ORT Cuba’s National Director wins grant


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 ORT Cuba National Director William Miller.

Mr Miller is to receive $7,000 to enable him to organise a leadership training seminar for more than 40 Jews from across the country. The money will underpin the seminar it also bears a tremendous symbolic significance for the community. “For a long time we were outside the Jewish world,”? said Mr Miller. “Now we’re among 11 countries which have got a grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. 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 (Return on Investment), the Lynn Schustermann-funded project of the Centre for Leadership Initiatives. Mr 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 convention in Jerusalem where he will formally receive the grant.
Mr 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 the capital, Havana, for a long weekend’s learning of leadership techniques, project management and discussion of new initiatives.
“We’re working very hard to have representatives from across the generations at the seminar,”? Mr Miller said. “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. But there is plenty to choose from: since October, ORT Cuba has provided courses for nearly 300 people in English, computing, French, sewing, Photoshop, ethics, digital photography, catering management, Holocaust studies and Jewish studies.
In addition, ORT Cuba, which celebrated its ninth anniversary in December, has opened a computerised language study centre in Santiago de Cuba and provided technical ICT support for a Jewish Sunday school.
At the end of the four-day leadership seminar, the date of which has yet to be fixed, it is hoped that participants will be able to return to their hometowns with new projects and the wherewithal to implement them should funds become available.
“This way we will be able to have a central data base of new projects which we in Havana can show to visiting delegations who want to support us. We need to be able to tell our friends from overseas about the needs and aspirations of the Jewish communities outside Havana,”? said Mr Miller.
But the key aim is to develop leadership of this small but disparate community and so nurture its renaissance.
“It’s very important for us to keep the work my grandfather did going, to keep the flame of Judaism in Cuba alive,”? Mr Miller said. “We have to teach people to become real leaders because they don’t have the know-how “モ particularly outside Havana. To keep Judaism alive, this is our main goal and it’s not an easy task.”?