Blog 3

November 3rd, 2016

Note: A delegation of Latino Opinion and Policy Leaders is in Israel with AJC Project Interchange and AJC Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA). BILLA Director Dina Siegal Vann is accompanying the delegation in Israel, with participants blogging about their experiences in Israel.

Today’s blog was submitted by Daniel Bremer-Wirtig, President / MXDC - The Mexican Professionals Network.

For over 15 years, AJC has been very intentionally and strategically engaging the Mexican and Mexican-American community in the U.S. to empower us to organize. Through workshops and other events, AJC’s Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs has been bringing together Mexican community leaders and AJC staff, supporters, volunteers, as well as professionals from the field to share best practices and resources on organizing, fundraising and advocacy. I had the privilege to participate in one of these early collaborations when I first arrived in the Washington, DC area in 2005. It has undoubtedly marked my professional and personal journey, and today, it has brought me to Israel.

As a participant of the Seminar in Israel for Latino Opinion and Policy Leaders this week, I’ve had an amazing immersive experience deepening my knowledge and understanding of Israel, Israelis, Arab-Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, and everything else in between. Following are brief reflections on some lessons that the Mexican and Mexican-American community in the U.S. can learn from our Jewish friends and partners, who have supported us for so many years.

With the escalation of negative rhetoric about Latinos in the U.S. in the ongoing Presidential Elections process, much has been said about the importance of organizing our communities to counter this narrative. However, our community both in Mexico and in the U.S. needs to work on developing fundamental structures and practices to be able to sustain our organizing efforts over the medium- and long-term. The purpose of this is to be able to move away from constantly just “reacting” to foreseeing and proactively acting on issues that affect us. One of these practices that the Jewish diaspora is very well known for, is obviously giving. The most interesting thing about this though, is that the culture of giving in Israel, is not only based in religion, like the traditional tzedaka (Hebrew for “charity”), that starts in early childhood. Giving is also secular, seen as a civic duty that all must “give back to the state.” The best example of this is the Jewish Agency, a formal institutional effort to raise funds with the Jewish diaspora around the world.

Attempting to draw parallels between the Jewish and Mexican diaspora experiences is not only futile, it is unfair for obvious reasons that I will not elaborate on. Still, what really amazed me is how the “Story of Israel” - the narrative of a state that has been under constant threat of annihilation since its the creation - was shared with us by almost every single Israeli we met throughout the trip. The clarity and conciseness of the message, and how it was delivered, are important components of the Israeli narrative. An important, yet challenging, opportunity exists for Mexican and Mexican-Americans to develop a common narrative - a story with a clear and strong message- about our communities, the bilateral relationship and Mexico. And, then all we have to do is learn how to become great storytellers.

There are many more things I could share about this AJC Project Interchange experience, specific to the diaspora or generally about this trip. What is clear is that Israel is so much more than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that predominates its image abroad.

I look forward to continuing to partner and collaborate with AJC, and I’m very excited to return to my community to share this experience. So much more still remains to be done to strengthen and organize our community in the U.S. However, this could be a very long and lonely journey without strong, visionary and unconditional partners, such as AJC, to offer leadership, guidance and support along the way.

About the author
Daniel Bremer-Wirtig serves as Director for External Affairs for Global Ties U.S., a long-time partner to the U.S. Department of State on its public diplomacy portfolio and international exchange initiatives. He’s the co-founder and President of MXDC - The Mexican Professionals Network, the largest and oldest active Mexican expat association in the Greater Washington, DC area. He’s a native of Mexico and has been active in his community in Washington,DC for over 10 years. Daniel was recently featured in The Huffington Post’s “40 Under 40: Latinos in Foreign Policy.”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange.