For a change, good news is coming out of Washington. In the midst of the intense bickering surrounding negotiations over the debt ceiling, many missed a momentous development speaking volumes both of bi-partisanship and of effective bridge-building between communities. In June, Capitol Hill welcomed the birth of the Latino-Jewish Caucus in a ceremony attended and blessed by many members of Congress, diplomatic representatives and leaders from both communities.
Speaking during the launching under the auspices of AJC's Latino and Latin American Institute, the four co-Chairs Reps Xavier Becerra (D.Calif), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R.FL) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl) underscored their hope that the newly crated space can help advance issues of common concern.
Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee focused on both communities' parallel histories of immigration and discrimination, and similar efforts to incorporate into this country while preserving their rich traditional heritage.
As Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Ranking Member respectively, Ros-Lehtinen and Engel raised foreign policy issues in which Latinos and Jews can readily collaborate including hemispheric development and security and continuous support for Israel as an invaluable US strategic ally and in its quest for peace.
On his part Becerra, Vice-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, emphasized that the Jewish community's road to empowerment which proves that influence goes beyond sheer numbers, can serve as a model for Latinos as they grow not only demographically but in many other areas.
Beyond the many opportunities afforded by working together as Members of the U.S. Congress and as Democrats, Republicans or Independents, the creation of this caucus certainly provides a novel and enriching space for the exchange of views and for close cooperation. Given the constructive engagement between US Latinos and Jews throughout the decades, this initiative can provide fertile ground for further interaction and mutual support and is being enthusiastically endorsed by constituencies of both communities throughout the country.
The vision for a solid Latino and Jewish alliance is multi-faceted. From supporting a comprehensive immigration reform to jointly advocating for access of Latino students to higher education, from exploring the most effective channels for political and economic empowerment to addressing the importance of investing in one's community, from journeying together to Israel or to Latin America, there seems to be a growing awareness and commitment to the consolidation of this partnership, certainly out of self interest but also motivated by the exercise of Latino and Jewish collective memories as exiles, immigrants and true believers in the values and principles that this country embodies.
A strong coalition between the Latino and Jewish communities is more critical than ever given the many challenges faced by the US, both domestically and globally. It is imperative to raise the intensity and scope of cooperation in traditional as well as cutting edge issues. A Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus can certainly provide a significant impetus to reach that goal.