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May 2, 2013 9:01 am
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Israel to Expand Efforts to Strengthen Relationship With U.S. Hispanic Population

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Senator Marco Rubio. Photo: Gage Skidmore.

In a sign that the Hispanic community in the United States is becoming ever more influential, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the country’s acting foreign minister, told Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday that the country’s public relations outreach would make a more concerted effort to target the minority community, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported.

The Foreign Ministry had already identified the U.S’s Hispanic community as an important new player in U.S. relations, with at least two Israeli consulates – Los Angeles and Miami – having employed local Spanish-speaking workers to strengthen the relationship with those cities’ respective Hispanic communities. But many of the various projects developed by the Foreign Ministry to work with the Hispanic community were stalled because of lack of funds.

In the past former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met several times with senior members of the Hispanic community, including members of Congress and local politicians.

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“The United States is undergoing profound demographic changes, and it is important that Israel connect with the communities affecting the country’s character early in the process,”he said at the time. “Strengthening and preserving the relationship between Israel and the leaders of these communities guarantee the preservation of the strategic alliance with the U.S., which is vital to Israel’s security.”

There are approximately 52 million Hispanics living in the U.S., according to Maariv. They account for about 17 percent of the population. It is the second largest ethnic group in the country and is the fastest growing.

About 70 percent of Hispanic Americans voted for Barack Obama in the last election, though some of the most prominent Hispanic politicians sit on the other side of the aisle. These include Marco Rubio, a Florida Senator, who is considered a likely candidate for the next presidential election, and the governor  of New Mexico, Susana Martinez.

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  • E.S.Lombard

    Inasmuch as among the very first settlers in the Western Hemisphere were large numbers of Jewish Iberians, it has been estimated that 35 millions in Central and South America are descendants from the victims of the Inquisition which, incidentally, was operative in Mexico until 1800, I believe. The first Brazilian slaves were Jews most of whom died raising crops on the equator.

  • Diane Besand

    Many Hispanics in the US are B’nai Anusim, descendents of Conversos, Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. Those who were not tortured and killed, ran and even though pursued over centuries managed to escape to the Americas and some to Italy and then from Italy to US in subsequent generations. With the advent of the Internet and genealogy sites and other research groups, Anousim are discovering their Jewish roots. Those who have this ancestry may not be aware of it, but those who are aware find it extremely difficult when wishing to return to their Jewish roots and making aliya to Israel.

    Because our ancestors were once Jews they have retained many Jewish practices and traditions in their own families not realizing these were Jewish traditions. Unfortunately, because there is rarely any documentation that is needed for proof of Jewishness as required in Israel,the next step if serious is of course conversion. Even then it is difficult, frustrating and indeed painful because we are not welcomed and looked upon with suspicion by Israeli officials. Many give up their dream to make aliya to Israel and stay in America.

    It is indeed important that Israel strengthen it’s ties with the Hispanic community in America, but there is also a large group of B’nai(chidren of) Anousim in America, both Hispanic and Italian Americans who are descended from Anousim who want to and have come home to Judaism and want to come home to Israel as well. If we were accepted as Jews having converted within guidelines set forth by the State of Israel, these Hispanic/Italian American Jews would have dual citizenship and even further deepen and strengthen the ties with their ancestral home Israel. This would be of benefit to both countries.

  • Reuven

    That’s excellent, but Israel needs to also focus on the Asian population. Most of the pro-Israeli rallies I’ve gone to have had Hindu supporters in them. But the Chinese-American population is growing very fast, as is the Korean-American.

  • Israelis will be surprised to discover the huge numbers of Hispanics who are evangelical and fundamentalist bible believers who believe they are descendants of Jews. They have a great love for Israel and have become increasingly involved in the Jewish Messianic Movement.

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