Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 29, 2015

At long last, Chabad puts down roots in laid-back Jamaica


Rabbi Yaakov and Mushkee Raskin crisscross the island nation with religious services for Jewish locals and tourists, RENEE GHERT-ZAND reports for The Times of Israel. Follow the link below for the original report.

Most people go to Jamaica to relax, but Rabbi Yaakov Raskin and his wife Mushkee aren’t there to take it easy. As the first-ever permanent Chabad emissaries to the island nation famous for rum, reggae, and runners, they have been hard at work since last fall, serving the Jews who live and vacation there.

Like other Chabad emissaries sent to remote locations with few permanent Jewish residents but many Jewish tourists passing through (such as Kathmandu, Nepal, recently in the news following the devastating earthquake there), the Raskins are challenged with the task of catering—not only spiritually, but also literally in terms of kosher food— to a varied, far-flung community with few existing Jewish institutions.

The young couple, expecting their first child this summer, arrived in Montego Bay right before last Rosh Hashanah, in September 2014. Montego Bay is the city most tourists fly into, and it is also relatively close to island’s other major vacation destinations, such as Negril and Ocho Rios, where the large cruise ships dock. They are across the island from the capital of Kingston, where most of Jamaica’s approximately 200 permanent Jewish residents live.

Despite Rabbi Raskin’s being based in Montego Bay and busy with what he estimates to be the 100,000 Jewish vacationers passing through annually, he travels regularly all over the island seeking Jews to meet and try to bring closer to Judaism.

“There are 15 local Jews in the Montego Bay Area, 10 in Negril, 10 in Ocho Rios and two in Port Antonio,” Raskin told The Times of Israel on a recent visit to Jerusalem.

“And there are also three Jewish families in Mandeville,” added Mushkee, 23, who was in Israel with her husband.

The rabbi, 25, travels to Kingston once a week. While he told The Times of Israel that Chabad has been warmly welcomed in Jamaica, community leader and historian Ainsley Henriques indicated in an email that the reception has been somewhat chilly from the capital’s Jews. He noted that the community is lay-led at this point and some but not all of its Jews have been happy to see Chabad offer its services to the community.

This has more to do with Jamaican Jews’ history and complicated internal communal politics than with the Hasidic Jewish emissaries themselves, who Henriques called “an intrepid and really nice couple” and who he said are “doing an excellent job in Montego Bay.”

Chabad has sent rabbis to Jamaica for short stints over the past six decades. In fact, Rabbi Raskin’s grandfather was the first Chabad rabbi to visit the island in 1957. Despite this, the Jewish in-reach-oriented Hasidic movement, known for its presence in every corner of the world (including other Caribbean nations), had surprisingly opted not to put down permanent roots in Jamaica in the past.

Raskin said he knew of no particular reason why Chabad was only now sending a married couple to serve the Jews of Jamaica.

Henriques, too, did not offer a direct reply to this question. “The answer has to come from them,” he said, meaning Chabad. “They have been in and out of Kingston for years but I think they never felt totally welcome being the congregation that we are.”

The tiny, proud Kingston Jewish community is indeed unique. Jamaican Jews have a 350-year-old Jewish heritage and idiosyncratic traditions. The community is at this point centered at the historical and architecturally impressive Congregation Sha’are Shalom—one of only five existing sand-floor synagogues in the world.

The situation in Jamaica today is quite different from what it once was. Whereas currently the sole organized Jewish community is in Kingston and numbers only around 150, a century ago there were 1,500 Jews living in Jamaica. For hundreds of years before that, Jews of Sephardic origin lived in towns throughout the island. Additional Jews from England, Germany and the Ottoman Empire arrived over time. They established a number of congregations, and at one point there were 21 Jewish functioning cemeteries (today there are just two).

