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Pidyon Shvuyim fund to help imprisoned Jews

JTA

February 21, 2013 | 8:06 am

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

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

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington established a legal defense fund for Jews being held wrongfully because of their Jewishness and will assist Alan Gross, who is in prison in Cuba.

Financial contributions will be used to help cover the legal defense of Jews in the United States and throughout the world who the council believes have been wrongfully charged or imprisoned.

Funds also will be used to cover costs associated with advocating for the prisoners.

The council cited the Jewish value of Pidyon Shvuyim, or redeeming the captive, in a statement Wednesday announcing the new fund.

The tax-deductible charitable contributions cannot be earmarked for a particular person.

The first funds will be used to help Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba since December 2009 and is serving a 15-year sentence for "crimes against the state."

According to the Gross family and the U.S. State Department, the Maryland man was in Cuba on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help connect the country’s 1,500-strong Jewish community with other Jewish communities via the Internet.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington has been advocating on Gross’ behalf, organizing vigils and spearheading legislation to help free Gross.

A U.S. congressional delegation  this week arrived in Cuba to press for his release.

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