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Jewish Journal

AJC launches Latino-Jewish congressional caucus

by Jonah Lowenfeld

June 14, 2011 | 5:55 pm

The ongoing development of ties between the Latino and Jewish communities took a new turn this week with the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) establishment of a new Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus. At press time, a group of mostly Latino and Jewish lawmakers were set to meet at an event in Washington, D.C., on June 14, in the hopes of furthering collaborative relationships.

“This is a natural growth of the development of contacts between Latinos and Jews throughout the decades, and particularly in the last few years,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute. “Why shouldn’t Congress reflect the continuing alliance between Latinos and Jews elsewhere?”

Despite the highly polarized atmosphere in Washington, the caucus hopes to be a bipartisan endeavor, with Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) serving as co-chairs.

AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute, which supported the establishment of the new caucus, has been working nationally, internationally and locally in Los Angeles to develop relationships between Latinos and Jews. The institute presented an award to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last October for his work in building connections between the two communities.

Sixteen representatives — mostly, but not exclusively, Latino and Jewish — have signed on to the caucus so far, and a handful of others have expressed interest. Among the confirmed participants from the Los Angeles area are Democratic Reps. Joe Baca, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Brad Sherman. Aside from Ros-Lehtinen, only one other Republican, Rep. David Rivera of Florida, has joined the caucus so far. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish Republican in Congress, was approached but declined to take part.

Siegel Vann said she hopes that comprehensive immigration reform and foreign policy will be areas for potential cooperation. “Hopefully, in the weeks to come, the co-chairs will be able to bring members together to come up with a plan of action and identify several issues where they can work together,” she said.

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