Arnaldo - A Spark of Jewish Identity By: Ilania Abileah

 

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January 2017 :  During my visit in Israel, I tried to contact Arnaldo and got a response that he is now living in Huston Texas.

 

(Written February 2013)


This is a story about Arnaldo Arturo Gómez Lotti, who was born in Manzanillo, Cuba, July 7, 1968. His ancestry includes Jewish, Spanish and Italian roots. Arnaldo did not know much about his Jewish roots until just a few years ago. In fact, he had never been in a synagogue, until he traveled to Havana in 1998. All he knew is that his Great Grandfather was a Jew.

Arnaldo’s Great Grandfather, Joseph Miller was born in Chicago, Illinois. In 1880 he travelled to Puerto Rico, married a local girl called Carmen Ayala. They had two sons Miguel Miller Ayala, Arnaldo’s grandfather, and his younger brother Joseph Miller Ayala. Joseph Miller, who was a cabinet maker, was widowed and travelled to Santiago de Cuba, settled in Manzanillo, and later on he returned to the United States with his younger son. Miguel Miller stayed on near Manzanillo in the village of Pilon and kept in touch with his father and brother until he lost contact in 1930. He married Carmen Vazquez Labrada and had three children, of whom Isabel Miller Vazquez was Arnaldo’s grandmother. She married Diego Gomez Navarro in 1938, in 1939 Arnaldo’s father Vicky Diego Gomez Miller was born, and then his sister Miriam in 1940. Arnaldo says that his father always told him that his grandfather Miguel Miller was a Jew from Chicago. There are no documents proving his Jewish origin, only a death certificate stating birth-place, Puerto Rico, and the names of his parents.

Arnaldo Gomez Lotti graduated as a doctor of medicine from the University of Havana in 1991, and became a specialist in anaesthesia in 1995. He worked at the National Institute of Neurology and Neuro-Surgery in Havana until recently. In 2006, Arnaldo married a non-Jewish woman Yamilé, who is also a doctor of medicine. The wedding was a civil one. The couple has a daughter named Miriam. On December 26, 2012, after Yamilé officially converted to Judaism, they had a traditional Jewish wedding at the Sephardic Synagogue of Havana. Arnaldo has been to Canada in 2008 for training in his field at the McGill University Neurology Institute, in Montreal. During his visit to Montreal he met Aaron Remer*, who was impressed by the way Arnaldo found his roots and took it to another level.

In 1998 Arnaldo attended a Friday synagogue service in Havana. This made him realise that even though he only had a Jewish Grandfather, his “Neshama” (Soul) was entirely Jewish. In February 2002 Arnaldo officially converted to Judaism. He says that his life changed since he started living as a Jew. He joined the Sephardic Hebrew Center in Havana, and even became the “Chazzan” (Cantor) of the congregation.

 

And now Arnaldo, Yamilé and their daughter Miriam are on their way to realising the Jewish dream that Jews in exile have prayed for during the past over two thousand years: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”  As I am writing this I have received a message from Arnaldo saying “We are preparing all documents for “Aliya” to Israel! (Aliya=going up/immigration). And the best is yet to come!
 

 

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*This story was suggested by Aaron Remer of GROUPE-ACCES Communications, a company providing internet to those of us who do not have cable or bell internet connection. He told me that there are but a few hundred Jews still in Cuba. They are proud and live in humble conditions. And that Canadians who go there could consider offering help.

 

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