As the U.S. launched its war on Iraq last week, accompanied by increasing security measures around the globe, 18 Cornell students were abroad in Cuba on a humanitarian mission. The group spent a week in Havana, Cuba on an Alternative Spring Break trip organized by Tzedek Hillel, a Jewish student group.
The focus of their trip, co-led by Judith Stauber, associate director of Cornell Hillel, was threefold: to spend time interacting with the small Jewish population of Cuba, to provide material and physical humanitarian assistance to Cubans and to experience the country and its culture.
“Before it was just a green island on a map, but now I’ve learned and seen so much in the past few days that I can’t believe Cuba was never a part of me in the past,” said Jessica Weiss ’03.
Stanley Falkenstein, founder and director of the Jewish Cuba-Connection, co-led and organized the trip with Stauber. “We came with no agenda, but our goals were, as a Jewish group, to interact with Jews in Cuba, and with young people especially, and on a more macro level to come back with a sense of the country,” Falkenstein said.
The group spent about half the week seeing important sites in Havana, Habana Vieja (Old Havana), La Plaza de la Revolucion (Revolution Plaza) and other government monuments. Their very first stop after arriving in Cuba was the University of Havana, where a professor of history, Dr. Delio Juan Carreras Cuevas, gave them a historical tour of many of the buildings at the institution in which close to 14,000 undergraduates study.
Dr. Marta Nu