US groups seek better ties with Latino voting bloc

By Gil Shefler New York, November 22, 2012
Hispanic voters backed Obama

Hispanic voters backed Obama

Florida’s Jews are used to being a coveted voting bloc, sometimes determining the outcome of national elections. But this year, another all-important demographic emerged at the ballots.

Latinos, the fastest growing minority in the country, were credited with winning Florida for US President Barack Obama by throwing their overwhelming support behind him, and Jewish groups have taken notice of their clout.

Dina Siegel-Vann, director of the Latino and Latin American Institute of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), has for years worked hard to foster better ties with the Latino community.

Last month she accompanied Latino politicians on an AJC-organised trip to Mexico, where they met members of the local Jewish community, Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto and Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera.

“We want to underscore the intersections between the Latino community, the Latino community in the diaspora and the Jewish community,” said Ms Siegel-Vann.

“We share the same values: Family, faith and food,” she added.

Other Jewish groups have also launched initiatives to bolster ties with Latinos, who now account for 10 percent of the US population.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said his organisation holds frequent meetings with Latino leaders. “They are intrigued and fascinated to learn from us how we built a power structure,” he said. “So far it’s a very important relationship but one that needs to be worked on.”

Rabbi Schneier said Latino immigrants tend to be less supportive of Israel than those born in the US and, that for that reason, it was important to reach out to them.

Last updated: 11:46am, November 29 2012