From Minnesota to Cuba: A Glimpse Through Rabbi Locketz’s Eyes

We have been traveling in Cuba on a Bet Shalom Humanitarian mission since Sunday morning when 15 Bet Shalomians left Minneapolis together.  It has already been an amazing trip.  Just 90 miles from Florida, we are in so many ways, in another world.  Cuba is a socialist country, defined by the revolution since 1959 and its Communist Party.  Everywhere we go we see images of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Castro brothers.  We hear the official propaganda, yet we also know that only six percent of the population in Cuba identifies with the ruling Communist Party.  As we struggle with the question of whether these people (Castro and Che) were heroes for Cuba or not, so do the people of Cuba. Perhaps they were better than Battista who the revolution ran out of power.  But what about now?

Cuba is strikingly beautiful.  And crumbling.  Everywhere you look you can see incredible architecture and extraordinary buildings behind a facade of 70 years of decay.  There is no graffiti here because Cubans have no access to spray paint.  Or much paint of any sort.  Three doors down from the four-star Spanish Chain hotel where we are staying in Cienfuegos is a “ration store” where Cubans collect their monthly stipend of rice, beans and chicken.  And if you are under seven, or over 70, then you also can receive powdered milk. While at times, the situation seems dire, all of the Cubans we have met are content. Happy.  Perhaps a conversation for another day might be to understand a reasonable measure for happiness.  It seems Americans work harder, and for longer hours, to provide for our basic needs.  As one Cuban who makes $25 a month for his work (no zeros missing there and it indeed provides for basic needs) told us, “The government pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.”

While in Cuba, we have been visiting the Jewish community.  We visited three synagogues in Havana, one in Santa Clara and one in Cienfuegos.  Even though 90% of the Jews left Cuba after the revolution, the country still maintains more than these five synagogues.  A sixth one is in Santiago which is too far to travel in our short time here.  The roads are in such disrepair, we are told it would take more than 15 hours to drive there.  When the national highway system was built in the 70’s and 80’s, much of the Russian subsidies were pocketed and so in place what should have been a bona fide freeway is a one lane rode in both directions. 

Most of Cuba’s 1200 Jews today live in Havana.  There are two Conservative temples and one Orthodox.  And their struggles are not entirely different than those of the Jewish community.  They have all the typical challenges of educating their community and keeping people engaged.  We have brought more than 250 pounds of needed medicine and supplies to these communities along with hundreds of dollars of tzedakah.  Yet we too have also received a great deal.  

Today in Santa Clara, David Tacher, the leader of the 25 member Sephardic Jewish community there shared a Russian parable with us.  His community has a building with a small sanctuary, two Torah scrolls even though no one knows how to chant from them, and a whole lot of spirit.  The parable is of a small village with a famous watch maker.  This watch maker was prolific in his watch making and everyone in town had a beautiful time piece on their wrist.  But at some point, the watch maker moved away.  And over time, those watches fell into disrepair.  Some people discarded their watches.  Others took them off, but placed them in some forgotten drawer or cupboard.  And yet others continued to wear their watches even though they no longer worked and they didn’t know how to tell time with them.  And then one day a new watch maker moved to town.  And all of a sudden everyone scrambled to have their watches repaired.  David Tacher compared his 25 person community to those who kept their watches ready even though they didn’t know enough about how to use them as they would have liked.  And we have come through town like a watch maker who could help them keep time even for just a little bit.  

As we have given them hope…hope in connection with other Jews…hope that they have not been forgotten…they have given us strength too…That a pintel a yid – a Jewish spark in the heart is not easily extinguished.  And as David reminded us…sometimes you just need to breathe.  In this far away place which isn’t so far away, for just a few minutes, we all breathed together as one people – Am Yisrael.  I look forward to sharing more of our adventure sometime soon after we return home to Bet Shalom strengthened, inspired, and full of hope.                 

