Talk about good timing: this week the American Jewish Committee is launching a congressional Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus, chaired by Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-FL).
Why good timing? Earlier this month the Census Bureau released a report showing that the nation's Hispanic population is growing faster than just about any other segment.
Hispanics are now about 16 percent of the nation's population – a huge increase just since 2000, representing more than half of U.S. population growth in that time.
Do the math: Jews are less than 2 percent and shrinking as a proportion of the overall population, Hispanics are about 16 percent and their numbers are growing. Major Jewish groups are in alignment with major Hispanic groups on the critical issue of immigration reform; Hispanic leaders worry about hate crimes, an area where the Jewish community has been the leader.
In other words, it's a potential alliance that can pay dividends for a Jewish community that long ago learned to use coalitions to leverage its relatively small place in the political cosmos into more clout. That's a political reality a lot of Jewish groups seem to have forgotten; it's good that the AJC hasn't.
“The Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus will provide for further collaborative engagement between U.S. Latinos and Jews on domestic and foreign policy issues of joint interest and concern,” said Dina Siegel Vann, who heads the AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute, created in 2005. “The Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus certainly can provide significant impetus to creating new joint initiatives and furthering cooperation.”
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