March 21, 2016

Talk of a Kashrus Committee in Cuba Generates Interest

New York - President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba is the next phase of the rapidly thawing relations between the US and its neighbor in the South. There is already talk about increased trade and tourism and now comes word, reported in several Jewish blogs and publications, that a Vaad Hakashruth (Kashrus Committee) may also be in the offing. According to the reports, the initiative comes from the Berenthal brothers and Rabbi Eli Abadi, senior rabbi of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in New York. James Berenthal, a practicing attorney in New York, drafted formal documents to establish a vaad hakashrut with the do la Republica de Cuba. He says the va’ad, in addition to certifying kosher food, would provide employment for any members of the Jewish community. “We have to create a supervising organization to provide gainful employment and to return to the tradition of our community,” says the advocate. He believes creation of the va’ad hakashrut will be the “kick starter” for communal rebirth. “There were over 7,000 Jewish tourists in 2015,” says Berenthal “Many were Israelis who require kosher food and could not obtain it.” James Berenthal remembers his yeshiva graduation in Havana with great fondness. He reminisced about the celebration opening Havana’s El Patronato Synagogue in 1953 when President Batista came to the opening ceremony. His parents had helped finance the construction. His ties to the Jewish community in Havana, however, remain strong and active. For almost 13 years, he has been working to establish a va’ad hakashrut—kosher certification bureau—and is actively seeking the cooperation of the Havana Jewish community. “We have to create a supervising organization to provide gainful employment and to return to the tradition of our community,” says the advocate. He believes creation of the va’ad hakashrut will be the “kick starter” for communal rebirth.