"I'm Not a Spy, I'm a Rabbi": Rabbi Brian Kent went to Cuba with the hope that he could minister to Cuban Jews. He was instead subjected to a harrowing ordeal at the hands of Castro's agents. (Cuba).
Since his arrival in Cuba on October 11th, he had spent almost all of his time under house arrest. It was now November 4th and he was desperately hoping that he would be allowed to leave on the 8th, as his "hosts" had assured him he would. But by now he knew that nothing was what it seemed on the surface in Castro's "paradise," and that he could put no trust in the promises he'd been given about his imminent departure. The young Orthodox rabbi was finally released, but not before undergoing a harrowing ordeal that he says was "life-changing."
"I decided to go to Cuba, very simply, because the Jews there don't have a rabbi and I wanted to help them," Rabbi Kent explained to THE NEW AMERICAN. His mother and stepfather had recently visited the island on a humanitarian mission and explained to him the predicament of the Havana Jewish community. "My mother was born in Cuba and grew up there; she escaped to the U.S. with her family after Castro and the Communists took over," he said. "The Castro regime ruthlessly suppressed Judaism, just as it did the Catholic Church and other religions, but in the past few years it has tried to moderate its image as part of its campaign to lure tourists and end the U.S. embargo. So, Jews have been allowed to worship openly again, or so I thought. Unfortunately, Castro's religious 'liberalization' is a total sham."
Rabbi Kent, 38, grew up in New York and graduated in 2000 from the Kollel Ayshel Abraham Rabbinical Seminary in Monsey, New York. Several months ago he moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where his mother and stepfather live.
"I had my eyes opened very quickly concerning what it's like to live in a totalitarian society where your every move is watched and every word recorded," says Rabbi Kent. "I was staying at Havana's Hotel Nacional, but it was too expensive, so I asked a friend if there was anything cheaper available. Before this friend could arrange anything for me, I was approached by a man who said he was the landlord of the apartment complex across the street from the hotel and he had a room available. Amazingly, the price he was asking was exactly the amount I had mentioned to my friend as the price range I was looking for. I had been warned that all hotel rooms and public buildings were wired with microphones and cameras, and this confirmed it."
Rabbi Kent moved into the apartment, which was to become his jail for the next three weeks. On his fourth day in Cuba, he was arrested on the street by the National Revolutionary police. He was taken back to his room, where his belongings were searched and he was accused of espionage. "I told them 'I'm not a spy, I'm a rabbi. I'm only praying and studying with other Jews,'" Kent recounted. But that didn't satisfy the Castroite gestapo. "They said I only had a tourist visa and that I must have a 'missionary visa' in order to minister to the people. But no rabbi has ever been given a missionary visa, as far as we've been able to tell." That effectively ended his mission to Cuba's Jews. "They said I couldn't talk to more than three people at any one time. I thought that I still might be able to do some good, but then I found that every Jew I had talked to had been visited by the secret police. I didn't want to get them in trouble or endanger them, so there was little I could do."
The rabbi also found out that he was not free to leave Cuba, or to travel about without an "escort." His "landlord" turned out to be one Miguel Delgado, who, Kent learned, was a high-level agent in Castro's police apparatus. "Delgado had formerly served in the Soviet submarine forces in Baku and in Riga, Latvia," says Rabbi Kent. "It was obvious that he was no ordinary citizen, even though he dressed as a civilian and pretended to be merely the apartment landlord. Soldiers and police accorded him special respect, saluted him, and sometimes I heard them address him as 'jefe' [chief]."
Jefe Delgado the landlord quickly became Jefe Delgado the jailer. "He took all of my cash -- about a thousand dollars -- and locked it up. He said it was 'to protect me,'" Kent recalls. "I was very frightened. I was wondering if prison and torture were next on the agenda." However, it soon became evident that Castro's agents had another approach in mind. "I quickly realized that they were going to use the carrot instead of the stick. And the carrot was going to be girls, girls, girls. They were going to try to seduce me with beautiful women."
Rabbi Kent, who is single, says Miguel Delgado kept trying to fix him up with a Cuban wife to bring back to the U.S. Any "wife" he would have matched Kent with would actually be a "control agent," of course, meant to assure that the rabbi would be useful to the regime. "It was incredible how they staged all these 'spontaneous' encounters," Rabbi Kent told THE NEW AMERICAN. "Miguel 'escorted' me out to get an espresso. After we sat down at the cafe, a beautiful Cuban woman, Ana Ramirez Leal, just happened to come by and Miguel invited her to join us. What a surprise: She knew the Torah like a rabbi! It was obvious they had been preparing for me for months -- ever since I had applied for the visa."
