The national Latino Jewish Leadership Council (LJLC) convened in the nation’s capital for a series of meetings on the first anniversary of its founding.

“No matter what is one’s political affiliation, building coalitions is critical to turn our nation in the right direction,” Julian Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs, told the bipartisan Council. He expressed deep concern about the current polarized environment in American society. “Something has been unleashed that is detrimental to the Latino community, the Jewish community, to the well-being of our nation,” said Castro, who is the newest member of the LJLC.

Council members discussed the need for U.S. global leadership, the current status of Puerto Rico’s relief and reconstruction efforts (and the potential for the Council’s involvement), the pending DACA legislation, and support for Israel. Castro said that Latino political activism will “assure that the Latino community can live the American dream like any other group.”

Both the president and the director of Puerto Rico’s Jewish community, as well as the publisher of the island’s top newspaper, came to Washington especially to participate in the Council’s meeting and advocacy on Capitol Hill.

"We are citizens of the U.S." said Jeff Berezdivin, president of the JCC Puerto Rico, in a passionate appeal for Washington to focus on assisting the urgent humanitarian needs and rebuilding of the island's economy and infrastructure.

The day before the Council meeting, LJLC members joined with AJC leaders from across the country for meetings with members of both the House and Senate to discuss Puerto Rico, Israel’s place in the world, immigration reform and U.S. global leadership.

The Latin American region also was featured at the AJC Board of Governors and National Leadership Council events that preceded the LJLC meeting.

Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), a vigorous defender of democracy in the hemisphere, addressed the deteriorating socio-economic situation and violation of human rights in Venezuela. “In the last five years, more than 4 million people have left country,” he said, “because the authorities in Venezuela decided to stop being a democracy”. The Secretary General also stressed that “the eradication of antisemitism as a social pathology is an unsolved issue in the region that requires everyone’s involvement and commitment.”

In conversation with Almagro, Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA), added that “the OAS must spearhead the efforts in the region to pass anti-terrorist legislation that recognizes Islamic terrorism as a global threat.”

During the event, AJC formally thanked Guatemala Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel for her country’s decision to return its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“The Republic of Guatemala, from the beginning, has decisively manifested itself in favor of the Jewish people. Our support to this cause is the manifestation of the aspiration for justice, and for the right of the Jewish people to live in peace. Guatemala believes in Israel, trusts Israel, and Israel can count on Guatemala as a friend and an ally,” Minister Jovel told the AJC leaders.

The LJLC is comprised of a prominent group of U.S. Jews and Latinos. Convened by AJC, the Council works to further strengthen Latino-Jewish cooperation in advocating for issues of shared concern and values cherished by both communities.

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