|Directed by:||Ruth Behar||Rating:||TV-G|
|Release Date:||2002||Running Time:||60 mins.|
|Language:||Spanish and English (subtitles)||Genre:||Documentary|
|More Info:||film festivals and awards||Category:||World Jewry|
It turns out you really can go home again – and learn a thing or two along the way. At once a memoir and a field study, Adio Kerida (Goodbye Dear Love) is a journey through one woman’s personal and cultural history – from Michigan to Cuba to Queens. In searching for her roots, distinguished anthropologist and poet/filmmaker Ruth Behar finds a Jewish community struggling to persist, while she struggles to find her place in her inherited Judeo-Cuban culture.
“In Miami, you find American Jews chanting, ‘next year in Jerusalem!’” says Behar, “while Cuban-Americans chant ‘next year in Cuba!’ But Cuban Jews – we chant both. We have no problem dancing the hora and salsa.”
Born in Cuba before Castro’s revolution, Ruth Behar was too young to remember the Havana that she and her family left behind upon immigrating to the U.S. Now, Behar returns to walk the streets where her father and grandfather once worked as peddlers, in order to find the Sephardi Jewish community that they left behind — a community whose elders still greet each other and play dominoes at mid-day. Adio, Kerida (Goodbye, Dear Love) is Behar’s lyrical homage to this dwindling community, and a search for her lost memories of home.
“If you return,” goes one Cuban ballad, “return so we can love the simple things.” Behar’s vision of Cuba consists of such simple things — the ocean surging the roadside as the tail-finned cars roll through the wake-water; Torah coverings bearing Turkish-Jewish names; flower peddlers pushing their carts over the cobblestones. It’s a place that, for much of her adulthood, Behar knew only through family stories, and her glimpse of it as an adult is clearly tinged with lingering childhood fantasies. For her parents, the dream of returning to Cuba has been lost in their exile, but for Behar returning is a necessity, a move she must make in order to strengthen her own identity.
The daughter of Jewish “intermarriage,” Behar is half Ashkenazi and half Sephardic. Her father, a dark haired Turkish Jew, traces his history back to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. “It is said that when our ancestors left Spain, they took the keys with them,” says Behar, “always believing in the possibility of return.” Fittingly then, she finds reminders of her family’s history everywhere: her parents’ former apartment in Havana is unaltered –- not a piece of furniture out of place; the Behar name is all over the gravestones in the Sephardic cemetery; and on the street named Inquisador, Behar visits the ruins of her father’s temple. She cannot help but ask, “Who am I in Cuba? A returning native, a reluctant anthropologist, or a tourist?”
In truth, she is all three, and a witness to a disappearing way of life. Many of the Cuban Jews have chosen to immigrate to Israel, which not only accepts them with open arms but also finances their trip. Those that remain in Cuba, however, still have a strong sense of their distinct identity and culture, in a country where cultures almost invariably mix.
Behar presents Danayda Levy as an example of Cuban Jewry. Danayda’s mother is a Jehovah’s Witness, while her father, Jose, is president of the Sephardi Jewish center. She sits in her mother’s apartment, with her sister who practices Santeria, the Nigerian-cum-Afro-Cuban religion. While Santeria sings praise to Elegua, the “one who opens doors,” Danayda plays the drum and professes her commitment to Judaism. With her father, Danayda reads from the Torah and helps tend the seven Turkish Torah scrolls housed at the Jewish center. “When I stand on the bima, I am moved,” Jose tells her, “and you should only do things if they move you, if you feel them deeply.”
Certainly, Behar has crafted her film with deep feeling. Torn between insider and outsider, just as many Cuban Jews are torn between Israel and Cuba, Behar’s “heart is at sea,” as the song goes. Adio Kerida is her attempt to find her way back to shore.