Moral Discussion Builds Community

A Jewish viewpoint on the Cuban Revolution

    “…readers can learn about what is happening, and get an inside look at some of the realities of the Cuban revolution that lie under the surface”- K.M. Sandrick, Historical Book Society
    “The Incident at San Miguel” is the Jewish Book Festival’s choice for their One Book, One Community read this year. By posing ethical and moral questions, A.J. Sidransky, reminds us that most of our actions live in the “grey” areas of life, and are never as simple as black and white.
    Cuba is in turmoil.  Batista is on the run and Castro is moving his forces in for a takeover. Families are being pulled apart taking the side of either the Fascist Batista regime or Castro’s Socialist agenda. The country is racked with conflict and ripping at the seams. Good, well-meaning families are pitted father against son, brother against brother.  A country polarized in the extreme.
    This describes the Cuba of 1958 that we see in the opening of “Incident at San Miguel.” Two Jewish brothers, Aron and Moises find themselves on opposite sides of what is ultimately Cuba’s revolution. One dark night, after rescuing a leader of the revolt who is under house arrest by Batista’s forces, Moises finds himself hunted as a possible murderer, while his brother Aaron, an influential banking attorney, must make a choice: help his hunted brother escape thereby placing the whole family at risk, or let Batista’s forces capture him. His decision will haunt both brothers for the rest of their lives. 
    Based on a true story, “Incident at San Miguel” takes us inside this close-knit Jewish family whose elders immigrated to Cuba to escape Nazi oppression. Sidransky draws from his own family’s history of immigration from the Dominican Republic. He brings to light the stories of those who have triumphed over oppression, from Hitler’s Germany to Soviet Russia, from Trujillo’s Dominican Republic to Castro’s Cuba. Sidransky is the author of five historical fiction novels about Jewish identity and immigration.
    “After last year’s success in bringing our community closer together over One Book, One Community, we thought it was important to continue to shine the light on Jewish cultures and stories that we often do not get to hear about in our own community,” says Rebecca Russell, the Jewish Federation’s Program and Community Outreach Director. Synagogue and Jewish organization book clubs throughout the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys will be reading “Incident at San Miguel” together and have local discussions ahead of meeting Sidransky in November at the Jewish Book Festival for a community-wide conversation. But you don’t have to belong to a book club to participate. The Jewish Federation can help with book orders, connect you with a Jewish book group in your area, or even help you start a new group for the program.
    This book will be available for purchase at all in-person Jewish Book Festival events as a convenience for pre-reading before the program. Additional background information on Cuban Jews, the historical background of the book, and book club questions will be available to enhance the live author conversation through a reading guide created specifically for our community and this event.
    For more information on One Book, One Community, Jewish Book Festival event registration and book purchases, visit the Jewish Federation’s website at, or contact Rebecca Russell at the Jewish Federation office, or 626.445.0810 x304.  

BARBARA LEVINSON is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.


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