Comments from Rabbi Crimmings

On Tuesday evening, March 19, I had the opportunity to stand with other faith leaders at Northwest Islamic Community Center in solidarity and prayer. I was so touched to see so many Bet Shalom members come out in support of our neighbors at this difficult moment.  I know there were many others who wanted to be present but couldn’t and so I’d like to share the brief words of prayer I offered at the service. Please be in touch with me anytime if you are interested in being involved in our ongoing interfaith efforts.

Our hearts are broken over this tragic and senseless loss… for the children who lost parents, parents who lost children, for those who lost a sibling, spouse, friend, mentor, student, community member… There are no words that can bring back the lives of those murdered in a prayer space just like this one, and for this we weep.
And for this we come together to declare that we will not stand idly by as hatred permeates in our midst.  As Jews, we have a responsibility to stand up against all forms of hate, particularly hate that targets individuals for their religious expression.   We have this responsibility not only because we have been targets ourselves, but also, and more importantly because it is our moral imperative.
The terror attack in New Zealand was an act of baseless hatred, called Sinat Chinam in Hebrew.  Sinat Chinam represents the worst kind of hatred, a hatred that is not based in any kind of lived or real experience… but rather prejudice, fear, intolerance.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook taught that the only way to fight Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred, is through Ahavat Chinam, baseless love.  This type of love is an intentional choice to approach those we have never met with openness, honor, and respect.   My prayer tonight is that we can come together in Ahavat Chinam… as neighbors and partners together in the pursuit for love.

Annual Confirmation Class Flower Sale

Think Spring!

Bet Shalom’s 2019 Confirmation Class again is partnering with Gertens to sell beautiful flowers and plants. Proceeds will be used to purchase a gift from the class to the synagogue. 

Click Here to view a brochure in color

To order click here and complete the form, making sure to include your contact information, and either bring it in or mail the form to Bet Shalom
13613 Orchard Rd., Minnetonka, MN 55305. Attention: Flower Sale.

Be sure to include your check payable to Bet Shalom.

Important Dates:

Monday, March 25 ~ all orders due.

Wednesday, May 8 ~ customer pickup from 4 – 7 pm.

Sunday, May 13 ~ customer pickup from 8:30 am – noon.

Please direct questions to:

Amanda Goodman at 612-986-4468 or or

Marilyn Ruby at 952-426-6646 or

Letter from Rabbi Locketz

Israel often is in my heart and in my prayers. Over 900 years ago, the Spanish physician, philosopher and poet Yehudah Halevi wrote, “Libi b’mizrach… my heart is in the East, but here I am so far in the West.” I have been blessed with many opportunities to engage with the Land and the People of Israel, and a significant part of my rabbinate is helping others enjoy those same opportunities. Being “so far in the West” can make it challenging.

Many of you have asked for programs and forums to help you better understand Israel’s history, art and culture, religious landscape, and ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. As we continue to build Bet Shalom’s program, we will be offering many such opportunities.

For Jews in the West, one of the many challenging aspects of Israel to comprehend is Israeli politics. With Israel’s national elections set for April 9, and corruption charges against Netanyahu as the sitting Prime Minister, things are even more complicated. I feel that American Jews need an understanding of Israel’s political scenario to understand many other issues of the day.

This Sunday, we have a unique opportunity to unpack the narrative of current Israeli politics with Shlomo Weinish, a good friend of Bet Shalom who served as Minneapolis Shaliach from 2006-2008. He will lead us in discussion, offering a preview of the coming election and answering our questions.

Join us this Sunday at 10:30 am, in the Bet Shalom youth lounge. Please use the Religious School entrance to the building. 

Rabbi David Locketz

Welcome to the New Bet Shalom Website!

Welcome to the new Bet Shalom website! We’ve listened to our members about what they want and need from the website and have been working with Grossman Designs to build a new, user-friendly site. Many thanks to our Marketing Committee for their help in putting it all together.

On our blog page, you will find weekly updates from Rabbi Locketz, Rabbi Crimmings, Cantor Schwartz, Steve Barberio and other members of our staff. Occasionally, you’ll find sermons presented by the rabbis and commentaries written by clergy and staff.

Enjoy the new website and please let us know if there’s something missing or new that you’d like to see by sending an email to Thank you!