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A delegation of Boston area Latino Leaders participated in an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) mission to Israel from December 7-16, as part of the ongoing joint initiative to build bridges between the Latino and Jewish communities and expose Hispanic-American leaders to the complex issues affecting the region.
The mission participants represented a cross section of Latino leaders from Massachusetts, including Felix Arroyo, Boston City Councilor; Gorka Brabo, El Planeta Executive Director; Dario Collado, Program Manager at the Harvard Kennedy School; Anthony Guerriero, Massachusetts Port Authority Assistant Director of Community Relations; Juan Leyton, Consultant; José Massó III, Massachusetts Port Authority Director of Community Relations; Antoine Melay, Bunker Hill Community College Trustee; Gerardo Millán-Ramos, Environmental Engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Divina Nieves-Massó, Chief Financial Officer or the Caribbean Foundation of Boston; Nivia Piña-Medina, Co-Owner of Merengue Restaurant & Catering; Renata Teodoro, Student Immigration Movement Lead Coordinator; Diana Ubiñas, Comcast Corporation Marketing Manager; Gladys Vega, Executive Director of the Chelsea Collaborative; and Gerardo Villacrés, journalist, ¿Oíste? Board President and ADL Latino-Jewish Rountable Co-Chair.
While the participants currently reside in the Boston area, they hail from seven different countries, including Chile, Brazil, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Spain.
“Through our discussions with Latino community leaders, opinion makers, journalists and media executives in the U.S., we learned there is a need and desire for access to better information about the Middle East and, particularly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director. “This mission provides a comprehensive view of Israel for those who are uninitiated to the country and the many complexities it faces as a thriving democracy in the Middle East.”
While abroad, the group attended briefings with a cross section of Israeli leaders including educators, journalists, and politicians. The mission also included opportunities to visit some of Israel’s most significant archaeological and religious sites, and to meet with representatives from the Israeli government, press, and defense forces.
The group made many stops, including the Golan Heights, Jerusalem and Boston’s Sister City of Haifa. While in Haifa, they had the opportunity to hear from lead business and technology experts from the area. In Jerusalem, participants got a first-hand look at the ADL Israel office in Jerusalem, where Jennifer Gavito, Chief of the Political Section of the U.S. Consulate General, gave an exclusive presentation, followed by a meeting with Gil Hoffman, Chief Political Correspondent and Analyst for the Jerusalem Post.
Every minute of the week-long Mission was strategically accounted for, offering unique opportunities for learning. Participants didn’t just break for lunch, they were joined by leaders and professionals such as Elias Zananiri, Palestinian Political Adviser and Media Consultant. Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, a long-time advocate for Israel, also made time to meet with the group.
One of the most well-received stops made by the group was to the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel-Aviv. The school is home to over 750 immigrant children, from 48 different countries. In many cases, the children come from challenging backgrounds, but Bialik-Rogozin has been their safe haven. Representing seven different countries themselves, the mission participants felt a special connection to the students.
ADL has been conducting the Latino Leaders Mission to Israel since 2009, when it first sent a delegation of Spanish-speaking journalists to the region. Since then, ADL has sent a wide variety of professionals across the United States and Latin America on these missions, including reporters, legislators and public officials.