Adela Dworin has been president of Beth Shalom synagogue since 2006 and serves as the Cuban Jewish communitys government liaison. (Josh Tapper)/JTA
On a recent Friday night inside this citys Beth Shalom synagogue, Aliet Ashkenazi, 25, stood draped in a blue-and-white prayer shawl leading prayers in a mix of Spanish and near-perfect Hebrew.
It was the first time she had ever led services a feat considering she converted to Judaism seven years ago after discovering her father was Jewish.
The 300-seat sanctuary in the Cuban capital was near capacity, but the crowd filling the wooden pews was largely American, comprised of tour groups from New York and New Jersey. The next morning, with the Americans gone, the crowd had thinned. A handful of youths sat in the first few rows, leaving a gray-haired cohort of congregants in the back.
This is typically how things go for Cubas 1,500 or so Jews: Hordes of out-of-town guests arrive, bringing with them suitcases full of clothing and coveted medical supplies, and then theyre gone, leaving Cubas diminished Jewish community behind.
Amonth since the United States and Cuba announced renewed diplomatic relations after more than five decades of mutual recrimination and mistrust, it remains unclear how rapprochement will change things for Cubas Jewish community, which has shrunk tenfold since the end of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, when there were 15,000 Jews here.
If it will be better for Cuba, it will be better for Jews in Cuba as well, said Ida Gutzstat, executive director of the Bnai Brith Maimonides Lodge, a community center attached to the Sephardic synagogue in this citys Vedado neighborhood.
Amanda Amato, a 49-year-old secretary, sipping a plastic cup of Cristal beer at one of the lodges biannual parties, said, We have a difficult economic situation now, but its not for all time.
Already there has been some easing. Americans including the thousands of Jews who fled Cuba after the revolution now can send remittances of $2,000 every three months to Cubans, four times the previous limit.
While Cuban Jews endure the same depressed conditions as other Cubans, surviving on monthly food rations and salaries that rarely exceed $40 per month, the community as a whole is the recipient of largesse most Cubans can only dream of.