Local community worked to release Alan Gross


A Hanukkah miracle took place the morning of Dec. 17. Alan Gross, who had been incarcerated in a Cuban cell for more than five years, was released.

Almost immediately after his arrest in Cuba on espionage charges, the Jewish community in our country advocated for his release. This effort was led by Ron Habler, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, D.C. Ron, who knew Alan Gross, contacted colleagues in the Jewish community, including all of the Community Relations Councils (CRCs) as well as national organizations like the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a leading advocate for social justice issues.

Like most CRCs nationwide, the Alliance CRC made phone calls and wrote letters asking our government officials to work toward Gross’ release. This included a series of emails and letters, phone calls and meetings with the Rhode Island congressional delegation. As the years passed, the Rhode Island CRC sent emails and signed petitions to the president of the United States asking him to help to get Alan Gross out of Cuba.

The CRC also sent emails to the Rhode Island community and used social media, such as Facebook, to bring attention to this issue. Jeffrey Savit, president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, also provided a statement in his weekly email to the community that asked us to contact our elected officials to advocate for Gross’ release.

In October, while at a Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) Task Force meeting, I spoke with Habler about Gross’ imprisonment. He told me Gross was becoming despondent and spoke of suicide. He said that Gross could not envision another year in a Cuban cell. Upon my return, I sent one more email to the community on behalf of the Rhode Island CRC requesting that people again contact our delegation in Washington. Many of you did.

In addition to Gross’ release, there are now reports that the U.S. and Cuba will begin talks on normalizing relations. Perhaps, Gross’ time in a cell will bring positive results.

Today, the Jewish community worldwide is hailing the release of Alan Gross. Happy Hanukkah to Alan Gross and his family.

MARTY COOPER is the Community Relations director for the Jewish Alliance.