A member of the Jewish community arrives at the Beth Shalom synagogue, Sept. 26, 2015, Havana. (Jonathan Alpeyrie)

A Jewish girl fixes her hair inside the Beth Shalom administrative building. Aug. 26, 2015, Havana. (Jonathan Alpeyrie)

In 1945, there were about 25,000 Jews in Cuba. But after the revolution of the 1950s, many fled the country. Only 1,500 remain today, and while they are a relatively small group, they are proud of their heritage and active observers of their faith.

Jonathan Alpeyrie has photographed Jewish enclaves in the United States and Ukraine, drawn to their positions as living links to history. In the summer, he spent several weeks in Havana, on a commission from Anastasia Photo, documenting the Jewish community at Beth Shalom, a large synagogue in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, and a smaller, mostly Sephardic synagogue in old Havana. His series, “Last Jews of Cuba,” will be on display at Anastasia’s New York gallery through Oct. 31.

“As a foreigner it is poignant to see how loyal and connected the members of that same community feel towards each other. The will to help, and protect each other is very apparent, as it is traceable through a common history born out of pain and incessant struggles,” Alpeyrie said via e-mail.

According to Alpeyrie, Jews in Havana have avoided persecution, even under a Castro regime that insisted on atheism. As a result, they have integrated easily into Cuban society, even while maintaining a close connection to their religious identity.

“Though it is true that they are Jews, the members of that community feel above all Cuban,” Alpeyrie said.


A member of the Jewish community puts on his kippah before entering the Sefarati Jewish cemetery outside of Havana, Sept. 26, 2015. (Jonathan Alpeyrie)

A member of the Sefarati synagogue shows a photograph of his parents, Aug. 31, 2015, in Havana. (Jonathan Alpeyrie)

Members of the Jewish community dance the hora at the Beth Shalom synagogue, Sept. 1, 2015, Havana. (Jonathan Alpeyrie)

Parents participate in their daughter’s bat mitzvah inside the Beth Shalom synagogue, Aug. 29, 2015, Havana. (Jonathan Alpeyrie)

Parents participate in their daughter’s bat mitzvah inside the Beth Shalom synagogue, Aug. 29, 2015, Havana. (Jonathan Alpeyrie)

Entrance of the Beth Shalom synagogue, Aug. 29, 2015, Havana. (Jonathan Alpeyrie)

More In Sight:

Altar call: Babes, blessings, and baptisms at Cuba’s Our Lady of Charity church

Part II: A Cuban love affair continued

Balancing act: The circus as a way of life for Cuban youth