By: Dov Pfeiffer  | 

 Over 200 Students, Members of the Washington Heights Community, and Politicians attend Nosotros at Yeshiva University: An Evening of Jewish-Latino Art and Music

Over 200 students, members of the Washington Heights community, and New York politicians, attended “Nosotros at Yeshiva University: An Evening of Jewish-Latino Art and Music,” an event that presented Jewish-Latino cultural history through art, music and food, at Weisberg Commons on Sept. 8.

The event, organized by the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs at Yeshiva University in partnership with the Philos Latino segment of the Philos Project, featured speeches and artwork exploring the synergy of Jewish and Latino culture and history, a musical performance from The Jazzphardic Project and kosher Dominican food.

The event, open to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as members of the local Washington Heights community, was also attended by Yeshiva University President Ari Berman, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), New York State Assemblyman Manny de Los Santos, New York City Councilwoman Carmen De La Rosa (D-11), New York City Councilman Eric Dinowitz (D-11), Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and State Senator Robert Jackson (D-72).

The Philos Latino project describes its mission as being “to reach and engage Hispanics in the U.S. and Latin America to empower them to advocate for Israel and to positively engage on issues concerning the Near East.”

Speakers spoke about the relationship between the Jewish and Latino communities and how it defined Washington Heights.

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman spoke about how special it was to share such an experience with the whole Washington Heights community, and shared his personal Dominican connection through his Cuban in-laws. 

“It’s deeply moving for me to see Latino artists engaging in Jewish themes as you see on the walls; on the great art on the walls,” Berman said, describing artwork hung in Weissberg Commons for the event. “My wife grew up in a Latino home. My in-laws are from Cuba where they fled the horrors of the Holocaust. And there they were raised and there they enjoyed and were enriched by the Cuban culture and what I’ve learned is that a diasporic life, a life when one grows up with at least two identities, is something… our communities are deeply familiar.”

Luke Moon, deputy director of the Philos Project spoke briefly about the importance the Philos Project sees in forming bonds between Jews and Christians, Jews and Latinos.

“From the beginning, Philos valued and saw the role of the Hispanic community in the conversation about building friendships — “Philos” means friend in Greek — friendships between Christians and Jews, Jews and Latinos, all kinds of people across spectrums.”

Congressman Espaillat discussed the unique connective power of Washington Heights, and the role the kinship between the Jewish and Latino communities played in retaining the neighborhood's character. 

“I dare to say that Washington Heights is the last neighborhood that has a personality, a pulse, Mr. President,” Espaillat said, addressing Berman. “It gets up upset sometimes in the morning, but sometimes, it gets up dancing. It has its own character and personality. And many places have lost that, but we have not lost that because of places like Yeshiva University. And the kinship that exists between the Latino community — the Dominican community in particular — and the Jewish community is very strong.”

Many of the smaller details of the event were done to highlight the Jewish-Latino relationship. Ronnie Perelis, director of Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs, tasked a volunteer, Baruch-Lev Kelman (BR ‘23), to research the Jewish connections of Dominican foods. “Ensalada Rusa Dominicana,” or Dominican Russian Salad, a potato salad mixed with mayonnaise, corn, beets, onions and peas,  “was brought to the [Dominican Republic] from Eastern Europe,” Kelman said. “For Jewish immigrant refugees to [the Dominican Republic] during the ‘30s [and] ‘40s, it would have been a nice taste of home.”

Perelis also shared with The Commentator his takeaway of the event. “It’s a homecoming of sorts,” Perelis said. “It’s an official welcoming, opening up our space for the wider community and also for our own community, to realize that we have a lot of diversity within our own community and that that’s our strength… to create a space like this where different people from different backgrounds can connect and share things, it’s kind of magical.”

Other sponsors of the event included the American Sephardi Federation, Yeshiva College, the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Bernard Revel Graduate School, the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program, YU Libraries, Stern College Judaic Studies, the International Club, the Music Club and YUPAC.

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Photo Caption: State Senator Robert Jackson (D-72) and Dr. Ronnie Perelis greet each other at the event

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University