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Potomac, MD - Wife Worried As Jewish Advocate For Democracy Remains Imprisoned In Cuba

Published on: May 21, 2010 11:08 AM
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Alan Gross, with wife Judy at the Western Wall in spring 2005, is being held without charges in Cuba, where he was on contract for the U.S. government connecting the tiny Jewish community to the Internet. (Courtesy of the Gross family) Potomac, MD - It was 6 o’clock on a Friday evening, and Judy Gross knew the drill. She checked the computer and saw that her husband’s plane had just landed at Dulles. Alan would be home in Potomac in 45 minutes, bursting in the door with stories from his latest trip to Cuba, she figured. She bustled around her gleaming kitchen, preparing Shabbat dinner.

But the clock hit 7, and there was no Alan. Eight, and still no Alan. She called the airline and discovered that her 60-year-old husband had not made the flight.

“So then I knew something wasn’t right,” Judy recalled.

She didn’t panic. Like other international aid workers in Washington, Alan had had his share of mishaps on far-flung assignments—car accidents and nasty stomach bugs. His wife asked U.S. diplomats to check the Havana hospitals.

But when the phone rang a half-hour later, Judy learned Alan wasn’t sick. He was in Villa Marista, the Cuban state security prison. “I was scared,” Judy stuttered, in her first in-depth media interview. “I was very scared for his safety.”

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That December evening marked the start of a harrowing five-month family drama and a new standoff between Washington and its Cold War nemesis. Cuban officials have publicly accused Gross of working for American intelligence agencies. The United States government denies that.

But, as details have trickled out, it appears Gross was involved in something stranger: a secretive program to foster democracy in Cuba.

The program has been around for years, using travelers posing as tourists to slip typewriter ribbons, shortwave radios and, more recently, laptop computers into Cuba. But under the George W. Bush administration, officials flush with cash sought new ways to reach out to civil society.

And that’s how a klezmer-playing Maryland dad wound up providing Wikipedia to Cuban Jews.

Judy said her husband, a “gadget geek,” had seemed unaware that he was courting danger when a Bethesda contractor signed him up to provide Internet access to civil-society groups on the island. “When he heard about this, he just said ‘Yes!’ ” she recalled.

Alan P. Gross had always had an itch for adventure. Growing up in Baltimore, he’d helped out in his dad’s window-cleaning business. But after marrying Judy in 1970, he earned a master’s in social work and began working with Jewish groups. One of his jobs was taking local Jews on trips to Israel.
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“They all loved him, of course,” his wife said. People warmed to Alan’s buoyancy, his sense of humor, his desire to help. “He really could solve people’s problems,” Judy said, sitting in her kitchen, wearing jeans and a baggy black turtleneck, a curtain of salt-and-pepper hair framing her face. The smell of blueberry muffins wafted from the oven.

Read the full story at The Washington Post 



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Read Comments (6)  —  Post Yours »

1

 May 21, 2010 at 12:06 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Nothing new here. Cuba was a police state under Fidel Castro; it remains so under his brother.

2

 May 21, 2010 at 12:37 PM Anonymous Says:

this is pidyon shviim. Where is everyone? the Agudah? Only Rubashkin needs help? Only the japanese bochurim? This poor innocent guy is rotting in a cuban prison -god knows what they are doing to him there. Help! Help! Help!!!!!!!!!!!!

3

 May 21, 2010 at 02:36 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

this is pidyon shviim. Where is everyone? the Agudah? Only Rubashkin needs help? Only the japanese bochurim? This poor innocent guy is rotting in a cuban prison -god knows what they are doing to him there. Help! Help! Help!!!!!!!!!!!!

So why don't you take the initiative and start campaigning for his freedom. What are YOU waiting for?

4

 May 21, 2010 at 03:31 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

this is pidyon shviim. Where is everyone? the Agudah? Only Rubashkin needs help? Only the japanese bochurim? This poor innocent guy is rotting in a cuban prison -god knows what they are doing to him there. Help! Help! Help!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe he needs to kill someone/smuggle drugs/commit fraud first.

5

 May 21, 2010 at 06:16 PM Anonymous Says:

The reason we never championed for him is because it was not brought to our attention! Give it a few days let's see if someone jumps to the plate.

6

 May 21, 2010 at 06:52 PM rivkie Says:

If anyone knows how to contact Judy Gross, why not suggest that she get her mezuzot checked? or maybe to put up mezuzot if they dont have any?
Also it would help to contact Chabad: there is a rabbi that goes to cuba and may have connections....

7

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