Temple Beth El
Mission to Cuba
Led by Rabbi Joshua & Dr. Mara Hammerman
featuring presentations throughout by
Professor Stephen Berk
March 15-22, 2020

Tour Rates & Dates:

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Tour Overview:

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A land frozen in time - so close, yet decades away.
A Jewish community dedicated to its heritage across half a century of isolation and prevalent atheism. A rich and vibrant island culture, filled with dance and song, classic cars and donkey carts, rum and cigars.
Experience all this and more as we step back in time together.


5 nights Grand Packard Hotel, Havana
2 nights Hotel San Carlos, Cienfuegos
All touring and sightseeing in a deluxe air-conditioned vehicle with an English-speaking guide
Lectures by Professor Stephen Berk throughout
Meetings with Jewish community leaders
Breakfast daily
3 dinners in Havana, including Shabbat dinner
2 dinners in Cienfuegos
5 lunches
Habana Compas Dance performance
Optional Facriba d'la Arte late-night visit
Classic car ride
Transfer included if arriving/departing with main group
Entrance fees per itinerary
Cuban travel visa
Cuba emergency medical insurance
Water on the bus


Roundtrip airfare, departure taxes and fuel surcharges - $720 Per person during booking process
Tips to guides, drivers and dining room waiters ($20 per person, per day; pre-collected)
Meals not listed above
Items of a personal nature
Supplemental travel insurance (highly recommended)


Tour Itinerary:

Dr. Stephen M. Berk is a Professor of History at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Dr. Berk has partnered with Ayelet Tours for over twenty years & led over 100 trips to Russia, Spain, Europe, Israel and Eastern Europe. It is a privilege to have him with us! He has been named the Henry and Sally Schaeffer Chair of Holocaust and Jewish Studies at Union College. Dr. Berk is considered a superb lecturer and teacher. He is the author of Year of Crisis, Year of Hope: Russian Jewry and the Pogroms of 1881-1882 and is presently writing a book entitled, Our People Are Your People: American Jewry and the Struggle for Civil Rights 1854-1965. Dr. Berk is also the author of many articles on Eastern Europe, Russian Jewish History, anti-Semitism and American policy in the Middle East. He has lectured in numerous cities for UJA and Israel Bonds as well as at many colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Day 1: Sunday, March 15, 2020: WELCOME TO CUBA!

• We depart New York on our flight to Havana.
• We arrive at the Jose Marti Airport and meet our English-speaking guide and driver.
• This afternoon, we enjoy a panoramic overview of the city. Our first stop is at Revolution Square, which is dominated by the José Martí Memorial. This famous square is where Fidel Castro delivered the majority of his lengthy political addresses. We also pass by the Rosenberg Memorial, Lennon Park, and Havana University.
• This afternoon, we check into our hotel and enjoy a welcome drink and orientation lecture with Professor Stephen Berk.
• This evening, we join together for a welcome dinner at Ivan Justo paladar.

Overnight in Havana

Day 2: Monday, March 16, 2020: OLD HAVANA

• Breakfast at our hotel.
• We begin with a visit to Patronato, where we meet with community leaders - likely either Adela Dworin, the President of Beth Shalom or David Prinstein, Vice President of the community. We tour the center and learn about the Pharmacy and Sunday school, with time to deliver our gifts and aid.
• Next, we enjoy a walking tour of Old Havana (Havana Vieja), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We learn about the history of Havana as we visit highlights of the city and the colonial plazas, including Jewish points of interest such as the Raquel Hotel, a Jewish-themed hotel.
• We learn about the tradition of cigar rolling on a tour of Partagas Cigar Factory and see the process from lead to finished product and ultimately distribution.
• After lunch at Café del Oriente, we visit Adat Israel, the Orthodox Synagogue where we meet with Jacob Berezniak to deliver our gifts to the community.
• This afternoon, we enjoy a performance by the Habana Compas Dance group, known internationally for combining dance and percussion.
• This evening, explore the city and enjoy dinner on own.

