March 10, 2016 — Madrid, Spain
An AJC senior leadership delegation concluded a four-day visit to Portugal and Spain.
In Lisbon, the group met with officials of the newly installed Portuguese government, including Foreign Affairs Minister Augusto Santos Silva and his chief advisors; members of Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s cabinet led by Chief of Staff Rita Fadden; and Constança Urbano de Sousa, minister in charge of homeland security. The AJC delegation also met with U.S. Ambassador Robert Sherman, had a private dinner with Israeli Ambassador Tzipora Rimon, and celebrated Shabbat with leaders of AJC's institutional partner, the Jewish Community of Lisbon, headed by Jose Carp.
In Madrid, the delegation joined wtih Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena as she signed on to AJC’s Mayors United Against Antisemitism initiative, the first mayor in Spain to do so. The group also met with Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz, and Justice Minister Rafael Catalá. The AJC group met with Israeli Ambassador Daniel Kutner and U.S. Chargé d'Affaires Krishna R. Urs, as well as with Miguel de Luca, Director of Centro Sefarad, a state initiative to promote Jewish culture among Spanish civil society. The visit to Madrid was hosted by AJC partner Federacion de Comunidades Judias de Espana, led by Isaac Querub.
Among the topics discussed were the granting of citizenship by both Spain and Portugal to Jews of Sephardic descent; multi-pronged efforts to combat antisemitism, radical ideologies and terrorism; effective means to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace; the ongoing migration crisis and the future stability of the European Union; and relations with Israel and the U.S.
“We stand in awe at the commitment and efforts undertaken both by Portugal and Spain to come to terms with their past and incorporate Jewish heritage as an integral part of their societies,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director of Policy, who co-led the 15 member delegation with AJC Executive Council Member René-Pierre Azria and Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs.
“At the same time we applaud the steadfast dedication of the Spanish and Portuguese governments to protecting their Jewish communities and to strengthening ties with the U.S. and Israel,” Isaacson added.