What has India to do with Cuba?

What has India to do with Cuba? Jews of course!

I am an Australian Jew with historical connections to the ancient Jewish community of Cochin in India. On my first visit to the Jewish community of Santiago de Cuba, I was amazed at the similarities in Jewish names in Cuba and India.

As is well known, the Sefardim of Cuba are referred to as Turcos, denoting the last country of their residence. The Turkish Jewish community is the other common thread between the Jews of Cochin and Cuba, apart from Sefarad, Spain. On expulsion during the 15th century of common era, the Jews had settled all around the Mediterranean including Turkey.

New immigrants to Israel are often resettled in Beersheva. A group of 13 Jews migrated from Guantanamo, Cuba and were resettled in and around Beersheva. Who are their neighbours? Jews from India! Many of them have same surnames and same country of previous residence, Turkey. Now five hundred years later, this reunion takes place in Eretz Israel.

Going through the common Jewish names in Cochin, one recognizes the common origins of many of the Sefardim who live in far- flung corners of the world. The following are the names and their land of origin:

Castiel Spain
Levi Spain
Zackai Kurdistan
Hallegua Spain via Turkey
Belila Jerusalem
Saala Jerusalem
Rahabi Iraq
Sarpathi Sarpat in Hebrew means France
Ashurai Iraq
Pinto Portugal
Saadi Yemen
Zaviv Yemen
Tuofa Yemen
Toovi Morocco
Koder Iraq

It is to be remembered that these families had lived in India for centuries some going back to 1500's. ( documented evidence)

So one meets a Castiel in Santiago de Cuba, a Pinto in Jamaica or England, a Hallegua in Uruguay, a Zackai in the United States, a Koder in Australia. Reminds us the historical continuity of our people, and that regardless of our current nationalities, we belong to one nation, the nation of Jews.

The writer of this article, Yehuda Kadar Shaheb, MD, is a visiting professor of Anthropology at the University of Habana and likes to consider Baracoa as his Cuban home. You can contact him at cochinjew@aol.com