BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — A Cuban delegation will for the first time participate in the “Birthright for Jewish Moms” trip to Israel, as the sponsoring group works to expand its reach in Latin America.
The trip sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project will visit Israel from May 9 to May 18, and will observe Yom Hazikaron -Israel’s Memorial Day, and Yom Haatzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day.
“The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project is investing in expanding our partnerships in Latin America, engaging Spanish-speaking translators, teachers and trip leaders,” Lori Palatnik, founding director of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project or JWRP, told JTA.
The trip will be the first for Jewish women from Cuba and also the first made up only of Spanish-speaking participants. Groups from all over Latin American will join the program in Israel, including 10 participants from Cancun, Mexico; 10 from Cuba; nine from Cordoba, Argentina; 56 from Mexico City, Mexico; 23 from Panama City, Panama; and 20 from Santiago, Chile. A second Spanish-speaking group arriving on May 16 will include 28 participants from Mexico, 26 from Buenos Aires, Argentina; 11 from Miami; and 10 from Madrid, Spain.
“In the synagogue in Havana, I saw four yartzeit boards with 200 plaques, remembering those from past generations. There were no bulbs beside the names, because you cannot buy them there. I took pictures of the socket, thinking I would buy bulbs in the U.S. and bring them back. But then I realized, those who founded the community are not asking for bulbs to be remembered, they are crying out for us to save their grandchildren and great-grandchildren from further assimilation,” Palatnik told JTA.
Since 2009, more than 7,300 women from 150 partner organizations in 26 countries have participated in “Momentum Israel,” as the trips are called, according to the JWRP.
Galia Rubinstein, who oversees JWRP Latin American partnerships, underlined that the growth in the region is an integral piece of this effort. “Our goal is to engage as many Jews as possible – where many are disconnected to Jewish values. We want to increase our presence in Latin America, as well as our impact,” Rubinstein told JTA.
Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is partnering with JWRP in bringing Jewish women on trips to Israel. The ministry announced in March a $12.5 million expansion of the program during the AIPAC policy conference in Washington. The Israeli government will provide $5.1 million and the JWRP will raise the rest.