In celebration of Chanukah, we tend to focus on the miracle of the oil lasting eight days in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. However the great miracle was not so much about the oil as it was a result of the successful Hasmonean revolt in their fight for religious freedom against the Selucid-Greeks.
With that in mind, we are pleased to celebrate the modern miracle of the release of Alan Gross from his imprisonment in Cuba. As recent travelers to Cuba, members of Har Sinai Congregation went with the goal of providing resources and supplies to the Jewish communities struggling in Communist Cuba. As I blogged following our trip, it was an eye opening experience. Cuba was nothing like we were expecting. However we were cognizant that Cuba is a repressive regime that tries to roll out the carpet for travelers to present Cuba in the finest light.
As we are in the greater Baltimore-Washington D.C. area, friends of Alan Gross reached out to us requesting that we not travel to Cuba. We understood their plea, however we felt the resources we could provide the Jews in Cuba outweighed Alan’s plight. We found ourselves becoming immersed in his experiences and learned that it was a more complex narrative than one portrayed in the media.
Whether Alan knew exactly what he was up to, or was a pawn by the State Department will be debated by scholars, pundits, and historians. What we do know is that his release is a welcome miracle and blessing for his family and his community.
It could also signal a change in the United States’ approach to Cuba, which may ultimately result in the toppling of the repressive Communist regime. This in turn could result in religious and personal freedoms not just for the Jews of Cuba, but for all Cubans. And this would be a great miracle and blessing indeed, for which we can all rejoice.
In the meantime, we wish Alan a speedy return to his loving family and friends. We wish him a Refu’ah Shleymah, a complete recovery of mind, body and spirit. And we look forward to him being able to celebrate Chanukah as a free Jew, a blessing for which we can all be grateful for.