Journey Culminates in a Cuban Boy’s Rite of Passage

Daniel (left) and his brother, David, at the Kotel during Daniel’s Israeli bar mitzvah. Photo by Linda Hirsch.

Linda Hirsch  | The Jewish Journal

Daniel Langus Fernandez lives in Cienfuegos, Cuba. His mother, Rebeca, is president of Kadima, their small, Jewish community. Rebeca has Sephardic and Ashkenazi roots; her maternal grandparents were Turkish, and her paternal grandparents were Polish. She and her husband Ramon, who is Catholic, are raising their two sons, David and Daniel, as Jews.

The Cuba Connection, launched by some members of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury who first visited Cuba back in 2001, helps the fledging Jewish community there.

The athletic Daniel qualified for Cuba’s Maccabiah futbal (soccer) team, and was thrilled to compete in Israel at last summer’s Games. While there, he and other Maccabiah youths participated in a group bar mitzvah experience at the Kotel.

It was “very emotional,” said Daniel, adding, “I was surprised because I did not expect something so marvelous to happen on my first visit to Israel.”

The observant youth, who wears his Jewish star and faith openly, was uncircumcised. Upon returning to Cuba, the 15-year-old made the courageous commitment to brit milah. “I decided that I wanted to be a real Jew, fulfilling all the Jewish laws,” Daniel said.

The teen is currently preparing for his Cuban bar mitzvah in December, which will be officiated by a visiting rabbi since none exist in Cuba. He is excited about sharing this important rite of passage with his family, friends and community.

“Kadima, my community in Cienfuegos, has entirely formed me as a Jew, because I have grown up learning all the customs and traditions. This has awakened deep feelings about my religion,” Daniel said.

Linda J. Hirsch of Wayland helped launch the Cuba Connection.


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