In Kingston, Jewish life revolves primarily around religious services at the synagogue. By contrast, Raskin, a third-generation Chabad emissary from Montreal, has taken Jewish practices and celebrations on the road all around the island. Using hotels meeting rooms and private villas (and even the island’s beaches) he has led religious services and holiday festivities wherever Jews are.

“We did: Hanukkah in Ocho Rios; Tu Bishvat in Kingston; Purim evening in Kingston and Purim day in Montego Bay; and Passover and Lag Ba’Omer in Montego Bay,” the rabbi said.

After returning to Jamaica from his trip to Israel, he was planning to head over to Ocho Rios to lead Shavuot celebrations.

As is the practice of most Chabad emissary couples, the Raskins have turned their home into a community center of sorts. On Fridays nights when they aren’t leading Shabbat observances at a larger venue, they entertain guests around their Chabad House dining table. During the week, locals and tourists drop in to learn how to don tefillin or to study Jewish texts with the rabbi, or to get instruction on how to bake challah from his wife.

Mushkee Raskin, who spent part of her childhood in Panama, where her parents were emissaries before returning to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to lead Chabad schools, said she enjoys the warm Caribbean climate.

Living in Jamaica does present some obstacles, but the Raskins said they don’t find them insurmountable. Since they have become the only source of kosher catering following the closure of a home-based business run by Israeli Vered Maoz in Kingston, they have spent a lot of time cooking and baking in their kitchen. They arrange for kosher products—especially meat, chicken and cheese—to be flown in from New York or Miami.

The couple has also had to get used to a more relaxed lifestyle and culture in which things move much more slowly than in Montreal or New York.

“This more relaxed attitude can be a good thing,” said the rabbi. “But it means that it takes time to get things done and you need to plan well ahead for every event.”

Although it is hard for a young couple, especially soon-to-be parents, to live far away from their family and familiar life, the Raskins said they feel very much at home in Jamaica, where they have found the people, like the sun, to be warm.

“We like to go where we are needed,” said the rabbi. “Every Jew is important, no matter how small or large the community is.”

For the original report go to
Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 28, 2015

Caribbean Health Authorities Sound Alert about Zika Virus


The Caribbean Public Health Agency, known as CARPHA, said Thursday that authorities in the region should be alert to the possible spread of the Zika virus, which is transmitted by the same mosquito that carries dengue fever and Chikungunya, the Latin AMerican Herald Tribune reports.

“The symptoms of Zika virus are very mild but have a few symptoms similar to Chikungunya. Most people do not realize they had Zika virus. Both are transmitted by the bite of a mosquito and Aedes aegypti, which is responsible for our dengue and Chik epidemics has been reported to transmit Zika,” CARPHA’s Christian Frederickson told Efe Thursday.

The Jamaican government announced earlier this week that it is working on a public education campaign to raise awareness about the Zika virus.

A health ministry spokeswoman told Efe the decision responds to an alarming rise of confirmed Zika cases in Brazil, where more than 16 people were diagnosed with the virus after experiencing symptoms such as high fever, joint and muscle pain, headaches and rashes.

“Since the same mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is responsible for transmitting all three viruses, the control activities are the same,” Frederickson said.

The Zika virus was isolated for the first time in 1947 in blood samples from monkeys in Uganda’s Zika forest. The samples were used in health research to control yellow fever.

The virus is endemic in West Africa and cases have been reported in Asia and Oceania, with epidemics in Malaysia and Micronesia in 2007.

CARPHA member states are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bermuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Saba, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 27, 2015

A Day Dedicated to Oscar Lopez Rivera



A Day Dedicated to Oscar Lopez Rivera

Join PRFAA this Saturday, May 30th at 11AM, at the corner of 125th and Adam Clayton Powell, to participate in the “One Voice for Oscar” Human Rights March in support of freeing Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar López Rivera, now in his 34th year of imprisonment.

