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Vigils for Gross planned outside Cuban offices in D.C., N.Y.

JTA

September 20, 2011 | 4:54 pm

U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross and his wife Judy pose for a picture in Jerusalem in the spring of 2005. Photo by REUTERS/Family Photograph/Handout/Files

U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross and his wife Judy pose for a picture in Jerusalem in the spring of 2005. Photo by REUTERS/Family Photograph/Handout/Files

Jewish and interfaith groups are organizing simultaneous vigils in Washington and New York calling for the release of Jewish American contractor Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

The vigils, coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, will take place Friday at the Cuba Interests section in Washington and the Cuba mission to the United Nations in New York.

At both vigils, organizers will attempt to present Cuban officials with petitions calling for Gross’ release before Rosh Hashanah. The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington is co-sponsoring the vigil there.

Gross, 62, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, has been imprisoned since 2009 and was sentenced this summer to 15 years in prison for attempting to overthrow Cuba’s government. He was hooking up the island’s small Jewish community with access to the Internet.

Gross is ailing in prison and reportedly has lost 100 pounds. His mother and one of his daughters are suffering from cancer, and his wife is recovering from an undisclosed illness.

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