Florida – Cuban Jews React to Obama’s Intentions

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    Cuban American Temple  Beth Shmuel, Miami, Fla.Florida – President Barack Obama fulfilled a campaign promise last month when he lifted both family travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans visiting the island and the cap on how much money they can send to their relatives. Cuban President Raul Castro has also said that he’s interested in meeting with Obama, who has wanted to open up dialogue between both countries.

    Members of the South Florida Cuban Jewish community discussed how they feel about Obama’s continued intentions for the island.

    “There are a lot of individuals who have been living here for many years who want to see their families,” said Marcos Kerbel, 62, who came to the United States on the Pedro Pan Exodus and is the president of Temple Beth Shmuel-Cuban Hebrew Congregation in Miami Beach. “They have elderly parents and grandparents who need medicine and food and therefore you also have to understand the needs of those individuals.”

    The lifting of the restrictions made it possible for Mary Golobovich, Kerbel’s friend, to fly to Cuba rather quickly in order to arrive just a few minutes before the funeral of her mother earlier this month. Golobovich’s husband, Moises, a 63-year-old Miami Beach resident, commented on what it meant for his wife to go to her mother’s funeral.

    “Just put yourself in her situation — she’s the only child, her mother was 90 years ago, and we’ve been living here almost 30 years, and all of sudden they call her and say that her mother passed away,” he said. “The first reaction for her was ‘I’ve got to go.’ We went to the airport and we saw there was a flight available and we saw there was a possibility.”

    Fabio Nick, a 65-year-old North Miami Beach resident, is already making plans to visit Cuba with his children.

    “I just have to work it around their schedule but it definitely looks like it’s going to be this year and if everything goes well we’ll be looking around October or November, sometime after the hurricane season,” he said.

    Bernardo Benes, a 74-year-old Surfside resident, said he feels that all Americans should be allowed to go to Cuba while Carlos Waserstein, a 65-year-old Aventura resident, said it should only be families visiting each other. Robert Oberstein of North Miami Beach said the lifting of restrictions has both its good and bad points and Manny Fainstein of Miramar said he’s absolutely all for it.

    “After 50 years, nothing of magnitude has changed except that the Castro brothers have tightened their grip on the republic of Cuba, so anything that might help loosen the tightening of that grip is welcoming,” Fainstein said.

    Castro said last month that he wants to discuss everything with Obama, including human rights, political prisoners and press freedom despite his brother and predecessor Fidel blasting the U.S. president. Although Oscar White, an 81-year-old Sunny Isles Beach resident, said there will never be a relationship between the two countries, Benes feels both sides should open up dialogue.

    “I think they should get together and find areas where each country and its people can benefit,” Benes said.

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