'US Jews must reach out to minorities'

WJC leader: Israel enjoys support of black, Hispanic and Asian-American members of Congress.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
October 4, 2007 23:31
2 minute read.
'US Jews must reach out to minorities'

rabbi schneier 224.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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US Jews enjoy the support of the African-American, Latino and Asian-American leadership on Iran, and must do more to encourage that support, according to Rabbi Marc Schneier, head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the American section of the World Jewish Congress. "In the US, the Jews are not alone," Schneier told The Jerusalem Post during a recent visit to Israel. But, he lamented, "most American Jewish organizations don't understand this." While Israel "enjoys the unconditional support of the US Congress, are Israelis aware that in 1987 there were 21 black members of Congress, and in 2007 there were 46? Hispanics [during that time period] went from 10 to 31, and Asian-Pacific Americans went from zero to 10. In 20 years, the US Congress could be one-quarter ethnic minorities," said Schneier. But according to Schneier, American Jewish organizations are not addressing these changes. "Most Jewish organizations don't get the whole issue of changing demographics," he said. "As our country is changing, as our cities are changing, Jewish organizations aren't changing. It's simple to reorganize - as simple as reaching out, adding a department." Meanwhile, speaking of the Argentinean Jewish community's concerns ahead of the November Interpol conference in Morocco over obtaining international warrants for those responsible for the 1996 bombing of an Argentinean Jewish community center, Schneier believes the best strategy would be "to reach out in the US to Latino leaders." "It's one thing for the American Jewish Committee or the Simon Wiesenthal Center to scream about this, but it's another thing for [New Jersey Democrat] Senator Robert Menendez or [Florida Republican] Senator Mel Martinez to do so," explained Schneier. Schneier noted that "the US is Israel's greatest friend, ally and partner." But, he said, "we need to recognize that the political leadership in 20 years will represent a different demographic. We could put our head in the sand like the European Jews did 25 years ago, but the US Jewish community has a history of coalition building, the kind that you saw in the civil rights movement. Jewish people can't and shouldn't fight their battles alone. It is imperative that the Jewish community begins reaching out now, to sensitize ethnic minority leaders to our concerns." Minority leaders in the US could primarily help through their support for Israel and "helping to monitor the situation of Jewish communities around the world." Said Schneier: "If you examine the voting records of the Asia-Pacific caucus or the Latino caucus, you'll see strong support for Israel. But we have to hold them to the fire." According to Schneier, who wrote a book about Martin Luther King Jr.'s relationship with the American Jewish community, the relationship between the two communities has always been a two-way street. "We all know what Jews did for African-Americans, but no one knows what Dr. King did for the Jews - his support for Israel, his work for Soviet Jewry, his opposition to anti-Semitism, especially in the black community," he said. The understanding that America is changing demographically has not escaped Israel, according to Schneier. A former head of an American affiliate of Kadima, Schneier says Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Foreign Ministry "get it." "Olmert told me that when he next comes to New York, he would like to meet with Hispanic and black leaders. Through outreach to ethnic communities, we can support the international Jewish agenda and help monitor the situation of Jewish communities around the world," said Schneier.

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