For Jews, Gross Case is Complicated

Revelations Deepen Concerns About Contractor Jailed in Cuba

Happier Days: Alan Gross, with his wife, Judy, in Jerusalem in 2005.
courtesy of gross family
Happier Days: Alan Gross, with his wife, Judy, in Jerusalem in 2005.

By Paul Berger

Published February 26, 2012, issue of March 02, 2012.
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Arturo Lopez-Levy, a former secretary of Cuba’s B’nai B’rith Maimonides Lodge who now lives in the United States, said that no Cuban Jew would risk his freedom or that of the Cuban-Jewish community for an American democracy-building program. Cuban Jews can visit Israel or even immigrate there if they wish. Cuba and Israel enjoy close ties. “We have achieved a modus vivendi with the Cuban government,” Lopez-Levy said of the Cuban-Jewish community. “We have freedom of religion, Birthright trips. Why do we have to risk our status for this?”

But at least one member of the Cuban-Jewish community may have known what Gross was doing, according to one of Gross’s reports to USAID, which noted that a community leader ”made it abundantly clear that we are all ‘playing with fire.’”

American Jewish activities in Cuba may have been jeopardized, too. Although most of the equipment that Gross brought into Cuba was legal, the volume of smart phones and other gadgets appears to have given him sufficient concern to distribute some items among American Jews who were traveling on humanitarian missions and instructed to drop off the devices at Gross’s hotel room. Gross asked at least two Americans to do this, according to a Cuban court document obtained by Cafe Fuerte, a Miami blog.

The Forward was unable to verify the authenticity of the document. However, the Jewish Federation of Broward County, whose former senior vice president Suzanne Andisman was named in the document as having transported an item for Gross, did not deny the allegation when asked on February 15. Richard Klein, an executive at the Jewish Federations of North America, was also named in the document. When reached at his home February 21, Klein said he was “not allowed” to discuss the matter. William Daroff, the JFNA’s vice president of public policy, declined to comment on Andisman and Klein. “I have no confirmation independent of your reporting of any of the information you are relaying,” Daroff said in a February 21 email. When asked if the JFNA could contact Klein for confirmation, Daroff did not respond.

The JFNA gave Gross’s wife, Judy Gross, a prominent platform at the closing session of its 2011 General Assembly, where she made an impassioned plea on her husband’s behalf. Judy Gross described her husband’s lifelong commitment to humanitarian work, and told of the terrible emotional and physical toll his incarceration has taken on him and on his family, including Gross’s mother, who “is heartbroken that she may never see her son again.”

“Alan and we are desperate for him to return home,” Judy Gross said.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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