Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    NY rabbi meets with jailed American Gross in Cuba

    Posted on Tuesday, 03.06.12

    NY rabbi meets with jailed American Gross in Cuba
    Associated Press

    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
    Internet capability.

    Gross, 62, who was heavyset when arrested in December 2009, has lost
    about 100 pounds, and his elderly mother and adult daughter are both
    battling cancer

    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.