Jose Miller, Cuban Jewish Leader, 80

Published March 24, 2006, issue of March 24, 2006.
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Dr. Jose Miller, president of Cuba’s tiny Jewish community, died February 27 at age 80.

Eddie Levy, chairman of the South Florida organization Jewish Solidarity, told the Miami Herald: “If there is a Jewish community in Cuba, it’s because of his leadership. It was his job, his work, his life.”

Miller was born in Sancti Spiritus province in 1925; his parents had moved to Cuba from Lithuania in the early 1900s. He studied dentistry at the University of Havana and was considered one of the island nation’s best specialists in facial reconstruction surgery.

Since 1981, Miller also had been president of the Patronato, a large synagogue in Havana’s once-fashionable Vedado district. After a heart attack forced him to retire in 1994, Miller dedicated himself to saving Cuba’s dwindling Jewish community from extinction.

He managed to revive smaller synagogues in Camaguey and in Santiago de Cuba. But he was criticized by Cuban exiles in Miami for refusing to support the anti-Castro dissident movement or to speak out against repression in Cuba.

“We’re not pro-Castro or anti-Castro here,” Miller said in a 2003 interview. “If someone wants to be a dissident, let him be one — but not inside the Patronato.”

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