MEXICO CITY, Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC has concluded the tenth anniversary celebration of its Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA). The milestone was marked by a three-day conference in Mexico City attended by more than 150 AJC leaders, including AJC President Stanley Bergman; senior diplomats and government officials; and leaders from 13 Jewish communities across Latin America and Spain.
The anniversary event was highlighted by a gala dinner on Monday night, which featured a keynote address by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto at the Centro Deportivo Israelita in Mexico City. Attendees at the gala included Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Minister of Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, and Minister of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal; Secretary-General of the Organization of American States Luis Almgaro; and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor. Senior diplomats from 18 countries (Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Bulgaria, European Union, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, and the United States) were also in attendance.
"You are great partners," said President Peña Nieto, addressing the crowd of more than 250. "Thank you for the support AJC has shown toward Mexican migrants in the U.S, with the Hispanic and Latino communities, and Mexicans in America."
The President praised AJC's work in the U.S. and Latin America: "Your voice is heard, and your voice reflects in American society your great advocacy work to support our fellow countrymen in the U.S.," he said.
AJC first met with President Peña Nieto in 2012 in Mexico City, weeks before his inauguration, as well as with his two predecessors -- Presidents Vicente Fox, who addressed AJC's 2001 Global Forum in Washington, D.C., and Felipe Calderon.
"Our friends in Mexico can count on AJC as a voice of American democracy and American pluralism," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. Turning to President Peña Nieto, Harris said, "We value Mexico's deepening relationship with the state of Israel."
The three-day conference also included panels on a variety of topics, including: (a) geopolitical developments in Latin America; (b) shared histories between Israel and Ibero-America; (c) the current status of Latin American Jewish communities; (d) transnational identities; and (e) diaspora-homeland connections. These conversations featured senior diplomats from Mexico and Israel, scholars, Latino civic leaders, and alumni of AJC's Project Interchange, which takes influential individuals to Israel.
To mark the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the historic Catholic decision on the church's relationship with Judaism, the AJC delegation visited the Metropolitan Cathedral, where Cardinal Norberto Rivera hosted the group for a meaningful discussion on Catholic-Jewish relations.
The BILLA anniversary event also featured the signing of an association agreement between AJC and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Brazil (CONIB), the 31st such agreement signed by AJC.
For decades, AJC, the premier global Jewish advocacy organization, has engaged directly with the governments of Latin America, Spain and Portugal, as well as with Latino leaders in the U.S. The creation of BILLA in 2005 firmly established AJC's distinctive role in promoting Latino-Jewish alliances in the U.S. and strengthening the relationships among the U.S., Israel, and each of the Ibero-America countries. BILLA is chaired by Tom Kahn and directed by Dina Siegel Vann.
AJC planned the anniversary events in close coordination with the Comite Central de la Comunidad Judia de Mexico and the Tribuna Israelita.
The anniversary celebration was co-chaired by AJC Honorary President and Founding Chairman of BILLA Bruce Ramer and Mario Fleck, President of the Jewish Federation of the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee