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Rabbinic Pastor/Cantor Lisa L. Levine


Group of smiling American and Cuban Reform Jews gathered together in Cuba before the pandemic began

When I returned from my sixth Jewish humanitarian mission to the island of Cuba at the beginning of February, little did I know that the entire world would be in quarantine only a month later. It now feels like a miracle that we were all able to be together.

I first visited the country in 2005 and wrote about my fifth visit in 2019. In the 15 years since I began visiting the island, I’ve witnessed incredible growth within the community, as well as the continued struggle and survival of those who live within the confines of Cuban society. I’ve also had the joy of seeing the young...

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Closeup of hands holding a Haggadah with a glass of white wine in view

Source of Blessing: Our lives are in turmoil our hearts heavy help us to cope with this modern plague we are worried for our families, we are concerned for our communities, our world is on the brink.            Bless us with strength.

Source of Mercy:  We pray for courage to stay strong for those in our care, and for ourselves. We pray for insight to act in loving ways to keep our communities safe.            Bless us with strength.

Source of Hope: We pray for those who are at greatest risk vulnerable and scared isolated and lonely, and for those heroes leading on the front...

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The author singing in Cuba

The story of the Jews of Cuba is at once tragic and triumphant. Before the 1959 revolution, 15,000 Jews lived on the island, having immigrated there from all over the world to find their fortunes in tobacco, rum, textiles, and sugar cane. They built magnificent synagogues: Beit Shalom/The Patronato Jewish Community Center, the Sephardic Synagogue, and Beit Yaakov, the Orthodox synagogue that now houses a beautiful upstairs museum sanctuary. Most of the wealthiest Jews fled to the United States before the revolution and today, the island has roughly 1,000 Jewish souls.

When Fidel...

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Ugandan Jewish child studying Hebrew alphabet

Last summer, I was honored and humbled to meet Mugoya Shadrach Levi, a 29-year-old rabbinic student from Uganda, who was in the U.S. for three weeks to travel and study. Over dinner, Shadrach, as he is known, told my husband and me his story, which both shocked and captivated us.

Shadrach leads the Jewish Congregation of Namutumba, a community of 2,000 members that survives and thrives despite a years’-long famine in Uganda. When I asked him what he wanted for breakfast, he explained that he doesn’t usually eat breakfast – just a glass of tea – because the children had to be fed...

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Sunlight shining upon a footbridge in a forest

I first found my voice at a dying woman’s bedside during a unit of clinical pastoral education. I had been paged to the neurology ICU for a family struggling to say goodbye to their mother, who was in the final stages of brain cancer. When I asked her daughter to tell me about her mother, I learned that she loved music and had been the choir director and organist in their church for many years.

Instinctively, I asked if I might sing something to help soothe her mother’s spirit in this time of need. The first song that came to mind was “Balm in Gilead,” a gospel hymn I remembered...

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