HAVANA, Cuba (WJZ)—The fight to free a Maryland man imprisoned in Cuba gets some big support from hundreds of rabbis from around the nation—including some right here in Baltimore.
Derek Valcourt explains those rabbis are calling on the president to help free Alan Gross.
His health has taken a major turn for the worse and rabbis say the time for the US to act is now—before he dies in prison.
After spending nearly five years locked up, the change in Alan Gross is noticeable: he's now nearly 110 pounds thinner, losing sight in one eye and having difficulty walking.
The international aid worker with US Aid was setting up internet services for the Jewish community in Havana in 2009 when he was arrested for spying. His wife visited him in June and says her husband is giving up o n life, has said goodbye to his family and is prepared to die in prison.
"He's just very, very depressed and very hopeless and talking about doing something drastic because he refuses to stay where he is," Judy Gross said.
"Alan Gross particularly, because he's a fellow Marylander, raised here in Baltimore, living in Potomac, his plight captures my attention and that of many of my colleagues," said Rabbi John Franken, Bolton Street Synagogue.
Rabbi John Franken is among 300 American rabbis who signed this letter to the president calling on the US government to intervene in Gross' case.
"His immediate release must be a priority for our nation. Indeed, we believe this is a moral imperative. We ask with all respect that you take whatever steps are necessary to ensure a prompt end to Alan's, and his family's continuing nightmare."
"So we think that it's a priority that this be on the front burner of US policy toward Cuba," Bolton said.
In response, the White House, through the National Security Council, told WJZ, "We use every appropriate diplomatic channel to press for Mr. Gross' release, both publicly and privately. This includes President Obama asking Uruguay's president to raise Alan Gross' case directly with President Castro."
Gross reportedly told his attorney if not freed, he will not live to see his next birthday, saying a life in prison isn't a life worth living.