Adath Israel


Adath Israel is the city’s Orthodox synagogue, sitting almost unnoticeableon a crowded, narrow street in the Old Havana district.

After WWI, there was only the Ashkenazi synagogue in Havana, the United Hebrew Congregation. Religiously, it was very liberal with a wealthy, English-speaking membership. This was not a comfortable place for the Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Eastern Europe to worship. In 1923, a Lithuanian immigrant, Ben Zion Sofer, started a minyan in his apartment at Calle Paola No. 17. By 1925, the minyan developed into Congregation Adath Israel, located on the second floor of Calle Jesús María 103. The shul was basic, but served the congregants. The majority of Ashkenazi immigrants were not strictly observant; therefore, Adath Israel was only nominally Orthodox. The prayer services were traditional.

Eventually it was decided to build the new synagogue in Vedado, the heart of the Jewish Quarter of Habana Vieja (old Havana). Architect, Oscar Baisman, and construction engineer, Jacinto Feh Leonard, constructed a modern sanctuary with seating for six hundred people, a chapel and a reception hall. The cornerstone for the $100,000 synagogue was laid in April of 1956 and it was completed on October 9, 1959. Monies were recently been granted to renovate the area, which included the synagogue. The Havana Restoration Commission worked with Jorge Herrera on plans regarding the synagogue restoration, which included full restoration of the sanctuary and an innovative frame for the roof to be used for celebrating Sukkot. Most of the money for the synagogue restoration was donated by wealthy businessmen from Panama and Venezuela. Currently, there are 400 members in the congregation. The congregation has a program to supply vitamins, some medications and toiletries to members who are in need and live nearby.

Adath Israel has remained intact through the years, its doors have never closed, carrying out the religious services of Shajarit, Minja and Arvit daily, maintaining alive the traditions of our Fathers.