Earlier this fall, State Rep. Jack Franks took a self-financed trip to Cuba. He called it a “trade mission.”
Looking through old Google alerts for the Marengo Democrat, I found the most extensive description of the Caribbean adventure on the web site of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
It not only identified some others who went with Franks (Reps. Karen May and Sara Feigenholtz), but revealed details of contacts with the 500-person Jewish community in Cuba.
Franks focused on the trade aspects of the trip, while May and Feigenholtz “slipped away for a visit with Adela Dworin, president of Temple Beth Shalom of Havana, Cuba, and David Prinstein, vice president of the temple.”
The story told of the two’s taking hard-to-obtain worship items, plus “medical and health care supplies,” reported to be scare in Cuba.
Human rights were also a topic of interest. An American Jewish contractor has been sentenced to 15 years in prison “for distributing satellite telephone equipment to Jewish groups in Havana.”
The article described the offense and “a crime against the Cuban State.”
“When asked if he had the opportunity to express the concerns of the Jewish community in Illinois about Gross to government leaders, Franks responded that as, co-chair of the mission, he wanted to stay focused on the core goal of increasing trade.”
He added that such diplomatic work should be left to the professionals.
The story ended with news that Franks and his family are going to Cuba this month on a humanitarian mission.
“In November, Franks will return to Cuba with his extended family on a humanitarian, rather than trade, mission. They will bring medicine, health care products, and supplies for the Jewish Youth Center in Havana.
“Herb Franks, Rep. Franks’ father, traveled to Cuba seven years ago on a mission which included stops with the Jewish community in Cuba and began to think then of a return trip as a family mission.”
The State Representative’s staffer thought the trip was scheduled for Thanksgiving week.