Among the constitutional reforms approved by Cuba's National Assembly last month was a guarantee of religious freedom and the forbidding of discrimination on religious grounds. The Communist government has been making efforts to improve relations with organised religion. When our political correspondent, Andrew Whitehead, visited Cuba last month he made contact with one of the smaller religious groups on this Caribbean island. He tells the story of Cuba's Jewish community:
The rabbi was among the first to go. He was an American. He left Havana not long after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. The Jewish community in Cuba hasn't had a full-time rabbi since.
Not that Jews were hostile to Fidel. Most supported his revolution, as did almost all Cubans. At the time.
Many Jews came to Cuba on their way from central Europe to the United States - biding their time until they got permission to go to New York. Inevitably some chose to stay. It's not hard to see why. Havana must have been a splendid city in the days when the colonial architecture was kept spick and span. And it's on the biggest - and arguably most beautiful - of the Caribbean islands.
The community traces its origins to the early years of this century. Many Jews became prominent in business and commerce. One - Fabio Grobart - was a founder member in 1925 of the original Cuban Communist Party, representing the Hebrew working men of Havana. In the 1950s, the Great Synagogue was opened in central Havana, along with offices, meeting rooms and a library serving a Jewish community of some 15,000.
The synagogue still stands. But it's much too big for the meagre Saturday congregation. The thirty-or-so-worshippers gather in a side room. The library survives in the basement. But the rooms upstairs, which once included a big meeting hall and a kosher restaurant, were long ago sold to the Ministry of Culture.
Fidel Castro's increasing antipathy towards private enterprise impelled many Jews to leave revolutionary Cuba. Adele Dworin's father was born in Pinsk, then in Poland, and arrived in Cuba at the age of eighteen. He worked first as a pedlar, then set up his own store, and was modestly prosperous by the time Castro nationalised his business in 1961. Most Jews who lost their busnesses moved out. Adele - then an enthusiast for the revolution - persuaded her parents to stay.
The closing of the last Jewish schools, though, hastened the exodus. At first the Cuban government allowed Jewish students to learn Hebrew in the state schools, and even provided a bus to pick up pupils. But that ended in the early seventies. And the community abandoned its own Hebrew lessons in 1980 when the teacher left to live in Israel.
Community leaders insist they have always enjoyed good relations with the Castro government. But emigration, integration and official disapproval of organised religion - only now being relaxed - ate away at the Jewish community. It now numbers little more than a thousand.
Adele Dworin, who speaks Yiddish as well as Spanish and English, confides that a few years ago, she didn't believe the Jewish community would see 1990. But the story of Cuban jewry is one of revival not decay. Last year, the community was able to conduct a circumcision service for thr first time in years - for fifteen young Jews, aged between two and twenty-five; those aged thirteen and over celebrated their barmitzvah immediately afterwards.
The community still gets kosher meat - though the ration is as meagre as for other Cubans. And passover food comes from Mexico. The small communities out of Havana, in Santiago de Cuba and Camaguey, still have no centre or synagogue. But in all there are four synagogues in the capital, two of then for Sephardic, or oriental, Jews. The Hebrew classes have started again. And of late, an Argentine rabbi based in Mexico has begun regular visits.
The community is now actively seeking new members. Jose Miller - an oral surgeon and president of the main congregation - says that with ninety per-cent inter-marriage, the community has to seek converts to survive. The rabbi's classes attract the questing and the curious, who want to know more about the religion they were born to, or the faith their spouse professes, or the community a parent one belonged to. I saw for myself a group of twenty or more, almost all young, eager to learn about Judaism.
The future for Cuban jewry is far from secure - but for the first time in many years, there's an air of optimism.