By COLlive reporter
300 guests and supporters gathered to celebrate Chabad Friends of Cuban Jewry’s (CFCJ) 10th annual dinner in the grand ballroom of the exquisite Chateau Le Parc Event Centre in Vaughan, Ontario.
Honourees were the brothers Joe Bitton and Jack Bitton who were described as “distinguished members of the community, true baalei chesed importantly impacting numerous causes in the community at large, and beyond,” together with Maurice Benzacar, a veteran community leader, actively involved on countless committees and boards serving and representing the Sephardi community for over 60 years.
Entering the beautiful courtyard for registration, guests received a unique gift, a pouch with the classic Cuban memento to enjoy with the cocktails, together with the beautiful Journal – The Alex Eisen & Family Edition Dinner Magazine dedicated in loving memory Mrs. Olga Eisen OBM.
A beautiful display was present upon the entry as part of the silent auction, which later a few of the important pieces were then set aside for the live auction.
Mrs. Chani Aisenbach opened the evening greeting the guests, noting a few words encapsulating the vital and sensitive work of the CFCJ, literally impacting every Jew – man woman and child – on the island, in the capital Havana and in the numerous cities and towns spanning across 1100 KM, together with the important humanitarian aid programs towards the broader community.
The honorary chairs, Victor Arrobas and David Bitton took to the podium and invited Rabbi Shimon Aisenbach, Director of the CFCJ. Rabbi Aisenbach acknowledged the efforts of those whom were involved in the successes of the dinner, primarily the honourees, the dinner chairs, and attendees, ensuring the growth and expansion of the organization.
Rabbi Aisenbach delivered a dvar torah, connecting the achievements of the CFCJ with the opening of the present chumash we began to read, with the words “Bamidbar Sinai, b’Ohel Moed “. The overall mandate of every Jew, and of every human being to take the Midbar, which exist within ourselves and without, in society and at large, and transform it into an “Ohel-moed”, a Divine sanctuary. Summing up the important work of the CFCJ on the island – a desert in many ways – transforming the life of so many – on numerous levels , bringing life and light to so many living in poverty – physical and spiritual alike. As well – in association with the yom tov – encouraging the attendees to as well take this message home personally, never to fall in despair, as at times one feels – and occasionally justifiably – deserted of any good quality, to soldier forward with our holy Torah (- given by the Almighty in a dessert – for this very reason) and the transformation inevitably to follow.
The keynote speaker, Mrs. Estrella Levy from Havana, addressed the guests, capturing the hearts and minds of the participants, depicting her personal story. Her and her family’s challenges living in Cuba and the first knock on the door some 20 years ago, whereby her elderly mother told her “some chacham-looking Jew is present at the door!”.
She told how life has changed for the good for her and her family from that day on. A Mezuzah went up on her home and the next day her son Reuven joined a boat ride for the Jewish children in one of the tourists resorts in Havana as part of CFCJ’s Gan Israel day camp activities. Her son later underwent a Bris. Eventually, the family joining the CFCJ family by participating in year-round activities.
When their second son Ariel was born, the CFCJ arranged for his bris, and he joined many of the CFCJ educational activities, summer camps and similar. Upon turning 13, a lavish Bar-Mitzvah was arranged with his own beautiful pair of Tefilin, later sponsored education and summer camp for him abroad. Esther continued relating other moving personal experiences, concluding, with much emotion, in thanking all those whom came to identify with this gracious cause.
The evening concluded with the live auction, the important raffle with four unique items – important electronics and the like – raffled. Together the beautiful presentation by the violinist and composer Grenville Pinto.
The crowd slowly began dispersing not before overwhelmingly demonstrating their appreciation and congratulatory remarks of the unique and meaningful evening they experienced.
As the CFCJ looks forward only to expand its work in different ways for the spiritual and material benefit of our brothers and sisters living on the island, awaiting the final “kibuts ni-dchai Yisrael” b’karov mamash.
עלו והצליחו בעבודת הקודש!
Joining you in celebrating 30 years Of Mesiras Nefesh in CUBA. Holy family doing holy work.
A fan forever,