The United States and Cuba appear to be opening a new — and warmer — chapter in their relationship with the negotiated release of American Jewish government contractor Alan Gross this week and President Obama announcing his plan to lift the 54-year-old economic embargo against Cuba. Which should be good news for the approximately 1,400 Jews, along with their 11 million non-Jewish countrymen, in this economically struggling Caribbean nation.

The U.S. embargo was imposed at the height of the Cold War and a year after Fidel Castro’s Communist 26th of July Movement dethroned Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

While the revolution, particularly Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union, had a catastrophic effect on Cuba’s once friendly relationship with the U.S., its impact on the island’s Jewish population was less clear, at least at first.

On Jan. 4, 1959, JTA reported that over 100 Jewish stores were damaged during the riots that took place in Havana after Batista’s government collapsed. A report from a few days earlier described the tension: