Gross trial to have no impact on Cuban Jews — Cohen

Gross trial to have no impact on Cuban Jews — Cohen

The trial in Cuba of Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen arrested there over a year ago for spying, should have no repercussions for the island’s tiny Jewish community, a Pittsburgh-based authority on Cuba’s Jews says.

Stanley Cohen, of Squirrel Hill, international chairman of the B’nai B’rith Cuban Jewish Relief Project, said the Cuban Jews maintain good relations with their government. In fact, he said Cuban President Raul Castro recently attended a Jewish celebration in Havana.

He warned, however, that if the U.S. government pushes too hard at the highest levels for Gross’ release, including appeals by President Obama, that could convince the Castro regime that that Gross is worth holding on to.

If U.S. officials downplay the situation, though, Cohen predicted the Cubans might just try Gross, then send him home.

“He’s no use to them,” said Cohen, who last visited Cuba in November.

Cuban authorities detained Gross in late 2009 on his way out of the country, saying he was a spy. Gross’ family and State Department officials say he was in the country on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the country’s 1,500 Jews communicate with other Jewish communities using the Internet. The main Jewish groups in Cuba have denied any contact with or knowledge of Gross or the program.

Last month, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, representing 51 Jewish groups in the United States sent a letter over the weekend to President Raul Castro asking him to release U.S. government contractor Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds.

For more on the Chronicle’s interview with Cohen, read next week’s Chronicle

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