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174 SHOFAR Summer 1996 Vol. 14, No.4 appears about AmericanJewish life today. In the shadow ofthe Holocaust, when a third of world Jewry was murdered, it is not surprising that survival has become central to the minds of scholars and communal leaders. But this preoccupation with questions about group survival and continuity results in a failure to explore different issues related to AmericanJewish life. Ifwe do not begin to ask other interesting questions, then I fear that the survival of contemporary American Jewish studies is seriously threatened. Shelly Tenenbaum Department of Sociology Clark University Tropical Diaspora: TheJewish Experience in Cuba, byRobert M. Levine. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993. 398 pp. $34.95. In Tropical Diaspora, Robert Levine traces the arrival offive different groups of Jewish immigrants and refugees to Cuba-Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Americans up to the early twentieth century, Gennan refugees, and survivors of concentration camps during and after World War II-and their interactions with each other and with several sectors of Cuban society. In doing so, he not only provides "a chronicle of the experiences of Cuba's Jewish immigrants" (p. 8), but also fleshes out their lives in several relevant contexts-the Cuban social and political milieu, the climate shaping immigration policies in other Latin American countries, and the larger arena of international politics. Although the subject is difficult and Levine's sources problematic, the author's good sense prevails throughout the book. Tropical Diaspora is an original scholarly history of Jewish immigration to Cuba and an admiring portrait of the men and women who contributed to its writing. Writing about Jews in Cuba is ridden with dilemmas that a historian must sort out. If Sephardic and AshkenazicJews remained separate entities for almost all of their time in Cuba, is it appropriate to talk about a single Jewish community with particular needs and desires, attitudes and expectations? If Cuban society effectively embraced various ethnic minorities (including Jews), how correct is it to consider Jewish immigrants a readily identifiable group (integrated, to use Levine's word) and not simply part ofCuban society (assimilated)? IfCuban communists in the 1960s and 1970s were not antisemites, how did anti-Israeli sentiment spread so fast and penetrate so deep in the Cuba psyche? If institutional- Book Reviews 175 ized discrimination did not exist in Cuba, and Jews adjusted to circumstances with pragmatism, which actions (on the part ofJews and on the part of other Cubans) can we attribute to the "Jewish" component of any one situation and which ones to other group characteristics (such as class, culture, family, etc.)? In other words, how do we as readers, and Jews and non-Jews in Cuba as actors, "construct" Jews and others? What is the right combination of religion, ethnicity, national origins, cultural practices, and so on that permits discrimination, or prevents it? These 'are the predicaments Levine faces in this volume. The problem is compounded by the fact that a weighty-and essential -portion of Levine's sources is elderly Miami Jews and their offspring. They tell moving stories, which Levine reproduces with respect. But they are not always aware of the import of their tales, or at times of their historical insignificance. It is Levine, again, who must place this wealth of information in proper perspective within a larger framework. Fortunately, Levine is an accomplished historian, who not only knows how to evaluate and corroborate evidence but also has vast experience in the subject at hand. As a Latin Americanist, the author is careful to provide the reader with the information necessary to understand fairly complicated circumstances, ,such as social relations in Cuba during the 1950s or revolutionary attitudes and policies. His skilled hand has also uncovered rich primary material and made use of pertinent secondary sources about both Cuba in the twentieth century and Jewish immigration to other Latin American countries. Emotion-filled statements obtained from oral interviews, sober official reports bygovernment and international agencies, as well as sensationalistic and "objective" newspaper accounts form part of this engaging narrative. Levine's prior work with and on MiamiJews has served him well. The SS St. Louis incident is exemplary of Levine's attention to detail and evenhandedness. The luxury liner...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 174-176
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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