Summit With Jewish, Latino College Students Highlights Challenges Facing Both Groups

Mar 3, 2019

Jewish and Latino college students from across the country gathered in South Florida over the weekend to discuss the societal challenges their communities face and how both groups can support each other.

From sessions about the Jewish and Latin American diasporas to discussions about anti-Semitism and discrimination against Latinos, the summit at the University of Miami highlighted the similar experiences of Jewish people and Latinos. Organizers and students stressed that in a period of polarization, both groups must connect with each other more to fight prejudice.

“It’s very easy to give into stereotypes and misconceptions,” said Phil Brodsky, the executive director of the non-profit the David Project, which organized the event. “The only way to get past that is build relationships and make friends with people from other communities.”

The David Project works to build bridges between Jewish communities on college campuses and non-Jewish students. It has previously organized gatherings between Jewish and African American students and other religious groups.

The summit at the University of Miami involved 35 students from 12 different schools. They included Boston University, Brooklyn College, Florida Atlantic University, Michigan State University, Rutgers University, San Jose State University, Syracuse University, Trinity College, University of Cincinnati, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Miami and University of Texas at Austin.

The discussions focused on immigrant experiences and on a rise in anti-Semitic and anti-Latino hate crimes. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida stressed the importance of community outreach and immigrant activists discussed strategies for civic participation.

Students also had opportunities to share their own experiences and feelings about their identity. Eric Santana, who’s Dominican and attends Brooklyn College, said he was surprised to hear some of the Jewish students say they do not like identifying as white. 

“They feel like they’re more than that or they feel like they just don’t fall into that category,” Santana said. “It was really interesting to see their perspective and understand why they feel that way.”

Sam Snyder, a Jewish student at Rutgers University, added that he realized during the summit that people tend to “invite themselves” into another culture and “take what they want from it.” People may say they understand a culture, he said, but they likely do not understand its values and ideals.

“It’s easy for me to listen to some of these Latino pop artists and go to Chipotle and be like, ‘Oh yeah I appreciate Latinos.’ But you have no idea what it’s actually like to live in their shoes until you actually talk to them,” Snyder said.

Another major focus during the summit was how Latino and Jewish students can relate.

Organizers and speakers noted similarities between both groups’ diasporas and cultures. They said the parallels can encourage people from both groups to support each other against discrimination.

“It’s nice to see those similarities,” said Sophia Cortés, who is Colombian and attends the University of Cincinnati. “That’s the only way we’ll overcome that white nationalism, that discrimination, that prejudice that people have against people who are different.”