Leaders from the Jewish and Latino communities in Los Angeles gathered Thursday for a one-day conference at UCLA, the first large-scale event of its kind, to discuss issues that affect both groups.
The event was organized by a coalition of organizations including the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, National Council of La Raza and New American Alliance. Altough Jewish and Latino leaders have organized smaller events aimed at increasing communication between the two communities, the one-day summit was the first large-scale event where everyone came together under the same roof.
“We've never really brought everyone together," said Amanda Susskind, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
The daylong conference, which included about a half-dozen organizations each from the Jewish and Latino communities, was an opportunity for both groups to speak candidly about their common interest in the betterment of the whole community.
"We had a lot of real heart-to-heart talking, not listening to lectures," Susskind said.
Leaders will ideally take the lessons learned at the summit, she added, and share them with their respective organizations and communities.
Together, the participants in the summit released a joint statement denouncing anti-Semitism, Latino bigotry and anti-immigration sentiments, all of which might lead to violence in their neighborhoods.
Participants were also quick to point to a shared history between the two groups in Los Angeles as leaders in the larger community. That sentiment was echoed by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a longtime advocate for fostering alliances between the Latino and Jewish communities, who issued a joint statement in support of the summit. The mayor was expected to attend the event but was not able to appear.
“Though many may not realize it, the stories of the Jewish and Latino communities have been intertwined in this city for decades," Villaraigosa wrote in a statement. "Los Angeles has long been a city where anyone can thrive and any community can succeed, and we must always ensure that we are sharing the best of ourselves with our neighbors regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or country of origin. Let's continue to strengthen these relationships, which are so critical to the growth and development of Los Angeles as a diverse community of immigrants."
Villaraigosa's efforts to foster positive coalitions between the Latino and Jewish communities were in part responsible for the summit. Last year, when the mayor was awarded the Gesher award by the American Jewish Committee's Latino and Latin American Institute for his efforts, Villaraigosa called for greater communication between Latinos and Jews, said Seth Brysk, regional director of the American Jewish Committee. From that initial conversation, Brysk said, a series of informal meetings between community leaders and organizations began, eventually leading to the UCLA summit.