Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL

Israel: A Linkage to the Spanish Speaking Communities in the U.S.

by Gad Nahshon

For many years Israel has developed, especially in New York City, a linkage to the African-American community in this country. It was a smart, fruitful move. Its epiphany is the annual Israeli official celebration of the Martin Luther King memorial day.

It looks like Israel has ignored the new dynamic in the U.S.: The rising of Latino-Spanish communities. These communities have developed a high degree of institutionalism. They created a huge Spanish media and electronic media. It is clear that the 'Spanish vote' will be, in the near future, more important than the African-American vote.

Israel, and perhaps the American-Jewish establishment, have ignored the new demographic and socio-ethnic dynamics. Because of historical reasons, the Jews tend to pay more attention to their relations with the African-American community than to the Spanish or the Latino communities. But it is time to change these attitudes and concepts: America speaks Spanish. In many schools it is the second language. The people who speak and read Spanish in New York City were not born just in Puerto Rico.

Therefore, the reality should be challenged by building a new infrastructure of Israeli-Latino-Spanish relationships. Together or without the Jewish establishment.

The first step will be the launching of an annual Israeli-Latino-Spanish Solidarity Day. It should be celebrated on October 12th of each year or in the last day of 'Sukkot.' Why? Because on October 12th, 1492, Columbus and his crew saw the new world, saw the land of America. This 'Solidarity Day' should be to those Jews, or 'Maranos', who helped Columbus in his mission: Abraham Zacutto, the 'Map Jew' or Louis DeTorres, who was a Hebrew scholar and the first one to land on Cuban soil.

There were at least seven Jews or 'Maranos' on Columbus' ships. Such as Bernal, the physician. This fact stimulated scholars to claim that Columbus himself was a Jew or 'Maranos.'

One can also link this Israeli-Spanish-Latino Solidarity Day to another Spanish historical fact. Although we know that in 1621, a Jew, Elias Legardo, settled in Virginia, the official Jewish-American history began in 1654 when a group of 23 Jews immigrated from Racif, Brazil to New Amsterdam.

These pioneer Jews were Sephardic ones. Among them: David De-Costa, Jacob Bar-Simon, Solomon Franco and Asher Levy. They are the ones who established the first synagogue, community or congregation as well as a Jewish cemetery. They established 'Shaarit Israel.'

By launching the Israeli-Spanish-Latino Solidarity Day, we will salute not only to the Spanish speaking Americans, we will also indirectly salute their country of origin. It will be our salute to the Spanish heritage and culture, as well. This Solidarity Day will also express Israel's salute and recognition of the Jewish-Spanish culture and heritage, a salute to the Ladino culture. Let us note that recently the State of Israel established the 'Ladino authority' in order to preserve and cultivate the Ladino culture and heritage. And its president is Israel's ex-president, Itshaq Navon.

The Israeli Solidarity Day with the Spanish speaking people will be a new ingathering of a rainbow of representatives of ethnic groups, ethnic centers, ethnic leaders, local congressmen, the Spanish media, the Jewish community, the Jewish-Sephardic-Ladino organizations, diplomats, as well as members of the academic elite.

This launching of a Solidarity Day will be only the first step in a project which will target the Spanish speaking people in this country. It will be a new chapter of mutual positive 'people to people' relationships between Israel, Jews and this world of Spanish ethnicity in America.

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