President Praises Community Efforts to Free Gross

“I wanted to begin with today’s wonderful news. I’m told that in Jewish tradition one of the great mitzvahs is pidyon shvuyim. My Hebrew’s not perfect. But I get points for trying. But it describes the redemption. The freeing of captives. And that’s what we are celebrating today because after being unjustly held in Cuba for more than five years, American Alan Gross is free.

Alan’s dedicated his life to others. To helping people around the world develop their communities and improve their lives. Including Israelis and Palestinians. He’s a man of deep faith who once worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Five years ago he was arrested by Cuban authorities simply for helping ordinary Cubans, including Cuba’s small Jewish community, access information on the Internet. And ever since, those who have loved and cared for Alan never stopped working to bring him home.

Judy, his wife of 44 years and their daughters, including his oldest daughter who walked down the aisle without her dad on her wedding day. His mother, who passed away this year without being able to see her son one last time. His whole family, including his sister-in-law Gwen Suarez who joins us here today (looks her way and waves to acknowledge her presence: Hey Gwen). His rabbi. His friends at his congregation in Maryland, Om Kolel, who kept him in their prayers every Shabbat. Jewish and other faith leaders around the country and around the world, including his holiness Pope Francis. And members of Congress and those of us in the United States government.

And Alan’s fought back. He spoke out from his cell. He went on a hunger strike. With his health deteriorating his family worried that he might not be able to make it out alive but he never gave up and we never gave up. As I explained earlier, after many months of discussion with the Cuban government, Alan was finally released this morning on humanitarian grounds.

I spoke to him on his flight. He said he was willing to interrupt his corned beef sandwich to talk to me (laughter). I told him he had mustard in his mustache. I couldn’t actually see it (more laughs in audience). Needless to say he was thrilled and he landed at Andrews in a plane marked United States of America (applause).

He’s going to be getting the medical attention that he needs. He’s back where he belongs in America with his family, home for Chanukah and I can’t think of a better way to mark this holiday with its message that freedom is possible than with the historic changes that I announced today in our Cuba policy (loud cheers). These are changes that are rooted in America’s commitment to freedom and democracy for all the Cuban people, including its small but proud Jewish community.

Alan’s remarks about the need for these changes was extremely powerful.”

POSNER

On December 17, 2014, GERTRUDE (nee Resnick), beloved wife of the late Bernard Posner; adored mother of William (Abby Golden) Posner and the late Stewart (Bonnie) Posner; cherished sister of the late Reba Shear, Rose Wilkins, Benjamin Resnick, Paul Resnick and Ceil Lissy; devoted grandmother of Tzahi (Einat) Posner, Jennifer Posner, Rachel Posner, Joshua (Dana) Posner, Hillary (Aron) Goldberger, Leesa (Mario) Mancuso, Julie Klepper and Andrew Klepper; also survived by nine loving great-grandchildren. Services at SOL LEVINSON & BROS., INC., 8900 Reisterstown Road, at Mount Wilson Lane, on Monday, December 22 at noon. Interment at Arlington Cemetery, Chizuk Amuno Congregation, North Rogers Avenue. Please omit flowers. Contributions in her memory may be sent to Breast Cancer Action, 657 Mission St., Suite 302, San Francisco, CA 94105. In mourning at 27 Stonehenge Circle, Apt. #2 (Stevenson Village), Baltimore, MD 21208.

POLLOKOFF

On December 16, 2014, PHYLLIS (nee Gordon), beloved wife of Royal Pollokoff; loving mother of Robert (Amy) Pollokoff, Gordon (Bonnie) Pollokoff and the late Aron Pollokoff; devoted sister of Marcia “Cookie” Schiffman and the late Rita Bedrick; adored grandmother of Heidi (Richard) Topaz, Alexa, Jacob, Aaron, Emily (Elliott Bazzano) and Abigail Pollokoff; cherished great-grandmother of Hazel Bazzano and Clara Bazzano. Services at SOL LEVINSON & BROS., INC., 8900 Reisterstown Road, at Mount Wilson Lane, on Thursday, December 18 at 1 p.m. Interment at Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery, Berrymans Lane. Please omit flowers. Contributions in her memory may be sent to the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation, c/o Emily Greene, 31 S. Greene St., 3rd Floor, Baltimore, MD 21201. In mourning at 300 Woodholme Ave., (Woodholme Country Club), Baltimore, MD 21208, immediately following interment, with services Thursday evening, and continuing Friday afternoon at 3984 Newcastle Court, Ellicott City, MD 21042 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.

