Posted on Tuesday, 03.06.12
NY rabbi meets with jailed American Gross in Cuba
By PETER ORSI
HAVANA — A prominent New York rabbi met with imprisoned American
subcontractor Alan Gross in Cuba on Tuesday, describing him as upbeat
and concerned about family members back home.
Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue said he spent about an hour
and a half with Gross in the Havana facility where he is being held.
Photos on the rabbi's digital camera showed a thin, bearded Gross
wearing glasses and a yarmulke, in a room with blue and white curtains
and an air conditioner.
Schneier said he brought Gross a prayer shawl and hamantaschen, or
three-cornered, sweet-filling pastries, and they prayed together to mark
the eve of the Jewish holiday of Purim.
"I found him hopeful, and Purim is a festival of miracles. So we all
pray that a miracle will allow us to see a resolution of the pain and
suffering of all involved," Schneier said.
He declined to comment further, saying a statement would be issued upon
his return by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which Schneier
founded and which organized his interfaith humanitarian mission to Cuba.
Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence stemming from his work
importing satellite and other communications equipment onto the island
under a USAID-funded democracy-building program. Cuba considers such
programs to be attempts against its sovereignty, and he was convicted of
crimes against the state.
Gross maintains that he was only trying to help Cuban Jews improve their
Gross, 62, who was heavyset when arrested in December 2009, has lost
about 100 pounds, and his elderly mother and adult daughter are both
He has received periodic visits including from U.S. religious and
political figures, island Jewish community members and his wife, Judy.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, met with Gross on Feb. 23.
Schneier, a Holocaust survivor who was born in Austria, has led the Park
East Synagogue since 1962 and worked to promote peace, human rights and
religious tolerance around the world. He received the 2001 U.S.
Presidential Citizens Medal for service to the nation.