I met with Adela Dworin, a lifetime resident of Havana, who has been active in the synagogue for more than 39 years and is vice president and librarian of the center.
She spoke at length about the difficulties of being a Jew in Cuba. She told me that during the pre-Castro days, there were 15,000 Jews living in the Havana area, and now only 1,500 remain.
With Passover only a few days away, some of my questions to Adela were about how Cuban Jews conducted their seders and what foods they served. She explained that they have no means of finding any foods in Cuba with which to observe Passover, but since 1960 the Canadian Jewish Congress has been sending traditional food items for Passover. Matzah and matzah meal, canned gefilte fish and bottled horseradish are all shipped from a Jewish supply center in Canada; otherwise they would have nothing.
Adela, who is of Ashkenazi background, explained that more than 150 people travel to Havana to attend the Passover seder at the synagogue.
When I asked about the seder plate, including the type of charoset that was served, Adela responded that the ingredients she would normally use were not available in Cuba.
Apples and nuts are impossible to find, and there are no dried fruits available.
She explained that the best they can do is combine matzah, honey, cinnamon and wine to make the charoset mixture.
At our Passover seder we serve several types of charoset, and this year the charoset of the Cuban Jews will be included in our service to remind us of the beleaguered Jewish community of Cuba.
Adela's Cuban Charoset
2 cups crumbled matzah
1 teaspoon ground
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup Passover concord
grape wine or grape juice
In a food processor place the matzah, cinnamon, honey and wine and let matzah absorb liquid for 2 to 3 minutes. Process until coarsely chopped and mixture comes together. (A wooden bowl and chopper may be used in place of a food processor) Using a rubber spatula, transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and store in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups.
Judy Zeidler is the author of "The Gourmet Jewish Cook" and other cookbooks.