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Collection on Jewish Organizations in Cuba

Identifier: MSS 0558

Scope and Content

The items in the collection were created by different Jewish communal organizations in Havana, such as the umbrella organization Centro Israelita de Cuba (Jewish Center of Cuba), Ajdut Israel (The Orthodox Ashkenazi Jewish Community), Unión Sionista de Cuba (Zionist Union of Cuba), the Women's International Zionist Organization or WIZO, and the Colegio Hebreo Autónomo del Centro Israelita de Cuba (Autonomous School of the Jewish Center of Cuba). The majority of these items are letters; they also include written agreements, registry entries, affidavits issued to immigrants to both Cuba and the US, and tickets to different events. The collection documents immigration from the 1920s to Cuba and to the US, organizational life that included communal and cultural events, growing Zionist activity, and religious practice. Tickets to the Mexican poet Jacob Glantz's public reading of poetry and to the presentations by the author Aaron Zeitlin from New York and the editor of the Argentinian Di Presse Jacob Botoshansky highlight the Cuban Jewish community's contacts with literati in other countries in the Americas and that Yiddish was a widely spoken language among the members of the Cuban community as it was the case in prewar US and Argentina. That before World War II the majority of the communal correspondence in Cuba was conducted in Yiddish, further reinforces this impression. Yet, a letter in Hungarian in the correspondence illustrates that, after all, Yiddish was not every member's chosen language of communication in the community. The majority of the documents from the postwar period illustrate the Zionist activities in the community. Whereas the registries offer data of particular community members' personal backgrounds, including their countries of origin, some of the documents produced by the different organizations are informative about the composition and politics of these organizations' leadership. Folder 11, titled "Miscellaneous," houses a personal, typed letter from one of the leaders of the community Pete Snyder, two paper bags printed for the 13th anniversary of Israel, as well as a typed list of all the documents included in the collection. It includes minimal information, such as date and author.


  • Creation: 1925 - 1970

Language of Materials

Includes materials written in Yiddish, Spanish, English, German, and Hungarian.


The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

The records included in this collection document the activities of Jewish organizations in Cuba from the 1920s to 1967. This period includes the last of the three major Jewish immigration waves which included the Eastern European Jews. During this period, also marked by economic hardships and antisemitism, many Jews left the island for the US, as documented in the communal registries and correspondences. Nonetheless, during the 1930s and 1940s, the growing community, which comprised several different welfare, educational, health, and religious organizations held a broad variety of communal events, such as the traditional New Year's ball at the end of December, religious festivities during the high holidays, meetings, literary events, theater performances, and more. The community helped its members financially as well and also aided those who emigrated to the US, as Chaim Lachman's case suggests. The community represented Lachman vis-à-vis the Cuban authorities to help him acquire a certificate of good moral conduct necessary for him to start a new life in the US. The community also cooperated with HIAS and the JOINT by offering aid for individuals searching for relatives with whom they lost contact both before and after World War II. From the postwar period, items produced by the Zionist Union of Cuba and WIZO record the community members' Zionist activity. No records from the revolution are preserved in this collection.


1.26 Linear Feet (3 Boxes)


This collection sheds light on various aspects of Jewish communal life in Cuba from the 1920s until the 1960s. The documents in the collection were created by different Jewish organizations in Havana. The majority of these letters, written agreements, registry entries, affidavits issued to immigrants to both Cuba and the US, and tickets to different events are in Yiddish, also signaling that they are related to the lives of the last large wave of Jewish immigrants to Cuba, mostly from Eastern European Ashkenazi communities.


The items in the collection are arranged topically and chronologically.


University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Finding Aid

This guide is available in Spanish at

Acquisition Information

Purchased in 2019 and 2021.

Related Material

Additional sources on Jewish communal life in Cuba can be found in the Price Library's digital Cuban Judaica collection. Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

A Guide to the Jewish Organizations in Cuba Collection
Finding aid created by Katalin Franciska Rac
January 2020 (Updated August 2023)
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America