As Director of the Regional Office of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in New York, I am proud to support this march by such a broad coalition of church, community, labor and civic organizations gathering together at this unprecedented event.  I am particularly pleased to see Nobel Prize winners, governors, senators, celebrities and people from across the political and religious spectrum coming together for Don Oscar Lopez; their solidarity means the world to his family and to those in support of our human rights.

At this march, we will once again raise our voices to request that the President of the United States of America, the Honorable Barack Obama, release Puerto Rico’s native son, Oscar López Rivera.

¡Cuento contigo!  I’ll see you on Saturday!


Brenda Torres Barreto


New York Regional Office

Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA)

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

A painting by Victorian-era British artist Frederic Leighton is going on view for the first time in New York City.

“Flaming June” depicts a young woman in a gauzy saffron dress, the Associated Press reports.

The work will be at The Frick Collection from June 9 through Sept. 6. It is on loan to the museum from Puerto Rico’s Museo de Arte de Ponce.

It will appear with a small oil sketch loaned by a private collection. Leighton created that while developing the palette for the vibrant gown in “Flaming June.”

The Frick says the two works haven’t appeared together since the late 19th century.

“Flaming June” was rediscovered in 1962 behind a false panel of a London home. It was eventually acquired by the museum in Puerto Rico.


Release Details:

Earlier this year, Google announced that it will be rolling out a pilot program in Puerto Rico later in the summer. In the launch market, users will reportedly be able to customize their phones using the Ara Marketplace and the Ara Configurator apps. Google has also said that it will sell modules in Puerto Rico via a “food truck.”

At I/O, insiders are hoping for updates regarding the pilot market and if Google will test Ara in other cities and regions. If you’d like to speculate where Ara will be tested next, Google said that they chose Puerto Rico because it’s a mobile first country, with 77% of its population using smartphones as the main way to access the internet.

The Apps:

The modular device will require three apps – Ara Configurer, Ara Manager, and Ara Marketplace. The Configurer app, which enables users to build their phones, resembles the Moto Maker platform and will walk users through the entire “construction” process. Manager lets users manage their modules and the Marketplace will list the available modules for sale. Ara won’t work without these three; if there’s an update on the project at I/O, there will be an update on the apps and how they work.

The Modules:

Most importantly, I/O attendees will want to get a look at some of the modules that have been built for the Ara. Though several manufactures have offered sneak peaks at their modules, includingToshiba’s camera options, a full list of modules and who’s making them will certainly appease rabid fans. (A couple modules that been leaked include a game controller, an LED lamp, and an NFC chip).


There’s no confirmed price yet, but Time reported late last year that Google was hoping to meet the $50 minimum for the endoskeleton.

 I/O kicks off on May 27th at 10.30 CT.


The Gershman Y sets sail for the Caribbean with Jewish Treasures of The Caribbean, a new exhibition running June 25-September 11 that features captivating images by award-winning photographer Wyatt Gallery. Admission to the exhibition is free. The Gershman Y’s galleries are open Monday through Saturday, 9 AM-5 PM and Sundays from 9 AM-2 PM. There will be a free Opening Reception with the artist and complimentary Caribbean cocktails on Thursday, June 25 from 6-8 PM. The Gershman Y is located at the corner of Broad and Pine Streets in Philadelphia.

