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Jewish and Latino leaders celebrate 60 years of Israel and strengthen community ties

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Cleveland Correspondent


The Jewish Community Federation, Hispanic Roundtable, and Hispanas Organizadas de Lake y Ashtabula (HOLA) held a reception on at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage to foster and improve relationships between Cleveland’s Latino and Jewish communities, June 16, 2008.


Bruce P. Mandel, Chair of Community Relations Committee, Jewish Community Federation

Israel celebrated its 60th year of state hood on May 14, 2008. The 75 guests received guided tours of the special exhibit that celebrates Israel’s accomplishments and dreams of the future.


Bruce P. Mandel, Jewish Community Federation, Chair of Community Relations Committee said Jewish and Latino relations date back centuries and may be traced to the times of King Solomon in the 10 century B.C.


“Tonight we not only want to recognize our history together but we also want to build a current framework for friendship and to work together on issues of mutual concerns,” he said. Some of the issues revolve around immigration, integration, and discrimination. Israel welcomes the most immigrants per capita from all over the world, said Mandel.


Executive Director of HOLA, Veronica I. Dahlberg spent a few weeks in Israel to learn about immigration and integration from a Jewish perspective and it changed her perceptions of the country and its people. She said history of roundups, detention camps, and deportations resonated with her. “These are all issues we the Latino community can relate to especially now with the anti-immigrant movement,” she said.


She said the Maltz Museum is a wonderful place to establish friendships because it is founded as a monument against intolerance, racism discrimination. There are an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Jews living in Latin America and many have contributed to the region’s history and arts like Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo , the Mexican painters, and Don Francisco, the host of Sábado Gigante. Both Kahlo and Francisco are of German-Jewish descent.  

“Benefits of our coming together is the learning of each other’s cultures and history and shattering stereotypes and misconceptions,” Dahlberg said adding she was surprised to learn of the contributions Jews have made in Latin America.


José C. Feliciano, Chair of Hispanic Roundtable, said Latinos feel a special kinship with Israel and its struggles for freedom, liberty, and human rights, not just in the Middle East but throughout the world.


“That love of freedom and opportunity continues in America today because of the enormous support that Jews have given to the civil rights movement in America movement and human rights movement around the world,” said Feliciano.

Veronica I. Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA, José C. Feliciano, Chair of Hispanic Roundtable, and Bruce P. Mandel, Chair of Community Relations Committee, Jewish Community Federation.


He thanked the Jewish community for its strong support locally and national in matters of immigration. “These issues show remarkable intolerance, there’s an ugliness about it that is unbecoming of America; we appreciate the help that we get from our Jewish friends on those particular issues,” said Feliciano.


He hopes the friendships will continues to blossom and the communities will work on other issues like education, economic development and empowerment in Cleveland. “From our point of view it is a pleasure to work with God’s chosen people,” Feliciano said.


Judie Feniger, Executive Director of MMJH, said the museum opened in 2005 and has attracted 100,000 visitors from around the nation, and 20,000 students from the Cleveland region. It houses three galleries, a permanent exhibit of Jewish history, a gallery of Judaic artifacts, and special exhibition section which showcased Israel: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.


The exhibit celebrates the past 60 year accomplishments of modern Israel the present and the future of Jewish inspired advancements in science, technology, and agriculture.  “The museum shares the American story of immigration told through the eyes of Jews who settled in Cleveland in the 1800 to 1900s,” said Feniger. The museum hosts an array of events through out the year and information can be found on the web site.


Mandle said part of JCF’s mission is to reach out to different groups and build bonds of friendship that will strengthen future collaborations. “It is truly a pleasure to share with you our pride in Israel’s accomplishments and we hope there will be many future occasions for you to share the pride in your communities, your histories and your traditions with us,” said Mandel.


Colombian musician Cora Rozo entertained guests with beautiful sounds from Latin America.

To visit and learn more about the Museum go to www.MaltzJewishMuseum.org


Other links for the web version:

Hispanic Round Table: http://www.convencionhispana.org/

Jewish Community Federation: http://www.jewishcleveland.org/

HOLA: http://www.holatoday.org/



Maltz Museum of Natural History's permanent gallery display






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