He had known something of Castro's deception practices before experiencing them himself. "I knew, for instance, that Dr. Jose Miller, the titular head of the Cuban Jewish community, was a complete fraud," says Kent. "He's a medical doctor, an aide to Castro, and the Communist Party's main overseer of the Jewish people in Cuba. Dr. Miller's assistant, Adela Dworin, also helps the Communists control the Jews in Cuba. My family has known both Miller and Dworin for 50 years, since before Castro's time. Castro sends Dr. Miller to the U.S. to be hosted by liberal Jewish groups to propagandize for the regime. When Jewish tourists come to Cuba, Miller is brought out to show off the Patronato, the main synagogue, but the services there are nothing more than a Communist puppet show. The Jews I met there are terrified to speak; they're in dread of Dr. Miller and his spies. American and European Jews see the deplorable conditions under which the Jewish people in Cuba live and give money to Miller to help them. It never g ets to the Cuban Jews."
Rabbi Kent finds it astonishing that so many American Jews have been tricked by Castro's propaganda. In July, Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, toured Cuba at Castro's side, while the government-orchestrated crowds chanted for America's destruction. And, Kent points out, Castro supports every Middle Eastern terrorist group currently aiming deadly attacks against both Israel and the U.S.
Rabbi Kent was especially unnerved by the vicious hatred of the U.S. expressed by Delgado and his family members when he visited their home. Delgado's nephew, Alfred Castillo, was particularly frightening. "He had a screen saver on his computer monitor which showed footage of the terrorist-hijacked planes crashing into the World Trade Center -- over and over again," said Kent. "He is virulently anti-American. He is also a microbiologist and bragged that he is working on anthrax in Cuba's laboratories."
During his house arrest, Rabbi Kent had seven different 'jailers," four of whom were beautiful young women. He repeatedly, but politely, rebuffed their sexual overtures, citing his religious convictions; he did not want to cause Delgado to switch to more brutal techniques. "I told him, 'I know that you have microphones and cameras in this room.' He just smiled and said, 'It's only for your protection.'"
Two nights before he was to finally leave Cuba, Rabbi Kent came down with severe asthma-type symptoms. "I've had slight asthma problems before, but nothing like this, nothing that an inhalant wouldn't solve. But I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to die." He knew he had been given something to bring on this attack. He told Delgado to take him to the U.S. Interest Section, the American equivalent of an embassy in Cuba. Instead he was taken to the Camillo Cienfuegos Clinica, where Castro's doctors "took care of" him. "I was terrified," says Rabbi Kent. "I didn't know what they were going to do to me. They gave me three hypodermic injections that they said would help me breathe. It did help me breathe, but also rendered me helpless; I could barely move and was in a drug-induced stupor."
Kent says he was taken back to his room and put in bed. Then one of his female jailers disrobed and got in bed with him. When she got out of bed, she posed for the cameras, laughed and mocked him, saying "Na-na-na, we got you." Rabbi Kent had just become the latest in a long line of victims of Cuban "sexpionage." Castro's secret police learned this trade well from their Soviet masters, the KGB, and have been practicing it for 40 years against tourists, journalists, diplomats, government officials, academics, business executives, and others.
Rabbi Kent says he thinks the Cubans view their sexpionage "victory" with him as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they want him to come back, thinking maybe he'll weaken and succumb to the pleasures they can offer him. On the other hand, if he doesn't, they may try to blackmail and discredit him with the photographs and lurid stories. "Just today, a couple of hours before you called," he told THE NEW AMERICAN, "I received an e-mail from Alfred [Castillo] informing me that he had prepared a 'reference' letter for me so that I could return to Cuba." But the rabbi says he does not intend to go back as long as the Communists remain in power.
"As I see it," says Rabbi Kent, "the most important thing I can do now is warn the American people about what is really happening in Cuba. Castro and his apologists here are trying to sell us on the supposed benefits of warmer U.S.-Cuban ties, but it is a deadly trap. Cuba is a completely corrupt, oppressive, totalitarian police state which views both America and Americans as deadly enemies. I've learned that firsthand and I hope that by speaking out I might prevent other Americans from falling victim to the same traps."
Where Are ihe ADL and B'nai Brith?
