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Op-Ed: Latino And Jewish Ties Should Provide Foundation For Future Cooperation And Partnerships

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Anthony Perry (Perry)
The Times of Israel

In the run up to the U.S. elections in 2016, the Latino community could play a greater role than ever before and both party campaigns are already raising large amounts to attract the Hispanic vote.
While there have been Latino candidates before, these elections are placing their potential support front and center. Democratic Presidential Candidate Hilary Clinton, who made little attempt to specifically attract Latino voters during her ill-fated 2008 run, has already placed this demographic high on the list for outreach.
On the Republican side, two of the declared candidates, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are of Latino origin and Jeb Bush, a likely candidate, speaks fluent Spanish and his wife Columba was born in Mexico.
As this sector becomes even more politically assertive and is expected to double by 2030, it is vital that the Jewish community and Israel rethink outreach to this community, which has not been overly successful thus far.
Perhaps it is time to encourage greater knowledge of the bonds that we share.
Unrecognized by most, the Latino community in the United States shares much in common with Israel and the Jewish community.
It is little known that during the first centuries of the last millennium, 90 percent of the Jewish People spoke Spanish as their first language when they lived in the Iberian Peninsula
Although today only a few thousand Jews speak Judeo-Spanish or Ladino, there are millions of Jews whose culture is still rooted in a Hispanic tradition and culture; in Hebrew they are called ‘Sepharadim’.
Unfortunately, around 90 percent of all Ladino-speakers were wiped out during the Holocaust. However, there is a current renaissance in Ladino and Judeo-Spanish culture in Israel, where it has been given a special status and new cultural events, centers and institutions have been created in recent years.
We, members of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community, sometimes known simply as the Nacio, still move to the Latin beat, sometimes literally.
Our music and liturgy strongly resembles the musical tradition which forms much of the basis of modern Latin-American music. There are songs like Bendigamos Al Altisimo, which is traditionally sung after Grace After Meals, love songs like Adio Qerida and Ocho Kandelikas, a Hanukkah song that has even been given a hip-hop makeover.
Our traditional food and culture would be instantly recognizable to many Spanish-speakers around the world.
Nevertheless, perhaps even more than the Jews who have Spanish and Latino roots are the numbers of Latinos who have Jewish roots.
It has been suggested that a high proportion of all the Spanish and Portuguese alive today have Jewish ancestry so it stands to reason that many of those who left the Iberian Peninsula, especially those fleeing persecution, for South and then Central America must also have significant Jewish roots.
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