Overnight in Havana

Day 3: Tuesday, March 17, 2020: HEMINGWAY IN HAVANA

• Breakfast at our hotel.
• Today, we visit the Sephardic Center and meet with Mayra Levy, President of the congregation, who discusses the role of Sephardic Jews in the resurgence of Jewish life in Cuba. We also deliver aid to the community and interact with seniors at the only Jewish Seniors program in Cuba.
• While at the Sephardic Center, we also view the first exhibit displayed in Cuba about the Holocaust.
• We enjoy lunch together at VIP, a local Paladar serving an excellent vegetarian paella.
• Visit the Jewish cemetery in Guanabacoa, including a special visit to the site of a small Holocaust memorial.
• This afternoon, we continue to Finca Vigia, the villa that Hemingway called home for 21 years. His home is now a museum with many of his personal belongings. Learn how Cuba influenced his writing.
• We return to our hotel to relax and refresh.
• Evening at leisure and dinner on own.
• Option this evening to attend the classic show at the Tropicana (separate cost).

Overnight in Havana

Day 4: Wednesday, March 18, 2020: CIENFUEGOS & SANTA CLARA

• Breakfast and check out of our hotel.
• We depart Havana by bus - Professor Berk lectures along the way.
• We continue to Santa Clara, an important city founded in the 1600's, where Che Guevara won a significant battle which led to the triumph of the revolution in 1959.
• We stop at Che Guevara Memorial for a photo opportunity at the Square.
• We meet with David Tacher, a leading representative of the Santa Clara Jewish community. We will learn about the local community and deliver our gifts.
• Enjoy lunch together with members of the community on their rooftop deck.
• We depart for the beautiful port city of Cienfuegos, Cuba's “Pearl of the South".
• Upon arrival, we stop for a brief orientation of Cienfuegos' central landmarks, including Parque Marti and the Thomas Terry theater and learn about this UNESCO World Heritage Site founded by French immigrants in 1819.
• This evening, we enjoy dinner together at the lovely seaside Finca del Mar.

Overnight in Cienfuegos

Day 5: Thursday, March 19, 2020: TRINIDAD

• Breakfast at our hotel.
• This morning, we depart for the beautiful colonial town of Trinidad, a charming city settled in 1514 which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988.
• Upon arrival, we enjoy a walking tour of historic Trinidad which is a 500-year-old city with Spanish colonial architecture. Only a few square blocks in size, historic Trinidad is famous for its lovely cobblestone streets, pastel houses with wrought iron grills, as well as beautiful palaces and plazas. We learn about the efforts to preserve the city's heritage.
• We meet with the famous Santander family, well-known local potters, and visit their workshop and gallery. These artists have been making handmade pottery for over 100 years.
• Lunch at San Carlos paladar.
• Following lunch, we return to Cienfuegos.
• This afternoon, we meet with Rebecca Langus and learn about the local Jewish community with time to deliver gifts.
• Next, we enjoy a performance by Cantores de Cienfuegos at Museo Provincial de Cienfuegos.
• This evening, we enjoy dinner on the San Carlos hotel rooftop.

Overnight in Cienfuegos

Day 6: Friday, March 20, 2020: RETURN TO HAVANA

• Breakfast and check out of our hotel.
• This morning, we depart for Havana, stopping for lunch on own en route. Professor Berk lectures along the way.
• Upon arriving in Havana, we stop at the impressive Fuster house/studio to see this unique mosaic masterpiece and learn about the artist's project to beautify and help the community in which he lives.
• We check into our hotel and have time to relax and refresh.
• As the sun begins to set, we join together for Shabbat services and dinner at the Sephardic Center with community members.

Overnight in Havana

Day 7: Saturday, March 21, 2020: ARTISTIC HAVANA

• Breakfast at our hotel.
• Free day OR join our guide for a neighborhood walking tour around our hotel, ending with entrance at the Museum of the Revolution, less than a 10-minute walk from our hotel.
• Lunch is included back at our hotel.
• Prof. Berk lectures after lunch, summarizing our Cuban experience and the vivid history of this colorful island nation.
• This evening, we enjoy a classic car ride from our hotel to our farewell dinner at El Mediterraneo paladar as we recall all that we have experienced together.
Optional: Late evening visit to the artists of Fabrica D'la Arte, a former cooking oil factory, which comes alive on weekend nights and features the best avante garde art in the country.

Overnight in Havana

Day 8: Sunday, March 22, 2020: DEPARTURE

• Breakfast and check out of our hotel.
• We transfer to the airport for our flight back to New York.

The Memories Last Forever!!
*Itinerary subject to change