An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba by Ruth BeharAn Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba by Ruth Behar

An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba

byRuth Behar

Paperback | November 1, 2007

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Yiddish-speaking Jews thought Cuba was supposed to be a mere layover on the journey to the United States when they arrived in the island country in the 1920s. They even called it "Hotel Cuba." But as the years passed, the many Jews who came there from war-torn Europe remained, and the beloved island ceased to be a hotel and eventually became "home." Then Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. The majority of the Jews soon broke with his communist regime and left in a mass exodus. Though they remade their lives in the United States, they mourned the loss of the Jewish community they had built.

As a child of five, Ruth Behar was caught up in the Jewish exodus from Cuba. Growing up in the United States, she wondered about those who remained. An Island Called Home is the story of Behar's return to learn about the people who are keeping Judaism alive in Cuba today. Unlike the exotic image projected by the American media, Behar uncovers a side of Cuban Jews that is poignant and personal. Her poetic and passionate vignettes of those she meets are coupled with the sensitive photographs of Havana-based photographer Humberto Mayol, whose shadowy and riveting images create an unforgettable portrait of a community that many have seen though few have understood.

In the words of Sandra Cisneros, author of Caramelo, "Ruth Behar's An Island Called Home is a kaddish, an offering, dedicated to the exiles and to the children of the exiles and forthose wandering still, searching for their homes. May they 'not be given up for lost.'"

Title:An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish CubaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 10 × 7 × 0.68 inPublished:November 1, 2007Publisher:Rutgers University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0813545005

ISBN - 13:9780813545004


Table of Contents

Map of Cuba (showing places visited)
Running Away from Home to Run toward Home
Part 1
Looking for Henry
A Kaddish for the Jews Who Rest in Jewish Cemeteries in Cuba and for Raquel's Mother Who Does Not
Part 2
A Tour of Havana's Synagogues
The Kosher Butcher Shop
The Shirt That Holds Sadness
Los Prinstein
In the Realm of Lost Things
How to Pack Your Suitcase
Enrique Bender's Blue-Green Eyes Remind Me of My Grandfather
The Dancing Turk
Monday Morning in Luyanó
Danayda Levy's School Report
May Day with a Jewish Communist
The Whispering Writer
The Three Things José Martí Said All Real Men Must Do
Einstein in Havana
Salomón the Schnorrer
Mr. Fisher's Twice-Yearly Gifts
Becoming Ruth Berezniak
After Everyone Has Left
The Ketubah That Became a Passport
When I See You Again There Will Be No Pain or Forgetting
Part 3
Part 4
Simboulita's Parakeet
Seven Jewish Weddings in Camagüey
Che Waits for a New Frame
Pearls Left in Cienfuegos
The Moses of Santa Clara
A Conversation Next to El Mamey
Villa Elisa
The Covenant of Abraham
Salvador's Three Wives
A Beautiful Pineapple
The Last Jew of Palma Soriano
The Mizrahi Clan in Guantánamo
Part 5
My Room on Bitterness Street
How This Book Came to Be a Photojourney
List of Photographs
About the Author and Photographer

Editorial Reviews

"A fascinating and vital memoir about a rarely glimpsed cultural force in Cuba; both personal and far-reaching. An Island Called Home digs deep to reveal new things about the collective soul of the Cubans.
Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love