Adath Israel - Cuba

Ing. Alberto Zilberstein Toruncha

Alberto Fernández Barrocas
1st Vice-President 

Lic. Salomón Susi Sarfati
2nd Vice-President

Ing. Juan Luis Rousso Altuna

Dr. Jose Zilberstein Toruncha

Yacob Berezniak Hernandez

Tec. Roberto Behar Mechulam
Vice– Treasurer

Raul Vasquez Babani

Jacobo Mizrahi Chipruth
Vice - Secretary


Dr. Pablo Corrales Susi

Daniel Asquenazí Maya

Jacobo Lipinsky Kosansky

When Jews from Russia and Poland started arriving in Havana after World War I, the only Ashkenazi synagogue in the city was United Hebrew Congregation, religiously very liberal with a well-to-do English-speaking membership. It was hardly the place for Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Eastern Europe to feel comfortable.

The first step towards the establishment of a synagogue for Eastern Europeans took place in 1923, when an immigrant from Ponovesz, Lithuania, Ben Zion Sofer, started a minyan in his apartment at Calle Paola No. 17 (bajos). In 1925 that minyan developed into Congregación Adath Israel, on the second floor of Calle Jesús María 103. The facility was basic with no embellishments, but it served the purpose.

The majority of the Ashkenazi immigrants to Cuba were not strictly observant. Adath Israel was nominally Orthodox. Its prayer services were traditional, and it officially stood for religious observance.

The first rabbi of the congregation was Zvi Kaplan (1864-1939). He had immigrated to Cuba in 1928, following the advice of a friend that the Jewish Community was looking to hire a rabbi; his family followed one year later. Within a short while, however, a dispute broke out, and a group headed by Kaplan bolted. In 1929 they founded Knesseth Israel, where Kaplan remained rabbi until his death in 1939. Kaplan's son, Sender, soon became the editor of Habaner Lebn, a Yiddish newspaper that was published in Havana from 1932 until 1960.

David Rafalín served as rabbi of Adath Israel until 1932, when he moved to Mexico; Rafalin's position at Adath Israel was filled after his departure by Rabbi Eichenstein, who stayed for a year and a half (1936-1937).

Adath Israel was situated at Jesús María 103. The breakaway Knesseth Israel was in the next building, at Jesús María 105. In February 1949, twenty years after splitting apart, the two congregations merged together under the shortly-lived new name, Ahdut ("Unity") Yisrael. Meir Rosenbaum assumed the elected position of Rabbi (essentially the Ashkenazi Rabbi of Havana) on 1 April 1948.

It was obvious that new community institutions were needed for the post-War era, and community-wide solutions were sought. Unity, however, was not forthcoming. The discussions to build a new synagogue to replace Adath Israel/Knesseth Israel split the Building Committee. On 8 December 1949 it was decided to build a new synagogue in Vedado. That is the origin of the Patronato. Rabbi Rosenbaum (1910- ) and Adath Israel President Ben Zion Dizik (1888-1960) joined the Vedado group.

Yet, many Ashkenazi Jews remained in Habana Vieja. They eventually decided that a new synagogue would be constructed at the corner of Picota and Acosta Streets, which stood at the heart of what was the Jewish Quarter of Habana Vieja. Oscar Baisman was the architect of the new building, and Jacinto Feh Leonard served as construction engineer. The new building included a sanctuary with six hundred seats, a chapel, and a reception hall. The cornerstone for the new $100,000 synagogue building was laid in April 1956. Construction was finished on 9 October 1959. Kalman Wodonos became the new president of Adath Israel. (Wodonos left Cuba for Florida after the Revolution.)