The World Jewish Congress co-sponsored a conference on Latino-Jewish relations in Miami this week, highlighting the history of the Jews in Spain and ongoing relations between American Latino and Jewish organizations.
World Jewish Congress North America Executive Director Betty Ehrenberg co-chaired the September 7-8 conference, entitled “Reconnecting 2016: Reinvigorating Shared Latino –Jewish Roots and Heritage,” together with Henry Cisneros, former US Secretary of Housing and Development.
A portion of the conference was also dedicated to the phenomenon of “conversos” or “anousim,” terms referring to the 15th century Jews of Spain and Portugal, who converted to Catholicism under duress and threat of death. Many hid their Jewish practices for untold numbers of years, and others fled to other countries in Europe, North Africa, and other distant locations. In recent years, there has been a rise in “B’nei Anusim” or descendants of these conversos, seeking their roots and family history.
Among the speakers at the conference were Cisneros, who discussed the need for American Latino and Jewish communities to work together on a common agenda and for the Latino community to support Israel; Pastor John Hagee of Christians United for Israel, who denounced anti-Semitism as un-Christian and voiced the need for a strong Israel in the world; and Ambassador Danny Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York who spoke about his Argentinian roots.
“This gathering, aimed at reconnecting and exploring Latino and Jewish roots, is of utmost significance at a time when minority groups must strengthen their work together to further their common interests,” said WJC, North America Executive Director Betty Ehrenberg.
“They study of the history of the Jews in Spain and Portugal, with its glowing heritage of advanced academic, cultural and religious achievement, reflects not only on a past “Golden Age” but portends a kinship and connection for the future, which we see re-emerging in our time. The positive bi-lateral relationship between Spain and Israel is proof of this,” said Ehrenberg.
“In the United States, Latinos and Jews must continue to forge close ties in their efforts to improve education and economic opportunity for our children, and to foster domestic and foreign affairs agendas that will strengthen our country. This includes support for Israel which has proven time and again to be our most democratic and staunchest ally in the Middle East. We are deeply grateful for this support on the part of the Latino American leaders on both sides of the political aisle and in the cultural and economic spheres.
Other sponsors included the Netanya Academic College of Israel, the Consulate General of Israel in Miami, the ADL, the American Sephardi Federation, the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, the Dezer family, and more.