Saturday, March 5, 2011

Alan Gross's Cuba contact helped set up computer lab in Santiago

William Miller, the Jewish computer tech who admitted meeting with Alan Gross, helped set up a computer laboratory in Santiago de Cuba in December 2009 with the help of ORT, an international charity organization.
Miller's computer skills and contacts in the Jewish community would make him a valuable contact for Alan Gross, now on trial in Cuba for importing illegal satellite communication gear. Miller is the grandson of Jose Miller, who headed the Patronato, the largest synagogue in Cuba, before his death in 2006.
I don't know if Gross's work in Cuba had anything to do with the Santiago de Cuba computer lab. Moving a bunch of old computers to Santiago sure doesn't seem like subversive activity. I haven't seen any evidence that Gross had contact with Cuban dissidents or opposition figures, so where's the threat to the Cuban state?
ORT's website said the computer laboratory in Santiago would be used for IT training and English-language education. The computers were to be available to: 60 Jews in Santiago, 80 in Guantanamo province and 32 in Granma province.

ORT said:
Until now, ORT Cuba’s extensive vocational training and education services have been concentrated in the capital, Havana, where most of the country’s 1,400 Jews live.
But a cash injection from World ORT to buy much needed new computers for the Ana and Ben Dizik ORT Technology Centre at Havana’s Jewish Community Centre has allowed the old computers to be used elsewhere.

Scarce resources mean that the nine-year-old computers, which may well have ended up in a recycling skip in America or Europe by now, have been carefully kept in top condition for the 120 students who pass through ORT Cuba’s doors every two-and-a-half months. But advances in technology mean that new, more powerful computers have to be provided in order to maintain ORT Cuba’s reputation – among Jews and non-Jews – for providing quality training which can open doors to better jobs and new careers.

“We’re improving our courses in Havana because our students are asking for high quality,” said ORT Cuba National Director William Miller. “There’s still a lack of computers in Cuban society so people come to us looking for complementary education. The extra skills they acquire with us allow them to apply for better jobs.”

Santiago de Cuba was the obvious choice for creating the new computer laboratory with the old equipment, Mr Miller added.

“We decided to install the five computers there because not only is there a synagogue – the Hatikva Congregation – which provides the space we need to serve the 60-strong Jewish community but also because it can serve the 80 Jews in neighbouring Guantanamo and the 32 in nearby Granma,” he said.

William Miller is at right
In May 2010, Miller received a $7,000 grant to organize a leadership training seminar. ORT said:

Cuba’s Jewish community’s restoration to the “real world” of international Jewish life has taken another step forward with the award of a grant to ORT Cuba National Director William Miller.

Mr Miller is to receive $7,000 to enable him to organise a leadership training seminar for more than 40 Jews from across the country.

“For a long time we were outside the Jewish world,” said Mr Miller. “Now we’re among 11 countries which have got a grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. It’s very important for us to see our country listed alongside established communities such as the United States, Israel and Argentina, we feel like we’re part of world Jewry again like before 1959.”

The grant is one of 35 which were awarded from a pool of 125 applications submitted by alumni of the past five years of international gatherings hosted by ROI (Return on Investment), the Lynn Schustermann-funded project of the Centre for Leadership Initiatives. Mr Miller has attended two ROI events, one in Israel and the other in Mexico. Now he is waiting for permission to travel to July’s fifth anniversary ROI convention in Jerusalem where he will formally receive the grant.

Mr Miller’s plan is to build on the success of a leadership seminar held in Cuba in 2006, soon after the death of his grandfather, Dr Jose Miller, who had led the community for some 30 years. The ROI grant will pay the transportation, accommodation, food and other costs involved in bringing together more than 40 activists to the capital, Havana, for a long weekend’s learning of leadership techniques, project management and discussion of new initiatives.

“We’re working very hard to have representatives from across the generations at the seminar,” Mr Miller said. “Having young and old together means one can learn from the other and share ideas. The youth are very enthusiastic and active and can stimulate the older generations to do more.”

The study material at the seminar will be cherry-picked from ORT courses which are provided to the community, particularly business management. But there is plenty to choose from: since October, ORT Cuba has provided courses for nearly 300 people in English, computing, French, sewing, Photoshop, ethics, digital photography, catering management, Holocaust studies and Jewish studies.

In addition, ORT Cuba, which celebrated its ninth anniversary in December, has opened a computerised language study centre in Santiago de Cuba and provided technical ICT support for a Jewish Sunday school.

No comments: