Monday, April 24, 2017

StandWithUs' Latin America initiative discussed

Sergio Carmona,

Image from article, with caption: Ilan Lopez, director for StandWithUs Latin America, a new initiative for SWU to provide support, material and guidance to Latin students on U.S. campuses, high schools and the community, spoke to students at Hebrew Academy (RASG) in Miami Beach.

Ilan Lopez, a former Israel Defense Forces soldier and director of StandWithUs Latin America, recently visited South Florida where he spoke with Hispanic groups and at schools.

The aim of this new Latin America initiative of SWU, an Israel education organization, is to provide support, material and guidance to Latin students on United States campuses, high schools and the community. Lopez was in town as part of an Israeli Soldiers Tour.

"My trip [in South Florida] was to get to know the Latin American community there and empower them to be part of the Israeli public diplomacy while also giving them some tools and information on what's going on in Israel and how they can transmit the message of Israel to the Latin American societies," Lopez said.

Among the events Lopez spoke at while he was in town included a teen interfaith program at Jacobson Sinai Academy in North Miami Beach that included a presentation by Rena Finder, a Schindler's List survivor. This event was organized by StandWithUs High School Interns Eithan Martinez, a Venezuelan who attends Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, and Alan Imar, an Argentinean who attends Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Miami. The event included synagogues and Hispanic churches that brought more than 130 teens. Gabriel Baredes, director of Hispanic Affairs for the Consulate General of Israel in Miami, stated at this event that the future rests with the Hispanic community which will change the narrative for support for Israel.

Lopez also addressed students at Miami-Dade College and Hebrew Academy (RASG) in Miami Beach as well as local teens from the Jewish youth group NCSY in Hollywood. He then traveled to Mexico where he met with the Jewish community there. He returned to South Florida and spoke at SWU's Southeast Region's Leaders of Tomorrow celebration at the EmKo Art Center in West Palm Beach.

Lopez felt the local reaction to his presentations was "really good."

"I truly feel that the Latin people and Israel have a natural connection," he noted. "We also had the opportunity to speak to Christian leaders and Christian communities who have a strong love for Israel and who were really interested in hearing more information on what is going on today in Israel. I myself am from Venezuela, so I'm part of the Latin American people and people in Miami were really excited to know we have a Latin American community in Israel. They were also interested in hearing how Israel is a country of minorities and how a new immigrant in Israel can feel he is part of the Israeli society."

Lopez said his goals here were "to educate and have educational activities."

"StandWithUs is an educational organization and I truly believe we need more intensive work with the Hispanic people."

Lopez feels that the news that is being shown in Latin America regarding Israel is not entirely truthful.

"That's why we decided to come and speak directly with the Latin American people and let them know they can ask us whatever questions they have about Israel and I think it was a really interesting trip," he said. "We had really good reactions to our presentations."

Sara Gold Rafel, director of SWU's Southeast Region based in Boca Raton, said, "StandWithUs/Southeast recognized the importance of reaching out to the Latino community from the outset."

"They – including parents of our Latino high school interns and college Fellows – support our efforts to expand the Latin Initiative, especially now that we have Ilan. The next step is to increase Israel programming in the Hispanic population that aggregates Jews and Christians."

Rafel continued, "StandWithUs views Miami as the base of operations that will not only serve South Florida but also Latin American countries such as Chile which is facing on-going anti-Israel actions and Mexico, Argentina, Panama and Brazil, among others."

Visit or contact Rafel at or 561-961-0752 for more information.

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