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Jewish and Latino Dialogue
Inexorably shifting demographics bring the 
two groups together in a common cause 

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce supplement to 
the San Diego Metropolitan, January 2005


By Donald H. Harrison

Prominent Jews and Latinos have been quietly dialoguing on a quarterly basis—hoping that by coming to understand each other better, their communities will be able to build an alliance for the future.

When the American Jewish Committee organized the Jewish-Latino Dialogue, Sheriff Bill Kolender was invited to join along with San Diego Police Chief David Bejarino—a Jew and a Latino.

Similarly, the dialogue’s chairman, Marty Block, was paired with Maria Nieto Senour, his colleague on the San Diego Community College’s board of trustees. City School Superintendent Alan Bersin was matched with County School Superintendent Rudy Castruita. Congresswoman Susan Davis, as an elected official, was paired with San Diego City Councilman Ralph Inzunza Jr.

The parallelism was not rigid. Other dialoguers include such members of the Jewish community as Murray Galinson, chairman of the California State Colleges board of trustees,  and such Latino community leaders as Enrique Morones, former president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and David Vallolodid, former president of the Chicano Federation.

Fay Crevoshay, owner of Angel Media and Public Relations, serves a bridging function, being a Jew who grew up in Mexico City.  She said there are some important issues potentially dividing the two communities—conflicting political ambitions among them.

If the dialogue is successful, she said, someone like Assemblyman Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) could run against U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) and no matter what the result, the two communities would remain united on general issues.

Block said Jews recognize that Latinos are the emerging majority in California who increasingly will win and control numerous elective offices throughout California. If the rights of Jews and other minorities are to be protected, it behooves the Jewish community to acquaint the Latino community with its local and international concerns.   

Vallalodid said Latinos look at the Jewish community as one that has been successful in the political and financial arenas—a community that can help Latinos realize their aspirations.

Crevoshay suggests that the group work on a project to keep kids in school. Vallalodid, head of Parents Institute for Quality Education, believes the Jewish-Latino Dialogue should back legislation making pre-school programs universally available in California

Morones wants the group to join the Border Angels project, which leaves water and blankets in various caches in the mountains and desert to prevent the deaths of undocumented aliens risking harsh conditions to try to find work in this country. About 3,000 people have died due to exposure in the last decade, Morones said.

Among the issues prompting dialogue was the recent Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ, which many Jews feared would cause a renewal of “deicide” charges against the Jewish people generally.  Morones said he didn’t think the movie was anti-Semitic, but rather a portrayal of how much suffering Jesus had to endure to atone for mankind’s sins.

Rabbi David Rosen, the Jerusalem-based director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, suggests such local dialoguing may have important results.

“In this part of the world, you are in the eye of the transformation of world Catholicism,” Rosen said in San Diego last month. “First of all, you are in the eye of the transformation of American Catholicism, which is the largest religious denomination in America, which is increasingly becoming Hispanic and Latino…. 

“Not only that, but if the next Pope is not from Latin America, the one after certainly will be,” predicted Rosen, international president of the World Conference for Religion and Peace. “The relations between Jews and Catholics that are developed here have ramifications not only of national scale but of global scale."