(JTA) — Two Cuban Jewish leaders met with jailed American Jewish contractor Alan Gross.
Adela Dworin, president of the Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana, and David Prinstein, the synagogue’s vice president, met Monday with Gross, 62, at a military hospital where he is being held. The visit, in honor of Chanukah, came at the request of the Jewish leaders, according to reports. Dworin reportedly brought latkes and chocolate gelt and lit a Chanukah menorah with Gross, a U.S. subcontractor jailed in Cuba for the last two years for "crimes against the state."
Dworin said in a statement released to the media that Gross had told her that he gained some weight and that he was in "good physical shape" and walks five miles a day in the facility. Dworin, who has met with Gross on previous occasions, told CBS that he appeared to be in better spirits than in the past. She also released two photos taken of Gross during the meeting.
Gross’s wife, Judy, disputed Dworin’s characterization of her husband’s health.
"It was upsetting to see the photos of Alan from his visit with Adela Dworin," she said in a statement. "To those of us who knew him before his incarceration began more than two years ago, he is now frail, weak, and appears decades older than the 60-year old man that we last saw on American soil."
Gross reportedly is in ill health and has lost 100 pounds since being imprisoned.
Dworin said that Gross hoped for a normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and expressed the desire that he would be able to visit Cuba once his prison term is over.
Gross was not included on a list released earlier this week of nearly 3,000 prisoners whom Cuban leader Raoul Castro said he will release on humanitarian grounds.
Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba. He was arrested in 2009 as he was leaving Cuba.
Gross’ family and U.S. State Department officials say that Gross 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.