Jewish Treasures of The Caribbean captures the little-known history of the Sephardic Jews of the Caribbean, as seen through remaining historic sites in Barbados, Curaçao, Jamaica, Nevis, St. Croix, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Suriname. These Jewish communities date back to the early 1600s and are home to the oldest synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in the Western hemisphere.
The exhibition’s stunningly beautiful photographs exemplify the strength of the Jewish people as well as the surprisingly diverse cultural history of the Caribbean. Now facing extinction, the Sephardic Jewish communities of the Caribbean were once so strong and influential that they helped fuel the success of the American Revolution and financed the first synagogues in the United States.
Wyatt Gallery’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is in major public, private, and corporate collections, such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, The George Eastman House in Rochester, the Museum of The City of New York, New Orleans Museum of Art, American Express, and Comcast, among others. His work has been featured in Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, Departures, Condé Nast Traveler, Mother Jones, Oprah’s OWN TV, NBC, the Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, NY1 News, and more.
Gallery earned his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of The Arts in 1997, where he was awarded the Rosenberg Grant to travel to the Caribbean, and is a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Trinidad, the PDN 30 and Rising Star, the Santa Fe Center Editor’s Choice Award, and was featured in 25 Under 25 Up-and-Coming American Photographers by the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, published by PowerHouse. Gallery was an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania and continues to inspire students through frequent lectures at New York University, the School of Visual Arts, the New School, Wharton, Kutztown University, the International Center for Photography, and numerous high schools.
Wyatt Gallery also uses his photographs to raise awareness and support for communities damaged by natural disasters. He published his first book, Tent Life: Haiti, in 2011 with Umbrage Editions and donated 100% of the royalties to relief efforts through J/P HRO, The Global Syndicate, and Healing Haiti. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, he and the Foley Gallery organized #SANDY, an exhibition of iPhone photographs by professional photographers that raised $21,000 for rebuilding efforts in New York City. Gallery edited and published a book of these photographs with Daylight Books that was then featured in the exhibition, Rising Waters, at the Museum of The City of New York in 2014.
Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 27, 2015

Crocodiles born in Sweden to be released in Cuban swamp


Ten young female crocodiles born in Sweden are to be released in their parents’ former swampy home in Cuba after being returned to the Caribbean island, Fox San Antonio reports.

The Skansen Zoo in Stockholm sent the reptiles to Cuba’s National Zoo in April to help encourage reproduction of the protected species native to the island.

Hiram Fernandez, a veterinarian at the Cuban zoo, says the reptiles will be released soon in Zapata Swamp, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of the capital. Their ranks have been thinned by hunting and diminishing habitat, with few examples of Crocodylus rhombifer still found in Zapata Swamp and Cuba’s Isle of Youth.

Fidel Castro in the 1980s gave the crocodiles’ parents, named Castro and Hilly, to Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov, who initially took them to Moscow.

For the original report go to


I just came across a sampling of Richard Sexton’s photographs at the Caribbean Studies Association Conference in New Orleans and I looked through a copy of his book—Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere (2014). The photos capture the breathtaking beauty of spaces and people from New Orleans and through the broader Caribbean, sometimes in counterpoint, sometimes paralleled and repeated to show similarities in various geographic places.

As The Historic New Orleans Collection describes, “over the course of 38 years, Sexton traveled across Latin America—from Haiti, Colombia, Argentina, Cuba, and Ecuador back home to New Orleans—capturing the architectural and urban similarities among these culturally rich locales. [. . .] In the book, essays by Creole-architecture scholar Jay D. Edwards and photography historian John H. Lawrence set the stage for the more than 200 color images by Sexton. Together, the essays and photographs take readers on a fascinating journey across time and place, through the growing Creole world.”

An art exhibition with the same name was on view at The Historic New Orleans Collection museum from April 15 to December 7, 2014. Now, the traveling exhibition will be on view at the Frost Art Museum of Florida International University from June 13, 2015 to August 23, 2015. Here is the Frost Art Museum’s description:

“New Orleans is often hailed for its distinctive Creole heritage—evident in its food, architecture, and people—but it is far from alone. Its Creoleness may be unique to the United States, but New Orleans is part of an entire family of Latin Caribbean cities with similar colonial histories. Founded as New World outposts of Old World empires, these cities forged new identities from their European, West African, and indigenous influences—by turns inspired by, in defiance of, and adapted from all of them.

Photographer Richard Sexton has been intrigued by the Creole world since he first traveled to Central and South America as a young man. For him, the architectural and urban similarities among Creole cities comprised a visual theme informed by endless variations, grand and humble, old and new. The exhibition features fifty-nine photographs of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Haiti, as well as New Orleans, along with objects, photography equipment, and background material that relate to the photographer’s experiences.”

