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Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana
Directors: Judy Kreith & Robin Truesdale
USA, 2017, 46 minutes, In English
Optional Subtitles: Spanish or Hebrew

Watch the Trailer

A Tropical Story of Diamonds and Holocaust Survival in ‘Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels’
New film explores the forgotten era when the Caribbean island became a temporary gem hub after opening its doors to thousands of European Jews fleeing the Nazis.
--Times of Israel


Winner - Award of Merit Documentary Feature, Impact DOCS Awards
Winner - JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant (Inaugural Award)

Selected Screenings

Laemmle Theaters, Los Angeles
Miami Beach Cinematheque (week long run)
Washington DC Jewish Film Festival
Seattle Jewish Film Festival
Ann Arbor Jewish Film Festival
Schenectady Jewish Film Festival
Latin American Film Series, Univ of Wisconsin
Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival
Chicago Jewish Film Festival
American Jewish Historical Society/Center for Jewish History, NYC
Miami Jewish Film Festival
New Jersey Jewish Film Festival
Denver Jewish Film Festival
Havana Int’l Festival of New Latin American Cinema (Cuba)
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
Cherry Hill Jewish Film Festival
Haifa Cinemateque, Haifa, Israel
Calgary Jewish Film Festival, AB, Canada
Black Bear Film Festival
Dairy Center for the Arts, Boulder, CO
Boulder Jewish Film Festival (5 sold out screenings) - w/ Filmmakers
Farthest North Jewish Film Festival, Fairbanks, Alaska - w/ Filmmakers
Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, Colorado Springs, CO - w/ Filmmakers
Savannah Jewish Film Festival

Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana

Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels explores the little known story of the Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe and found a safe haven on the Caribbean island of Cuba.

After a wave of Jewish refugees to Cuba in the 1920’s and 30’s, the island shut its doors to immigrants, most notably to the Jews aboard the ship the St. Louis in 1939. In 1940, Cuba changed course and took in 6,000 Jewish refugees, including hundreds of Jewish diamond cutters and their families who, for a few years, turned the small tropical island into one of the world’s major diamond-polishing centers. In the factories, women work beside men, Jews beside Cubans.

The film was born of the tales that Marion Kreith told her daughter Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels co-director Judy Kreith about her escape from Nazi-occupied Belgium and her teenage years in 1940s Havana. Marion and other refugees interviewed in the film recall their lives in wartime Havana: the draw of Cuban food, music and dance, its language and people, and also the challenges they faced in this unfamiliar land.

Features an original soundtrack of Cuban and Jewish music.

Filmmaker’s Website:


Directors: Judy Kreith & Robin Truesdale
Producers/Writers: Judy Kreith & Robin Truesdale
Edited by Robin Truesdale
Music Supervisor: Vince Cherico 
Composer: Kip Kuepper
Interviewees: Marion Frolich, Richard Grosbard, Marion Finkels Kreith, Felicia Rosshandler, Lilliane Shuman
Voice of Erich Jacobs: William Safran
Filming Locations: Colorado, New York City, Havana
Fiscal Sponsor: National Center for Jewish Film

USA, 2017, 46 minutes, In English, Optional Subtitles: Spanish or Hebrew
Exhibition formats: DCP, Blu-ray, DVD


Judy Kreith, Co-Director
Judy Kreith is a professional dance educator and choreographer. She received her MA from Stanford University. Her mother, Marion Finkels Kreith, is the key inspiration for this film. Judy’s study of Cuban dance brought her to Cuba where she began researching and working with local historians to document the history of Jews in Cuba and most particularly the experience of Jewish refugees and the diamond polishing industry that flourished in Havana during WWII. Judy lectured widely on the topic of Jewish refugees to Cuba, including most recently at a conference at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.

Robin Truesdale, Co-Director
Robin Truesdale is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and the founder of Two Hands Films. Her film A Beautiful Equation: Einstein, Bohr and Grandmothers won Best International Film at the Sunrise Film Festival and the Platinum Remi Award at Houston Worldfest. Her earlier film Conviction won the People’s Choice at the Frozen River Film Festival. Robin, who has an MS in journalism from the University of Colorado, began her career as a news editor for a Denver television station. Her work deals primarily with social justice, cultural, and humanitarian issues.

Music Team

Vince Cherico, Music Supervisor
Vince Cherico is a four-time Grammy Award winner and accomplished drummer who has toured with Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gato Barbieri, Paquito D’Rivera, and Ray Barretto. Vince, who has toured extensively in Cuba, studied Afro-Cuban music and drumming with Roberto Borrell, “Little” Ray Romero, and Joe Santiago.

Kip Kuepper, Composer
Kip Kuepper, who composed the original score for Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels, is a Grammy-nominated musician and founding partner of Coupe Studios Music. He is a composer and sound designer for film and television.

PR Materials in Spanish

Watch film trailer with Spanish subtitles
Download PR materials in Spanish

Also Recommended: NCJF’s rare 1939 archival film “Bound for Nowhere”

Bound for Nowhere: The St. Louis Episode (USA, 1939, 9 minutes, B&W) documents one of the Jewish community’s efforts to save Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and records the indifference on the part of many nations—including the US—to their plight. The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) produced this film in 1939 to record what it thought would be a successful effort to save over 900 Jews, including 200 children, by sailing them from Nazi Germany to Cuba on the ship, the St. Louis. When Cuba refused to allow the passengers to land, the ship sailed to the Miami area where the US government also barred the refugees’ entrance. The St. Louis languished in the waters around Cuba while the JDC searched for countries to accept the refugees. Finally, some European countries accepted them and the St. Louis returned to Europe. Tragically, many of these refugees ended up in countries subsequently occupied by Germany and ultimately lost their lives in the Holocaust.

See also the feature documentary film The Voyage of the St. Louis

More films about Mexico & Latin America

Click here for filmography

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