Wolf, Richard Riegel

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WOLF, RICHARD RIEGEL (Subirana Lobo, Ricardo ; 1889–1982), plenipotentiary minister of Cuba in Israel (1961–73), scientist, and founder of the Wolf Foundation in 1975. Born in Hanover, Germany, he was a socialist during the government of the Kaiser, member of the then illegal Social-Democratic Party and the German Zionist movements of the left. He immigrated to Cuba in 1913.

As a student of chemistry, he made an important discovery related to the recovery of residual iron during the founding process, which was successfully applied in steel mills around the world, making him a millionaire. In addition to Cuba, Germany, and Israel, he also lived at times in Barcelona, Italy, and Istanbul. In 1924, he married Francisca Subirana, a Cuban, and, contrary to tradition, adopted her surname.

Although a successful businessman, he actively supported the Cuban Revolution and its leader, Fidel Castro, from the beginning. He became an advisor to the government and promoted support for Land Reform. In 1961, he was named head of the Cuban Diplomatic Mission in Israel, the only Cuban embassy that the Revolutionary Government established at no cost because, as he had promised, Wolf paid for the building, salaries, and costs of representation.

He planted the basis for a fertile relationship between Cuba, his adopted country, and Israel, through the creation of a Friendship Association that substituted for official channels and promoted the collaboration of Israeli agricultural technicians with Cuba. Despite the difficulties imposed by the political alliances of the two countries, he added a profound dimension to the understanding of and empathy with Jewish reality among the Cuban leadership.

When Cuba broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973, Wolf, who was 84 years old, decided to stay in Israel. He and his wife Francesca founded the Wolf Foundation that awards prizes to outstanding scientists and artists, irrespective of their nationality.


M. Corrales, The Chosen Island: Jews in Cuba (2005).

[Maritza Corrales (2nd ed.)]