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Raul Castro lights candles with Havana Jews

(JTA) — Cuban President Raul Castro lit Chanukah candles at Havana’s main synagogue.

The case of Jewish contractor Alan Gross, an American who has been jailed without charge in a Cuban prison for a year, was not mentioned during Sunday’s Chanukah ceremony, which was broadcast on state television. Gross entered the country as part of a USAID team distributing communications equipment to the island’s Jewish community.

About 1,500 Jews live in Cuba.

"We feel extremely happy and proud to be participating in this festival with you, and I hope to be back to know more about the Hebrew community in Cuba and about the fabulous stories of the Hebrew people," Castro reportedly said.  

Adela Doran, chairwoman of the Cuban Hebrew Community, presented Castro with a copy of the Chumash, the five books of the Torah.

Castro wore a yarmulke in the synagogue, the first visit to the Jewish community by a head of state in at least 10 years. He and his brother, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, have shown more support for Jews in recent months.
 

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