This blog post is by Tracy Frydberg, a student leader at University of Texas, Austin, who is the current president of the Israel club on campus and the immediate past head of the Latino-Jewish coalition on campus, which she helped found as a freshman. On Sunday, my partner in crime, Elizabeth, and I will set off for Latin America to begin a one-year documentary project on Jewish-Latino relations in the Americas.
Our initiative, Project Puente, aims to “bridge” the gap between the Latino and Jewish communities by exploring the historical significance and modern need for partnership between both peoples.
While some have recommended I stick with my true talent, making YouTube videos of my little brother dancing, this film is not just meant to be a source of entertainment.
A recent AJC survey found that 59 percent of U.S. Latinos never interact with Jews and 41 percent know nothing about the Jewish religion. This documentary aims to serve as a tool for introduction, to initiate a conversation and a partnership between Latinos and Jews, as no longer can these two communities afford to live apart. In the U.S., from the college campus to Capitol Hill, we are natural partners on immigration reform, educational initiatives and combating growing Anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment in the country.
And while leaders of both communities are fully aware of the importance of this relationship, we believe that the foundation for this work begins on the college campus. We intend to use this film as an educational tool to initiate coalition building work at universities across the country.
The film itself will have two parts. First, we will focus on where Jews and Latinos first met: Latin America. There are fascinating stories that we look forward to further uncovering, both historical and present: an evil Dominican dictator’s convoluted decision to rescue 800 Jews from Germany’s grip in 1938; current interfaith work between a Christian couple and the Sephardic Rabbi in Mexico City; and how the Jewish community in Buenos Aires has managed to move on and develop within the fabric of Argentina after devastating terrorist attacks in the 90s.
These stories set the foundation for understanding the precedent for the work happening across the U.S. In the states, we will be looking at how these communities are currently working together, the incredible interfaith work going on between the Christian-Hispanic and Jewish communities, the Latino-Jewish caucus making waves in Washington, and, of course, grassroots initiatives that are creatively bringing the two communities together in cities around the country. The greatest challenge we face is fitting it all into an hour-and-a-half film!
It is important to note that the opportunity to create this documentary would not have been possible without the humbling support and guidance from the Jewish community across the United States. I have been blown away by the widespread interest from Jewish activists and organizations, including The David Project, as well as my friends and family to help support two novice filmmakers foolish and idealistic enough to create a documentary on Latino-Jewish relations. And, of course, my parents for allowing their daughter who, admittedly, has far more enthusiasm than common sense, to travel to Latin America and make this film.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of making this venture possible.