Passover Food Sent by Cjc to Cuba’s Jewish Community Meets with Mishaps and Fails to Arrive for the
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Passover Food Sent by Cjc to Cuba’s Jewish Community Meets with Mishaps and Fails to Arrive for the

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The 900-member Jewish community in Cuba went without matzot and other Passover foods this year because the thousands of pounds of edibles donated by the Canadian Jewish Congress did not arrive in time to be distributed for the first seder, the CJC learned. One report from Havana said the shipment by sea never arrived and the CJC is considering other means of transportation.

Ian Kagedan, religious affairs director of the CJC, said the ship carrying 16,500 pounds of matzot, cooking oil and grape juice was unable to leave Montreal in mid-March as scheduled because of ice conditions in the St. Lawrence, and because the agents insisted the ship could not sail without a full cargo.

The vessel departed on April 4 and arrived at Havana April 12, the day before the first seder. Nevertheless, the CJC received a wireless message from Jose Blumenkranz, president of the Cuban Jewish community, conveying its thanks for the gift.


However, Kagedan reported he was telephoned on April 16 by Raquel Markizer, whom he described as a community leader, to tell him the ship never docked in Havana.

Canada is the closest source of Passover foods for Cuban Jews because the U.S. embargo forbids trade with Cuba. But most of the products originate in the U.S. and are imported into Canada only during the 60 days before the holiday. This makes for a very tight schedule, especially when Passover falls earlier in the spring before the St. Lawrence is ice-free.

The CJC is considering future shipments by air which would escalate the costs from $4,200 to $25,000, excluding insurance. Because of the added expense, shipments by air may be limited to matzot.

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