12/15/2010 11:00:00 AM
Rabbi David Shneyer, two petitions in hand urging Cuba to release a
Jewish American prisoner, led a handful of congregants to the Cuban
Interests Section on Friday, but was unable to drop off the petitions.
The reason: He didn't have an appointment.
The petitions -- one signed by about 200 people, most of them local; the
other signed by about 40 members of Rabbis for Human Rights -- seek the
release of Potomac resident Alan Gross.
Gross, 61, was arrested a year ago, with Cuba calling him a spy. Charges
have never been filed. Both his family and the State Department say he
was in the country on a U.S. Agency for International Development
contract to help the Cuban Jewish community with Internet access to
communicate with other Jewish communities.
Shneyer, rabbi of Kehila Chadasha and Am Kolel Jewish Renewal Center,
where Gross is a member, said he had repeatedly sought a meeting with
Carlos Barros Olivera, the Cuban Interests Section deputy chief of
mission. It was to Barros that he hoped to deliver the petitions.
The local petition, addressed to the Cuban government, states: "We hope
you will let Alan free as a humanitarian act, for the sake of his family
and for the sake of creating good will between our peoples."
The petition signed by the rabbis -- including Charles Feinberg of Adas
Israel in D.C., Alana Suskind of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg and Sid
Schwarz of Rockville -- is directed to Cuban President Raul Castro. "The
equipment he brought was intended for humanitarian purpose, not for the
dissident community. Your government has not charged him with any
crime," it says. "We urge you to release Alan Gross immediately."
A letter to Castro signed by Shneyer noted that Friday marked the
anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Rights. "The
Cuban Revolution was a struggle for these basic human rights. Article 9
reads 'No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or
exile.' His captivity without charge for more than a year is both
arbitrary and cruel," he wrote.
Shneyer had met with Barros in February, a meeting he said took several
months to arrange. "At that time, he said there was an ongoing
investigation," the rabbi said, adding he will continue his efforts to
arrange a meeting and deliver the letters. He also said an online
petition is in the works.
Cuba, Shneyer complained, "has never said officially what they want from
the United States to release Alan."
A spokesperson for the interests section had no comment on Gross, saying
the investigation is ongoing. -- WJW staff