Kosher chicken now available in Cuba
By JENNA ROSMAN
A halachic-based humanitarian and educational organization has begun
slaughtering kosher chickens for the Cuban community on an ongoing basis.
“Even though in the past we had periodic chicken slaughtering… [From now
on] every few weeks we’ll have another few slaughterers go down,” said
Rabbi Simon Aisenbach, executive director of the Canadian Friends of
Cuban Jewry (CFCJ).
“Every two to three weeks, a team goes down there to slaughter chickens,
and we’d love to do more, but it’s based on how much we can put
together. It’s a very costly project, but the more money we get the more
we can do.”
The organization pays $6.80 for each chicken.
Rabbi Aisenbach said it’s difficult for the average Cuban to access
poultry or meat on a regular basis.
“It’s very costly and the average individual makes very little there,”
he said. “They have a few dollars that they accumulate, they’ll spend it
on something else, like vegetables and eggs, which you can get more of
for that same price.”
Two hundred and twenty families receive the 500 kosher chickens from the
CFCJ. The number of chickens distributed to each family varies according
to need, said Aisenbach.
Cuba’s only Orthodox synagogue, Adath Israel, serves as CFCJ’s
While the organization has made strides making chicken available, there
is still some work that needs to be done before kosher beef is available
to Cuba’s Jewish community, which Rabbi Aisenbach estimates to be around
1,000 and is centred mainly in Havana.
He said that while it is possible for the community to obtain a certain
number of cattle from the government, “it’s not simple for them [the
government] yet to digest this concept that in Jewish law a big part of
the animal would not be kosher, and a big part of the animal, which
maybe is kosher, is not halachically allowed to be eaten.”
“The Halachah with beef is a lot more complicated. There are tens and
maybe hundreds of details, which… exist in kosher slaughter, pertaining
[to] the cattle versus the chicken,” he said.
The CFCJ wrapped up its 101st mission to Cuba on July 9. The next group
of shochtim (kosher slaughterers), all of whom are from South America,
arrived in Cuba July 16 for a three-week stay.
The CFCJ, founded in 1994, is Chabad’s official representation in Cuba.
Its annual summer camp there, Gan Israel, begins July 23 and wraps up on
The camp program is structured for the children, but parents or older
siblings are invited to enjoy a day out and have a good, satisfying meal
and “to enjoy different experiences that they cannot and would not all
year round,” Rabbi Aisenbach said.
“We provide these kids with meals on a daily basis, and we thought we
could provide the parents as well with the physical sustenance as well
as the educational component.”
Rabbi Aisenbach said religious education and spiritual support is
provided solely to the Jewish community, but the organization will not
deny anyone humanitarian assistance, regardless of religion.
“We never differentiate, not only with the halachic Jew, but between the
Jew and the non-Jew at all,” he said. “Even recently, we got a call for
help to provide medicine from a completely non-Jewish couple. As much as
we can, we try to help everybody. It’s important to help every human
being for that matter.”
Rabbi Aisenbach is pleased with how his organization has been received
by Cuba’s small Jewish community.
“It means everything for them, the fact that they know that they have an
address and literally whatever they need, besides the ongoing
humanitarian aid distribution,” he said.
“We have our representatives there, and anyone can turn to them, at any
moment, with any subject, be it religious, educational or primarily
humanitarian… [For] anything like shoes, clothes and medicine, [the
community can] turn to us.”