ROSENBERG

On December 14, 2014, ELLIOTT, beloved husband of Evelyn Rosenberg (nee Fleischman); devoted father of Patti Rosenberg and Gail Rosenberg; dear brother of Paul (Marilyn) Rosenberg. Also survived by many loving nieces and nephews. Services at SOL LEVINSON & BROS., INC., 8900 Reisterstown Road, at Mount Wilson Lane, on Thursday, December 18 at 10 a.m. Interment at Maryland Veterans Cemetery, Garrison Forest Road. Please omit flowers. Contributions in his memory may be sent to the National Parkinson Foundation, Gift Processing Center, P.O. Box 5018, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5018 or the charity of your choice. In mourning at 8911 Reisterstown Road (Springhouse), Baltimore, MD 21208.

SIEGEL

On December 14, 2014, DAVID, beloved husband of the late Helen Siegel (nee Weisfeld); adored father of Marilyn Green and the late Sandra Siegel; loving grandfather of Christopher (Olga) Buettner; cherished great-grandfather of Alec, Cecilia and Ellina. Funeral services and interment will be held at Beth Tfiloh Cemetery, 5800 Windsor Mill Road, on Wednesday, December 17 at 1 p.m. Please omit flowers. Contributions in his memory may be sent to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place S.W., Washington, DC 20024.

WEINTZWEIG

On December 16, 2014, HELENE (nee Bornstein), beloved wife of the late Abraham Weintzweig; devoted mother of Iris (Paul) Rudman, Joseph Weintzweig, Brion (Beth) Weintzweig and the late Lyle Weintzweig; dear sister-in-law and friend of Rosalie (late David) Weintzweig; loving grandmother of Melissa (Joe) Gordon, Robert (Michelle) Rudman, Ava Weintzweig and Lily Weintzweig; adored great-grandmother of Alana and Emily Gordon and Owen Rudman. Also survived by loving nieces and nephews. Services at SOL LEVINSON & BROS., INC., 8900 Reisterstown Road, at Mount Wilson Lane, on Wednesday, December 17 at noon. Interment at Forband, Rosedale. Please omit flowers. Contributions in her memory may be sent to Beth Israel Congregation, 3706 Crondall Lane, Owings Mills, MD 21117. In mourning at 13 Woodsmen Court (Sagamore Forest II), Reisterstown, MD 21136, through Friday.

GOLBERG

On December 14, 2014, LYNN, beloved husband of Estelle Golberg (nee Levenkron-Frager); devoted father of Steve (Abby) Golberg, Mark (Elise) Golberg, Ray (Rebecca) Frager and Jeff (Cheryl) Frager; loving brother of Audrey Meyers; cherished grandfather of eight grandchildren. Funeral services and interment will be held at Chevra Ahavas Chesed Cemetery, Randallstown on Tuesday, December 16 at 10 a.m. Please omit flowers. Contributions in his memory may be sent to the American Lung Association, 211 E. Lombard St., #260, Baltimore, MD 21202. In mourning at 110 Sunnydale Way, Reisterstown, MD 21136.

SKLAR

On December 12, 2014, SANDRA “SANDEE” (nee Hoffman), beloved wife of Marvin Sklar; loving mother of Geoffrey (Holly) Sklar and Jason (Laurie) Sklar; cherished sister of the late Honey Anshel; dear sister-in-law of David Anshel and Charlotte (late Eugene) Blum; adored grandmother of Justin (Joslyn) Sklar, Ashley, Casey, Skylar, Dari Jo, Landon and Gyllian Rose Sklar. Also survived by many loving nieces and nephews. Interment at Oheb Shalom Memorial Park, Berrymans Lane. Please omit flowers. Contributions in her memory may be sent to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1850 York Road, Suite D, Timonium, MD 21093. In mourning at 48 River Oaks Circle, Pikesville, MD 21208, Sunday through Tuesday with services at 7 p.m.

KOLODNER

On December 11, 2014, MANUEL, beloved husband of the late Lillian Kolodner (nee Schwartz); devoted father of Terri and Robert Kolodner; loving brother of the late Joseph Kolodner, Raymond Kolodner, Gladys Cohen, twin sisters Angel Zucker and Pat Kolodner; cherished grandfather of Jessica and Lauren Kolodner. Also survived by many loving nieces and nephews. Interment at Moses Montefiore Woodmoor Hebrew Cemetery, Washington Boulevard.

GLASS

On December 12, 2014, SHIRLEY LORRAINE (nee Baer), beloved wife of the late Herbert Glass; devoted mother of Kenneth (Eva) Glass and Alan (Christy) Glass; loving sister of Aaron Baer and the late Daniel Baer, Esther Davis, Eli Baer and Norma Goldman; cherished grandmother of Samantha Jo Glass, Olivia Glass, Ben Beatty and the late Daniel Paul Glass. Interment Oheb Shalom Memorial Park, Berrymans Lane. Please omit flowers. Contributions in her memory may be sent to the Jewish National Fund, 2 Reservoir Circle, Suite 203, Baltimore, MD 21208. In mourning at 1 Lynn Ridge Court, Manchester, MD 21102.