Blue and purple lights splashed color onto the walls of the large hall, while church guards whispered into earpieces and Israeli plainclothes guards stood near Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York. “I come as a Latin brother,” said Dayan, who was born in Argentina and spoke entirely in Spanish, his words translated into English by an interpreter.
Dayan, who has publicly described himself as nonreligious, spoke his hosts’ language in more ways than one, threading his speech with references to the prophets.
...Dayan and his government aren’t alone in working to cultivate those relationships. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was a cosponsor of Israel Night, and centrist U.S. Jewish organizations have been increasing their work among Latinos.
The shared goal? To create friends and allies for Israel and build mutually supportive relationships in the United States. “Latinos are the fastest-growing community in this country, and in 2060 ... more than 30 percent of the American electorate will be Latino,” Dayan said. “Israel will not be able to maintain the level of support it has in American society if it neglects a third of society.”
The 2000 U.S. census “revealed that Latinos are the fastest-growing minority in this country,” said Dina Siegel Vann, the Mexico City-raised director of the American Jewish Committee’s institute for Latino and Latin American affairs. Before that there was indifference.
“As Latinos started becoming more visible politically and people started talking about awakening the sleeping giant with incredible electoral potential, Jewish groups started paying attention,” she said.
As she put it, “We want Latinos to understand what are the issues that are on the Jewish agenda. They are going to be voting, making decisions about things that are important to us. We want to make sure that they are sensitized. We work with diplomatic corps here advocating for a strong trilateral relationship between the U.S., Latin America and Israel.”
U.S. Jewish groups focus heavily on domestic issues, with the aim of galvanizing Jewish support for Hispanic immigrant communities and harnessing Latino Americans’ rising political power to benefit Jewish concerns in the long term. Jewish community relations councils are the North American community’s intergroup relations specialists, working with Christians and Muslims, blacks and Hispanics, and other minority communities.
The Boston council, for example, is working on affordable housing, criminal-justice reform and of course immigration issues with the local Latino community, said Nahma Nadich, its associate director. As area churches prepare to provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, synagogues are helping with efforts like donating bedding and clothing or driving children to school.
Members from about 10 area synagogues were trained last week in rapid response to help undocumented immigrants when immigration agents arrive at the door. “This network has allowed people to put their Jewish values to work at a time when this country is in a political crisis, on themes that are so familiar to us. It is very powerful,” Nadich said.
The American Jewish Committee recently launched the Latino-Jewish Leadership Council with 35 high-powered members like Henry Cisneros, a former chief of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They met for the first time on March 1. The focus will be immigration reform, hate crimes and foreign policy with Latin America and Israel, Siegel Vann said. Members plan to meet soon with members of Congress and the Trump administration. Her department has staff in Washington, Los Angeles, Miami and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Anti-Semitism tops the council’s agenda, said member Alejandra Castillo, who grew up in Queens and the Dominican Republic and headed the Obama administration’s Commerce Department’s minority business development agency. “We want to make sure there are other voices” beside the Jewish community’s “speaking up about anti-Semitism. Latinos can add to that” in the Spanish-language media, Castillo said, adding that groups like the American Jewish Committee have been key partners in the Hispanic community’s fight to obtain rights for immigrants. “We want to make sure we bring these two communities together,” she said.Source