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Jews and Latinos, coffee and muffins in Charlotte

 

Most of the focus at political conventions goes to what’s happening on the convention floor, from policy speeches to votes (and re-votes) on party platforms. But there’s also a lot that goes on outside the main arena.

Sure, much of that is parties, schmoozing and traffic jams. But there are also many smaller events dedicated to specific issues and constituencies that try to capitalize on having so many movers and shakers in one place looking for a few hours to kill between delegate breakfasts held in the morning and pre-convention receptions that start up mid-afternoon.
 
One such event was held by the American Jewish Committee on Wednesday to address the relationship between the Jewish and Latino communities.
 
“As we see the rise in terms of the presence of Latinos in our country and their influence … this is more and more a community we need to reach out to,” AJC’s Legislative Director Richard Foltin told me in an art gallery in Charlotte the group had reserved for the event. It was after breakfast time, but there was still the obligatory coffee and muffins on hand.
 
He pointed to areas of common interest that range from immigration to foreign aid to the “transnational” aspect of the two communities’ identity formation.
 
Latino business and political leaders in attendance sensed the same opportunities.
 
Alejandra Castillo spoke about the possibilities for collaboration and learning from one another, particularly from the example of Jewish political activism.
 
“We need to engage in the conversation about foreign policy to the extent that the Jewish community can talk about Israel,” said Castillo, who was one of the speakers on the event’s panel.
 
But there’s a lot of distance to overcome, with polls of Latino attitudes toward the Jewish community showing some of the highest rates of anti-Semitic attitudes held by different ethnic groups in the country.
 
I asked the panel what to make of the numbers and what that meant for efforts at collaboration, and the participants responding by saying the main issue is ignorance rather than hostility.
 
“There hasn’t been as much contact as one might think between these two communities, and there’s just a lack of knowledge about Jews,” Foltin said.
 
The broader efforts of the AJC are aimed at overcoming precisely that divide, starting with coffee and muffins in Charlotte.
 
- Hilary Leila Krieger

 

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