July 31, 2019 — Washington, D.C.
Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA), urged members of the leading coalition of Latino organizations to step up its cooperation and joint advocacy activity with the Jewish community.
“I have yet to perceive in the organized Latino community the strategic commitment and investment towards engaging key Jewish groups as timely partners and allies on issues of common concern,” Siegel Vann told the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA). “Particularly during these trying moments, when we are under assault, we must stand together.”
The NHLA is the nonpartisan association of major Hispanic national groups and distinguished Hispanic leaders, many of whom have been involved with AJC, the leading global Jewish advocacy organization.
“The challenges we are facing, the assaults on the core values that made this country what it is fill us all with concern and trepidation,” said Siegel Vann. “Those of us who are members of minority communities have become targets due to political expediency or to the legitimization of destructive ideologies and tendencies that we thought had been overcome decades ago.”
Siegel Vann, herself a Latino Jew, originally from Mexico City, was invited to address the NHLA to share her perspectives. She emphasized that the six million Jews and 58 million Latinos in the U.S. share “the continuous aspirations of an open, inclusive, diverse society with equal rights and access to opportunities.”
Reviewing AJC’s longstanding engagement with the Hispanic community across the U.S., Siegel Vann noted that during the civil rights struggle in the 1960s, AJC also advocated for “the rights of Latinos, who remained invisible at that time for U.S. society in general.”
AJC, since its founding in 1906, has “embraced the U.S. as a nation of immigrants whose talents and entrepreneurial spirt are indispensable elements to preserve the greatness of this country,” she said. “Most recently, AJC has repeatedly expressed concerns regarding the humanitarian crisis in our border and called for increased aid to address the root causes of migration from Mexico and Central America.”
Only last week AJC helped relaunch the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus, with a meeting on Capitol Hill attended by members of the caucus and several ambassadors from Latin American countries. The caucus was originally formed in 2011 with AJC impetus.
In addition, AJC facilitated the founding of the national Latino-Jewish Leadership Council in 2017. Council members have jointly advocated on combating antisemitism, humanitarian assistance for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, visited the U.S.-Mexico border to meet with officials dealing with the migrants, and foreign policy issues, including the crisis in Venezuela and U.S.-Israel relations.
On the shared interest of Latinos and Jews in combatting hate, Siegel Vann stressed that rising antisemitism, including violent, fatal attacks on synagogues in the U.S. threatens other minorities, not only Jews, and American society. “If a minority who is considered by all measures a success in integration and political and economic empowerment is still vulnerable, and its sense of belonging to this country challenged, Latinos and other minorities remain in danger, too,” she said.