A trip to Pittsburgh or mission to Cuba

A trip to Pittsburgh or mission to Cuba

If you’re going to be a dedicated expatriate Pittsburgher, a yearly pilgrimage to the heart of western Pennsylvania is essential to maintaining even the weakest forms of dual citizenship.
Usually, I prefer to scatter these visits around holiday weekends so as to minimize my usage of paid vacation days, while maximizing my consumption of home cooked meals. On Rosh Hashanah and Thanksgiving, I take full advantage of such logic.
But Passover is a little bit different.
On Passover, we remember the hardships our ancestors endured. We taste their bitter herbs and bite into the salty taste of slavery accompanied by a cardboard taste of freedom.
This year, as I make my pilgrimage home for the seders, I’m reminded of the connection and closeness I have to my homeland and the significance the theme of return plays in the story of Passover.
Because for too long I’ve been enslaved by the stuck-up attitude of Hollywood wannabes. For too long I’ve wandered the freeways in search of that great revelation and faster traffic commute.
That’s why on Passover I mentally and physically prepare myself to embark on BurghRight — an all expense paid trip to my parents’ house.
And like me, expatriate Pittsburgher Eddy Krifcher has his own special understanding of the importance in making a pilgrimage home.
A Squirrel Hill native, Eddy, 44, currently owns a chain of real estate brokerage offices in Los Angeles and also owns a property management company in Pittsburgh.
A graduate of Taylor Allderdice and Syracuse University, Eddy, a true dual citizen, says he splits his time evenly between both cities, though he and his wife, Elena, try to spend as much time in Pittsburgh as possible.
“When I’m not in Pittsburgh, I could go for a slice of Aiello’s [pizza]. When in Pittsburgh, I’m dying for some good sushi,” he confessed.
However, Eddy’s sense of duality runs a little deeper than pizza and sushi.
“My parents (Dorita and Manny) came here from Cuba in 1960,” said Eddy. And until last month, no one in his immediate family had been back.
“My parents were always a little apprehensive about going back,” said Eddy, whose father completed his residency at Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh (now UPMC) and soon after decided to remain in the United States.
“The Cuban government felt that my father was obligated to practice medicine in Cuba and help the people,” explained Eddy.
So for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, Eddy and his siblings decided it was the right time to coordinate a trip to Cuba.
Their mission, organized by the non-profit Miami based Jewish Solidarity, took donations from Jewish groups across the country and presented clothing, medicine, toys, reading glasses and toiletries to members of the Jewish communities in both Havana and Camaguey.
“I’d like to go back,” said Eddy. “It was such a beautiful country, but there was a lot of poverty because of government.”
Eddy and his family visited distant family members and toured religious and community sites, of which included Havana’s Jewish Community Center, the place where his parents were married.
“As kids, we were dying to go. It was all sort of like a storybook — we really needed to see it,” said Eddy.
Though he bears a deep respect for his roots in Cuba, Eddy still feels like he grew up in three worlds: as a Jew, as a child of Cubans and as a Pittsburgher.
And with that kind of mindset, he’s guaranteed to qualify for any BurghRight trip.

(Jay Firestone, a Pittsburgh native and staff writer for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, writes about Pittsburghers who now live somewhere else. He can be reached at jayf@thejewishchronicle.net.)