HAVANA — Cuban President Raul Castro celebrated Hanukka on Sunday with the island's tiny Jewish community, a heavily symbolic act at a time when his government is holding a Jewish-American subcontractor on suspicion of spying.
Neither Castro nor those assembled at Havana's Shalom synagogue mentioned the name Alan Gross during the gathering, which was broadcast on the state-television newscast Sunday evening. But Gross's one-year detention without charge was the elephant in the room.
The US government says Gross was in Cuba as part of a USAID program to distribute communications equipment to the island's 1,500-strong Jewish community, and both the State Department and Gross's wife, Judy, made fresh appeals this week for his release. The leaders of Havana's two main Jewish groups have denied having anything to do with him.
It was the first time in memory that either Castro or his brother Fidel appeared with the Jewish community at a religious celebration like Hanukka.