Prominent U.S. rabbi meets with Jewish American hostage held in Cuba

New York rabbi and holocaust survivor Arthur Schneier, a human rights and religious tolerance activist who was awarded the 2001 U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal for service to the nation, has traveled to Cuba and visited with Alan Gross, the American aid worker held hostage by the Castro dictatorship since December of 2009.

Via CBS News:

NY rabbi meets with jailed American in Cuba

HAVANA – A prominent New York rabbi met with imprisoned American subcontractor Alan Gross in Cuba on Tuesday, describing him as upbeat and concerned about family members back home.

Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue said he spent about an hour and a half with Gross in the Havana facility where he is being held.

Photos on the rabbi’s digital camera showed a thin, bearded Gross wearing glasses and a yarmulke, in a room with blue and white curtains and an air conditioner.

Schneier said he brought Gross a prayer shawl and hamantaschen, or three-cornered, sweet-filling pastries, and they prayed together to mark the eve of the Jewish holiday of Purim.

“I found him hopeful, and Purim is a festival of miracles. So we all pray that a miracle will allow us to see a resolution of the pain and suffering of all involved,” Schneier said.

He declined to comment further, saying a statement would be issued upon his return by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which Schneier founded and which organized his interfaith humanitarian mission to Cuba.