Latinos, Jews forge a coalition

Finding common ground in their immigrant experiences, close to two dozen Jewish and Latino leaders have formed a Long Island-wide coalition to fight what they called growing anti-Latino and anti-Semitic sentiments.

Formed last week,the Latino-Jewish Council of Long Island will bring together groups from both communities. “Every day when we open the paper there are articles about the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino backlash,” said Ellen Israelson of the American Jewish Committee. “This anti-Latino activity has lifted the lid on the ugly rhetoric of hate.”

“From the Jewish perspective, we can easily relate to the experience of being persecuted and the experience of being an immigrant. We have lived it many, many times.”

Marianela Jordan, executive director of CASA, Nassau County’s main government agency for Latino services, said the Latino community can benefit from the Jewish community’s experience and success in organizing politically. “The Latino community traditionally has viewed the Jewish community as powerful and having arrived,” she said. But “the Jewish community still feels quite vulnerable on Long Island.”

The alliance will focus on three areas: legislative advocacy, business networking, and tolerance programs and youth leadership. Last week it kicked off a series of workshops at Touro Law School in Huntington aimed at training Latino leaders in how to advocate more effectively.

The groups making up the alliance include Catholic Charities, the Jewish Lawyers Association of Nassau County, the Girl Scouts of Nassau County, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Long Island and the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, in Amityville.

The kick-off last week attracted a half-dozen JEwish and Latino political figures. Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman called the formation of the group “an extremely important initiative.”

Legis. David Mejias (D-Massapequa), the first Latino elected to the Nassau County legislature, said his mother emigrated from Ecuador, spent six months working as a maid for two families and never got paid.

“What we see happening in the imigrant community is similar to what has happened to the Jewish community for 2,000 years,” he said.

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