One might expect powerful Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and B'nai Brith to rush to Rabbi Kent's defense and demand accountability and apologies from Havana. Incredibly, just the opposite is true: They're taking Castro's side! "I knew that B'nai Brith, Jewish Solidarity, and other liberal-left groups were pro-Castro, but their response really surprised me," says Rabbi Kent. "When I came back and started speaking out about this, they wanted to shut me up. I got an email from Dina Spiegle Vann, who heads B'nai Brith's Latin American affairs desk in Washington, D.C., saying she was going to investigate me -- not Castro's abuse of me!" Kent says he went on their Internet website and found out why. "Go to http://jewishcuba.org/bnaibrith/fotos.html and you will see that the top B'nai Brith leaders are in bed with Fidel Castro and his Communist henchmen who are oppressing Jews in Cuba. There's a photo there of Dr. Miller on stage with Fidel and a photo of Adela Dworin with Stanley Cohen, intern ational chairman of B'nai Brith's Cuban Jewish Relief Project. Eddie Levy's Jewish Solidarity is another one. These groups portray Castro's Cuba positively and make it appear that it is the nasty 'Cold War' policies of the U.S. that are responsible for the sad plight of Cuban Jews. They prey upon the sympathy of American Jews and raise huge amounts of money, but it doesn't go to helping the Jews who are suffering under Castro."
Rabbi Rigoberto Vinas, a Cuban Jew, shares Rabbi Kent's disgust with B'nai Brith, the ADL, and similar Jewish groups that cover for Castro and other totalitarian regimes. Rabbi Vinas, who teaches at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York, and serves as the rabbi of El Centro de Estudios Judios in the Bronx, says that "someone should ask B'nai Brith who appointed Dr. Miller 'president' and spokesman of the Cuban Jewish community. Back during the Elian Gonzalez affair, Dr. Miller even claimed to be speaking for 'world Jewry' in claiming that Elian should be sent back to Castro's Cuba because it is 'a gentler society' than the U.S. And this was after Castro had received Libya's 'Human Rights' award from terrorist leader Muammar Qadaffi. It's obvious who Miller really speaks for. Why doesn't B'nai Brith see that? We had a vibrant, wonderful, prosperous Jewish community in Cuba before Castro took over. His Communist government outlawed and persecuted Judaism, as he did Christianity. My family and thousands o f other Jews were forced to flee; most lost all their property and possessions. Now Castro pretends to allow religious freedom, but it is a huge charade. He even bugged Pope John Paul II's rooms, when he visited Cuba! How can B'nai Brith pretend that Castro's 'reforms' are real?"
We called the B'nai Brith in Washington, D.C., to find out. Stanley Cohen, international chairman of B'nai Brith's Cuban Jewish Relief Project, returned our call. "I can tell you that there's no truth to what he [Rabbi Kent] is saying," Mr. Cohen said, right out of the starting gate. "I know all of the people involved; I've known Adela Dworin for seven years and she's stayed at my home in Pittsburgh," he noted. "Dr. Miller is highly respected in the Cuban Jewish community and was elected by them," Cohen said, noting that he has been to Cuba 17 times and would be going there again in just a few days. He admitted he did not know Rabbi Kent, yet he was willing to accept as holy writ the story provided by his Castro-approved friends and the Castro regime. "He [Kent] wasn't there as a rabbi," Cohen asserted. "He ran out of money, moved across the street from the hotel he had been at and was found with a prostitute. His whole story about being held under house arrest is absurd. He was not detained by the governmen t. His motive, I believe, is he wants attention."
"I'm not pro-Castro or pro-Communist," Mr. Cohen asserted repeatedly, but his every statement seemed to belie those disclaimers. Does he believe there is genuine religious freedom in Cuba and that people can worship freely? "I've seen nothing to indicate otherwise," he said. Does he believe that Castro's secret police monitor telephone calls and listen on microphones in hotels and other public facilities? "Generally no. Maybe not any more than here." How does he respond to Rabbi Vinas' statements concerning persecution in Cuba? "Well, you know how those Cubans are in South Florida."
Rabbi Kent was not surprised by Mr. Cohen's remarks. "His every statement substantiates precisely the points I made; the B'nai Brith leadership is completely in bed with Castro and is misleading many American Jews," said Rabbi Kent. "Imagine Mr. Cohen making a racist statement like that about a whole group - 'those Cubans' in Florida, Of course, he would be screaming if someone made a similarly derogatory statement about 'those Jews in New York or Beverly Hills. He is parroting the Havana smear against Cuban-Amencan patriots. We will not have real freedom for Jews or anyone else in Cuba as long as false leaders like him continue to provide cover for Castro's tyranny and influence our foreign policy vis-a-vis Cuba."
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|Author:||Jasper, William F.|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||Dec 31, 2001|
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