official in Havana led the Chanukah program. Castro spent about two hours in the synagogue, where he participated in the lighting of Chanukah candles and heard a children’s musical presentation, according to officials of the Canadian Jewish Congress. The group maintains regular contact with the 1,200-member Cuban Jewish community and has been sending them Passover foods for more than 30 years. Community leader Jose Miller told Jack Silverstone, CJC executive vice president, that Castro expressed his admiration for the Jewish people and their history, and spoke out against racism. In a speech during his Dec. 20 visit to the synagogue, the Cuban leader commended the way in which Jews have maintained their identity and continuity despite the tragedies they have endured.

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