Working with AJC chapters and the AJC Community Service Department, Project Interchange recruited twelve accomplished Latino leaders spanning civic society, journalism, academia and law for this seminar.
Participant comments sum up the seminar. “The experience dramatically increased my understanding of Israel itself. I didn’t realize how little I really knew. I was most struck by its diversity, within the observant Jews, and its ethnic and other religious minorities…. Having a better understanding of the history and religions of the region helps me connect with the Jewish people and even Palestinian people much more authentically and meaningfully. Understanding the context and depth of experience gives me a more nuanced view of the current challenges and made me in many ways contrast and compare to the US realities.” – Maria Rodriguez (Director, Florida Immigrant Coalition);
“I understand the context of how Israel came to Statehood and its many layers of development-socially, economically, politically.” – Catherine Anaya (Journalist);
“I found the candor of presenters impressive and even more impressive that PI/AJC seek to provide opportunities to air different perspectives and genuine debate.” – Christine Johnson (Educator, President Community College of Denver).
Co-sponsored by Project Interchange, AJC’s Institute for Latin American and Latino Affairs and the National Council of La Raza, this delegation was comprised of a virtual “who’s who” in the U.S. Latino community. One of the highlights of the seminar was a Shabbat dinner hosted in Jerusalem and attended by Israeli Latin American scholars. The group had an overwhelmingly positive response to their experience in Israel and immediately wrote a statement urging the steadfast and enhanced relationship between the Latino and Jewish communities, including an expanded understanding of Israel in the Latino community, which was released on May 30, 2006. One participant summed up the experience by stating, “The seminar allowed me to build a better understanding of the complexity, diversity and strength that characterize Israeli society.”
Participants in this seminar included national and local Latino and Latin American media professionals, including staff writers, editors and foreign correspondents. They visited Israel in the aftermath of the disengagement from Gaza and discussed related issues with leading Israeli and Palestinian academics. Other highlights of the seminar included a roundtable discussion with foreign correspondents from international media publications, a visit to the Yemin Orde Youth Village, and a session at the Ra’anana immigrant absorption center with recent immigrants to Israel from Latin American countries. Group members were impressed with Israel’s efforts in the areas of integration and education of immigrants and felt that the U.S. could benefit from Israel’s practices and policies in this area. After returning to the U.S., Javier Aldape, the editor of Hoy, sent a reporter back to Israel to write several stories for the largest circulation Hispanic daily in U.S.