CUBA: Jewish Life, Culture, Art, Music & More…

Despite the noise made by the Trump administration... You CAN still travel to Cuba!!

Jerry Sorkin, Iconic Journeys Worldwide founder has made over a dozen trips to Cuba and has a warm relationship with Cuba’s Jewish communities. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with many Cubans, including members of the Jewish communities in Havana, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos.

Jerry (on left) with member of Cuba’s Jewish community in Santiago de Cuba, 2017.

7 Nights Total! NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS!

Tour Highlights:

Havana – Santa Clara – Trinidad – Cienfuegos and more…

Experience Cuba as few people do!  With visits to Havana and other towns and rural areas, you will be able to enjoy a diverse look at this island country…a country that is undergoing many changes.

Cuba is changing rapidly, particularly since the December 2014 announcement by President Obama of the new U.S.-Cuba relations his March 2016 visit to Cuba.

Traveling on this small group tour with Iconic Journeys Worldwide (IJW), will provide participants with opportunities to meet Cubans of varying backgrounds, hear about the changes and learn about the life and culture of Cuba.  Space is limited, as the small group experience allows us to offer the people-to-people exchanges.  

 

Day 1 – Arrival in Havana

Upon your arrival in Havana we will be met at the airport by our English speaking Cuban guide. We immediately embark for old Havana, where we will have a walking tour of old Havana, introducing you to the heart of Havana, visiting such sites as the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de San Francisco with its cobblestone and surrounding 18th century buildings, as well as the Plaza de la Catedral, while hearing about the process of restoration in Havana. Dinner and overnight in Havana

Day 2, Thursday – Havana

This morning, we have a visit to Cuba’s office of the Jewish community, the Patronata, where we will hear about Cuba’s Jewish community, where Jews are located and what services are provided to the Jewish community, as well as Jewish life in general. The visit will also include a stop at the community’s pharmacy, which provides medical supplies to Cubans, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Donations of prescription and non-prescription medicines are welcomed providing they are sealed, unopened containers.

View of local Pharmacy in Havana

From the Patronata, we drive a short distance to the Sephardic synagogue, where we will learn about these two communities in Havana and their respective history and present day members and services provided.

Depart for a drive out of central Havana to the local farm” La Yoandra.”  This environmental exchange will be conducted at the farm with the one of the arborists who maintain the over 100 indigenous fauna that are cultivated for food production as well as for ecological preservation.  This farm is part of network of sustainable community operated farms. The crops are also used to sustain the co-owned privately owned restaurant Il Divino.
Following lunch we take a walk through the farm to learn about their sustainable farming efforts and also, how this particular privately owned farm interacts with the local residents.  

Drive to the Town of Guanabacoa to learn about the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria. This religion melds Catholicism and native African beliefs developed by slaves to hide their true religions from their owners. Morning opportunity to interact with Santeria practitioners, and participate in a music and dance performance by the Santeria deities.

Guanabacoa is also the site of one of Havana’s two Jewish cemeteries. We will have an opportunity to visit the cemetery, providing a glimpse into Cuba’s Jewish history. 

Following your visit to the cemetery, you return to your hotel.  Dinner and overnight in Havana. (B, L, D)

 

NOTE:  Evening Optional Activities:

For those who wish, there is a well-known jazz club within a short walk of our hotel, ZORRA Y EL CUERVO JAZZ CLUB. Anyone who wishes can join. There is an entrance fee and the price of drinks. The musicians normally do not show up until close to midnight.

For those who wish to go to the fabled Tropicana, your guide will be happy to provide directions and information regarding prices for those who might wish to attend this optional activity, as well!

Meeting with Dr. Mayra Levy at Havana’s Sephardic synagogue.
Visiting the organic farm at La Yoadra
Santeria Religious Ritual
Visiting a Jewish cemetery in Havana
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Day 3 – Havana

Depart for a full day tour of Havana and beyond, following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway. Drive by bus to the “Finca Vigia,” Hemingway’s beloved home, where he lived for 21 years and worked on some of his most famous literary works, such as, “The Old Man and the Sea” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Lunch will be served at the “Finca El Divino,” one of the best examples of Cuban Urban Agriculture and the finest restaurant in the area. Enjoy a short presentation and “People to People” exchange on the subject of sustainable agriculture, followed by Cuban food specialties and a cooking demonstration.

Continue your touring with a visit to Havana’s Museum of Fine Arts where you will be taken on a tour by one of the docents and learn about Cuban art through the decades.

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

The National Museum of Fine Arts is a fascinating art museum located in two buildings next to the famous Martí Promenade, in the center of Havana. Its main goals are to restore, preserve, and promote works belonging to the heritage of Cuba.

We then drive to the San Jose Art Market, the largest arts and craft marketplace in Havana, where artists and craftspeople show their wares…from the refined to kitsch!

Tonight you will have the opportunity to attend Shabbat services with members of Havana’s Jewish community, followed by a community Shabbat dinner at the synagogue Beth Shalom. Overnight in Havana. (B, D)

Erev Shabbat at Beth Shalom synagogue

Day 4  – Havana

This morning is free, for those who might wish to attend synagogue.

For those who wish to explore more of Havana’s old town, a bus will be arranged at an appointed time to take participants from the hotel into town and then an appointed time to return to the hotel. Others can choose to explore on their own or remain at the hotel.

 We will have a late day presentation at the hotel by a former Cuban diplomat who will talk about where Cuba might be headed politically…a question which will also be open for discussion, as the answers is one that remains unknown.

Enjoy a ride in a classic 1950s-1960s car to tonight’s dinner. Overnight in Havana. (B, D)

Day 5  – Havana

Today will be a day to experience more of Havana. Cigars, 1950’s cars and art are among the many things associated with Cuba. We will have some of all of this today.

We visit a cigar making factory to learn about this handcrafted export item that still is very much a part of Cuba’

Tobacco worker show their talents crafting Cuban cigars.

How Cuba has maintained so many cars from the 1950s-1960s when parts still remain part of the sanctions, or as the Cuban say, the blockade…remains a sign of mechanical creativity. We will visit one of the garages that specializes in creating the parts and doing whatever is necessary to keep these cars on the road as the primary vehicle of Cuba.

We also visit an interesting community known as Fusterlandia, due to the influence of the successful Cuban artist, Jose Fuster. He has plowed a considerable amount of his financial success and talents into his neighborhood, encouraging the study of art and to the use of art to make the community a more exciting place to be.

Fusterlandia

Fusterlandia

Fusterlandia is the nickname given in Jaimanitas, a seaside town just west of downtown Havana. In Jaimanitas, artist Jose Fuster has built a creative enclave called Casa de Fuster that has spilled out into the surrounding neighborhood. It’s no longer just his house, but Fusterlandia has expanded to include murals on other nearby buildings and walls.

Late day return to your hotel. Tonight’s dining will be independent, with suggestions provided.  Overnight in Havana. (B, L)

Scenery driving through rural Cuba

Day 6  – Santa Clara/Cienfuegos
After breakfast, check out of our Havana hotel and depart for another day of rural Cuba settings.

We stop mid-day in Santa Clara. Santa Clara is perhaps most famous has being the location of the last battle of the Revolution between Che’s troops and those of Battista. There is a monument in Santa Clara in memory of Che.

Monument of Che Guevara in Santa Clara

Santa Clara is also home to a small Jewish community of approximately thirty people. They have pooled various resources and in the last several years, have opened a small synagogue to serve as both a synagogue and community center. We will have the opportunity to visit the community and meet one of its members.

Visiting the Santa Clara Jewish community’s synagogue.

From Santa Clara, we continue on to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A meticulously well-preserved Spanish colonial city, with its rich architecture, cobblestone streets, palaces and plazas, it is sometimes referred to as the “museum city” of Cuba.

From Trinidad, we continue on to Cienfuegos, arriving around dinner time.

Dinner and overnight in Cienfuegos. (B, L, D)

Colonial Trinidad

Day 7  – Cienfuegos
A short ride out of Cienfuegos one comes to the Botanical Gardens of Cienfuegos. The setting is natural, rural and filled with specimens of many types of plantings, flowers and trees. Throughout the years of the US embargo, Harvard University has maintained an important role as one of the sponsors of the studies and the development of the Botanical Gardens. We will have an escorted tour as we walk through portions of the beautiful setting.

Girls walking to school in Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens

Later this afternoon, we will have an opportunity to meet members of Cienfuegos small Jewish community. The twenty or so Jews of Cienfuegos do not have a synagogue, but meet in a member’s private home.

We will have an opportunity to hear a performance by the Cienfuegos Choir (assuming they are not traveling), prior to dinner.

We gather tonight for your “Farewell Dinner” in a nice venue with live music complementing the food. Overnight in Cienfuegos. (B, L, D)

Meeting members of Cienguego’s small Jewish community

Day 8  – Cienfuegos
After breakfast, we drive to Havana where you connect with flights back to the US (B)

Hotels

Melia Cohiba hotel, Havana
La Jagua hotel, Cienfuegos

Costs

$3,850  per person. NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT

INCLUDED

  • All meals as indicated by B, L and D.
  • All touring while in Cuba
  • Cuba visa and health insurance while in Cuba.
  • Honorariums and donations to Jewish institutions.
  • Air conditioned bus and English speaking Cuban guide for all programs.

 

NOT INCLUDED

  • Flights from U.S. gateway to Havana. Iconic Journeys Worldwide will be happy to assist with booking your flight to Cuba!
  • Gratuities to Cuban guide and bus driver.
  • All items of a personal nature and additional hotel charges of cleaning, drinks, etc.
  • Trip cancellation or travel insurance is not included, but STRONGLY ENCOURAGED.

 

NOTE:

  Iconic Journeys Worldwide and its Cuban colleagues reserve the right to make itinerary changes as needed. A minimum of 18 participants are required for this tour.