IMRA Comment: Switch the name "Pollard" for "Gross" in President Obama's Hanukkah Reception Remarks

IMRA - December 21, 2014


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release - December 17, 2014
Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception
East Room
Original page
4:27 P.M. EST


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

Alan has 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 Zuares, who joins us here today -- where is Gwen (Applause.) Hey, Gwen. His rabbi, his friends at his congregation in Maryland, Am Kolel, who kept him in their prayers every Shabbat. Jewish and other faith leaders across 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 has fought back. He spoke out from his cell, he went on a hunger strike. With his health deteriorating, his family worried 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 our 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. (Laughter.) But needless to say, he was thrilled. And he landed at Andrews in a plane marked "The 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 Hanukkah. 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. (Applause.) 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. And Alan's remarks about the need for these changes was extremely powerful.


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 17, 2014
Remarks By The President At Evening Hanukkah Reception
State Floor
8:03 P.M. EST
Original page


...Now, I'm going to begin by saying what a glorious day this is -- because, after five years, American Alan Gross is free. (Applause.) As all of you know, he was arrested five years ago by Cuban authorities simply for helping ordinary Cubans -- including a small Jewish community in Cuba -- just for access information on the Internet. Today, after 1,840 days, he is back where he belongs -- with his wife Judy and his family. And as you heard Alan say today, this is his best Hanukkah.

From his cell, Alan once wrote, "I refuse to accept that my country would leave me behind." And he is right. We're committed to the principle that no American ever gets left behind. We do everything in our power to bring Americans home. So we thank all those who helped to make sure that Alan was never forgotten. And as now we're moving forward, we know that the historic changes I announced today will mean greater opportunity and progress for both Americans and for Cubans, including the small but proud Jewish community in Cuba. (Applause.)

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