Cuban Jewish leaders met with imprisoned Jewish-American contractor on the last day of Hanukkah, two days after Gross marked his fourth year in jail in Cuba.
“During the encounter we could see that he was in better spirits, more physically recovered,” according to a statement from the Beth Shalom Temple in Havana according to the Associated Press. The Cuban Jewish leaders have met with Gross for other Jewish holidays throughout his imprisonment.
Gross, 64, a subcontractor for the State Department on a mission to hook up Cuba’s small Jewish community to the Internet, was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba. The Maryland resident is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state.”.
Gross says he has lost 100 pounds since his imprisonment and suffers from painful arthritis. He reportedly leaves his shared cell once a day for one hour. In a letter sent last week, Gross asked President Obama to personally help secure his release. The Cuban government has indicated that it wants the United States to allow the return to Cuba of five spies in prison or on probation in the U.S. in return for negotiations on Gross.