March 2, 2021

Will Cuba be the Next Dubai? Cuban Jew Hopes So

Havana…” Recent developments have made kosher news about Dubai all the rage these days, but kosher travel to exotic places is available just south of the US border in Cuba!” writes Scott Berenthal of Chateau Blanc. The Berenthal family operate Chateau Blanc – “a casa particular in Havana and Cuba's only kosher establishment on the island.” Says Mr. Berenthal: “We're certified via International Kosher Mehadrin and while we're presently a parve facility, we are working with government officials to secure permission for a full time shochet to expand the available options.”

Unknown to many, Havana actually boasts three operating synagogues as well as a community center and Holocaust exhibit at the Centro Sephardi.  “Our goal is to bring visitors to help explore our community and keep it alive and prospering. As part of our mission, we work with our guests alongside organizations such as Pack for a Purpose to bring assistance (medicine, food, etc.) for distribution to those in need.  We also head up local Jewish community projects such as the restoration of grave sites at Guanabacoa.  The generous donations of our guests have helped make the Patronato synagogue pharmacy among the best supplied in the city, although the COVID pandemic has significantly reduced its resources.”

Berenthal says that “the medical crisis has wreaked havoc on the Cuban economy, which is highly dependent on tourism, and has also affected the local Jewish community.  While understandably reluctant, we're keen to encourage travel to the island once again so visitors can continue to learn about our people and bring in the much-needed aid that Cuba will require to get back on its feet.”