Developing New Communal Leadership in Cuba

Cuba’s Jewish community’s restoration to the “real world” of international Jewish life has taken another step forward with the award of a grant to William Miller, ORT Cuba’s national director and an ROI community member. The grant will enable him to organize a leadership training seminar for more than 40 Jews from across the country.

“For a long time we were outside the Jewish world,” said Miller. “Now we’re among 11 countries which have received a grant from the ROI Community. It’s very important for us to see our country listed alongside established communities such as the United States, Israel and Argentina, we feel like we’re part of world Jewry again like before 1959.”

The grant is one of 35 which were awarded from a pool of 125 applications submitted by alumni of the past five years of international gatherings hosted by ROI, the Lynn Schustermann-funded project of the Center for Leadership Initiatives in Israel. Miller has attended two ROI events, one in Israel and the other in Mexico. Now he is waiting for permission to travel to July’s fifth anniversary ROI Summit in Jerusalem where he will formally receive the grant.

Miller’s plan is to build on the success of a leadership seminar held in Cuba in 2006, soon after the death of his grandfather, Dr. Jose Miller, who had led the community for some 30 years. The ROI grant will pay the transportation, accommodation, food and other costs involved in bringing together more than 40 activists to Havana for a long weekend’s learning of leadership techniques, project management and discussion of new initiatives.

According to Miller, “We’re working very hard to have representatives from across the generations at the seminar. Having young and old together means one can learn from the other and share ideas. The youth are very enthusiastic and active and can stimulate the older generations to do more.”

The study material at the seminar will be cherry-picked from ORT courses which are provided to the community, particularly business management. [ORT Cuba, which celebrated its ninth anniversary in December, maintains a fairly active presence in the island nation; they have opened a computer language study center in Santiago de Cuba and provided technical ICT support for a Jewish Sunday school.]

“It’s very important for us to keep the work my grandfather did going, to keep the flame of Judaism in Cuba alive. We have to teach people to become real leaders because they don’t have the know-how – particularly outside Havana. To keep Judaism alive, this is our main goal and it’s not an easy task.”