To learn more about Sexton’s travels and the process behind Creole World, visit his Vimeo channel to watch short videos he made along the way or listen to his interview on Susan Larson’s “The Reading Life.”

Also see and

lennox honeychurch

From St Kitts and Nevis’ WINN. Follow the link below to listen to the report.

Despite their emergence from a colonial past, heritage resources can today be successfully used for education, recreation and tourism. That assurance is coming from historian and anthropologist Dr Lennox Honychurch. Dr Honychurch spoke to the issue during a recent lecture at the UWI Open Campus in Basseterre. According to Dr Honychurch, heritage resources help tell the story of the resilience of Caribbean people. Meanwhile, Larry Armony of the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society says he is becoming increasingly concerned that regional states are glorifying pirates who roamed the Caribbean in the colonial past. Armony says it bothers him that piracy is seen as an attractive topic. The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 26, 2015

4th Garifuna Film Festival, Venice, California


A post by Peter Jordens

The 4th Annual Garifuna Film Festival was held in Venice, California, May 22-25, 2015.

Some of the featured films were:

Aluna (Colombia, 2012) by Alan Ereira.

The Time Is Now: Aniha Dan (Honduras) by Peter Jack Arzu.

Revolutionary Medicine: A Story of the First Garifuna Hospital (Honduras, 2013) by Beth Geglia and Jesse Elliot.

El espíritu de mi mamá (Honduras, 1999) by Ali Allie.

Garifuna in Peril (Honduras, 2013) by Ali Allie and Ruben Reyes; see our previous post “Garifuna in Peril”: Film on How Indigenous Hondurans Unite to Preserve Culture.

The Garifuna Heritage (Belize) by Garifuna National Council.

Three Kings of Belize (2007) by Katia Paradis.

¡Salud! (Cuba, 2006) by Connie Field.

Velo Love (Curaçao) by Robert Corsini.

Voodoo in the Church in Haiti (1989) by Andrea E. Leland and Bob Richards.

Yurumein: Homeland (St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 2013) by Andrea Leland; see our post Yurumein: Garifuna Homeland.

For more information, see the official Festival website

Yo!Venice! recently interviewed Festival founder and director Freda Sideroff. Here are excerpts;

Can you share how the festival came about?

I was guided by the ancestors to create the Film Festival to help make people aware of my culture and the importance of its preservation. After we began, I realized it was important to me to support the awareness and the preservation of all indigenous cultures.

Can you talk about how it has evolved?

This year we are celebrating a five-day event May 22 through May 26. May 26 has been proclaimed Garifuna Film Day since 2012 by the city of Los Angeles and the state of California. It started out as a one-day event that presented every element that continues to hold importance and urgency. It expanded to all indigenous cultures because we live in a culturally diverse community and we have much to learn from each other.

What is the format for the festival?

The Garifuna Festival takes place over five days. There is a schedule of each day that can be accessed through our website During the day and into the evening we will be presenting amazing documentaries from around the world. There will also be morning workshops that focus on the process of filmmaking and will be great for students of film. Each evening there will be special events that include keynote speakers, including Marianne Williamson, and Chief Joseph Paulino, and spectacular cultural music presentations. Cultural art will also be displayed throughout the event. Recognition will be given to members of our community creating ambassadors supporting the preservation of indigenous cultures.

Who have you had as keynote speakers in previous years?

A couple of years ago we were honored with the keynote speech by Roy Cayatano coming all the way from Belize. Dr. Cayatano is the President of the National Garifuna Council and was instrumental in 2001 by helping to persuade the United Nations to proclaim the Garifuna language, music and dance as Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity. We also had Lina Martinez from Honduras, author Piper Dellums, and writer/producer Victoria Mudd who is an Academy Award winner for her documentary A Broken Rainbow.

For the full, original interview, go to

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