The second day of the Conference started with presentations by representatives of “Reconnecting Organizations” that are active in the area of improving ties between Latinos and Jews. This was introduced by Amb. Danny Dayan, Consul Gen. of Israel in NY, who described his own experiences in meeting Bnei Anousim during his previous postings. Bonita Sussman spoke for the organization “Kulanu” (meaning “All of us” in Hebrew), that is an organization founded over 25 years ago to support emerging, isolated and returning Jewish communities around the world, most recently including the Bnei Anousim. Rabbi Stephen Leon of the Anousim Center in El Paso, TX, spoke movingly of his experiences with returning Bnei Anousim in his region.
Session VI was devoted to “Latino and Jewish Organizations,” and was Chaired by Pastor Carlos Ortiz, of Hispanics Allied for Israel. There were presentations by Hava Holzhauer, FL Regional Dir. of the ADL; Betty Ehrenberg, Exec. Dir. WJC-USA; David Dangoor,
American Sefardi Fed.; Pastor Mario Bramnick, Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, FL, and Gloria Garces, Senior Dir. of Miami Operations of Fuente Latina, a Hispanic media organization. Each of these speakers presented the role of their organization in facilitating the communication and interaction between the Hispanic and Jewish worlds.
The Conference ended with two Panel Discussions. The first entitled “Interfaith Dialogue” was sponsored by the ADL and was Chaired by Rabbi David Sandmel, Dir. of Interfaith Affairs, ADL, and included a Hispanic Catholic Peter Ductram, Dir. of Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Miami, a Hispanic Protestant, Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and a Sefardi Rabbi Juan Meija of Bechol Lashon (“In all languages”). I must say that it was a pleasure to hear these Hispanics of different faiths interact (in English) in a most respectful manner.
The final Session of the Conference was a Round Table Discussion entitled “The Future of Latino-Jewish Relations,” that was Chaired most suitably by the Hon. Henry Cisneros, former Mayor of San Antonio, TX. He spoke very knowledgeably and meaningfully on the topic and pointed out that the Hsdipanic community in the USA will soon be the dominant group. He was followed by George “Bud” Scholl Mayor of Sunny Isles, FL, Lior Haiat, Consul-Gen. of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico, and Gabriel Groisman, Councilman of Bar Harbor. All of these participants provided interesting insights from different perspectives on the Hispanic-Jewish relationship.
The Conference was brought to a close by concluding remarks of Prof. David Altman, Senior VP of Netanya Academic College. It was altogether a unique and historic event that opened up new perspectives in the study of the Bnei Anousim and brought the Hispanic and Jewish communities in the USA closer together.
The Inst. for Sefardi and Anousim Studies thank Michael and Neomi Dezer for their support in making this Conference possible, as well as many other benefactors. There was also an Awards Ceremony in which several notable recipients received awards from Netanya Academic College. During the Gala Dinner at the Conference, Pastor John Hagee, Head of Christians United for Israel, spoke about his support for Israel and the need for the ingathering of the exiles. For further information see: https://www.facebook.com/The-Institute-for-Sefardi-and-Anousim-Studies-at-Netanya-Academic-College-127599744000151/ and http://sefardi-anousim.org.il/. Videos of presentations at the Conference will be posted there soon.