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latin american jewish congress in venezuela

ICJW regional representative and Past President Sara Winkowski  attended the Plenary Meeting of the Latin American Jewish Congress, a regional division of the World Jewish Congress, from January 19-21, 2013,  in Caracas, Venezuela.
  

On January 19-21, the Latin American Jewish Congress met in a Plenary Session in Caracas, Venezuela.   Besides the usual aims of a plenary meeting to inform about the LAJC activities, hear reports of the different communities, and hold elections for the next four years, it was decided to organize the meeting in Caracas to show support to the local Jewish community.  It is part of the mission and the strategy of the Latin American and the World Jewish Congress, to show support to communities believed to be in distress, and so besides this meeting in Caracas, the World Jewish Congress will meet next March in Thessalonica, Greece and in May in Budapest, Hungary.
 
There is no doubt that the Jewish Community in Venezuela is in distress, as are so many others, but I must admit I was surprised by the Government’s support to the community.  I have been in many meetings all around the world.  I can´t remember a place where a staff member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would wait for the delegates at the airport, and make us go through the Diplomatic Corps line with our passports, in order to get through fast. We were escorted by the police with the sirens on all the time wherever we went, including from and to the airport. There were both official and opposition Parliamentarians at the closing dinner - something that might not be unusual in other countries, but personally I was not expecting to see in Venezuela.
 
The community says that the government is not anti-Semitic, but is anti-Israel because Israel and the United States are best friends. President Chávez is opposed to the United States, and therefore “the friends of my enemy are my enemies too”.  In fact, there was an excellent meeting with the acting President of Venezuela, Mr. Nicolas Maduro, that lasted for over an hour and half, where he reiterated the Government`s friendship to the Jewish community.  He mentioned that Chávez had said: “Whoever is a revolutionary cannot be anti-Semitic”, and promised to cooperate and collaborate with the community.  The Chief Rabbi of the community in Venezuela attended the meeting too and made a “braja” for Chávez’s health. 
 
A new Executive Committee for the next four year term was elected.  Jack Terpins from Brazil was re-elected President, and Saul Gilvich from Uruguay re-elected Secretary.  Minor changes to the bylaws were approved, including the nomination of up to 8 Vice Presidents from 8 countries, and will be represented by the President of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community in the country.
 
Once again we were appalled to see that no woman was elected as officer.  As far as I can remember the only women in the Executive have always been WIZO and ICJW delegates. I made my point, of course, but Mr. Terpins was very clear: “You know I am not against women, I am so much in favor, but what can we do if there are no women in the Latin American Community leadership?”  Something we need to continue striving for, gender equality in all major organizations. 
 
Almost every Jewish Community from Latin America attended the meeting.  Each one informed about their activities, and all I can say is that each one is very active and working hard.  We all know that anti-Semitism does exist in every country, but no one mentioned that it had increased in the last few years, and no real problems were presented. 
 
While at the meeting we were informed about the agreement to form a “Commission for the Truth” signed by Argentina and Iran to jointly investigate the bombing of the AMIA    The statement said: "The goal is to explore a legal mechanism that does not go against the systems of either Argentina or Iran.  This process will continue until a mutually agreed solution is found to all issues concerning the case." Argentine prosecutors have accused Iran of sponsoring a July 1994 attack on the main Jewish center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed and almost 300 were wounded. That terror attack came two years after a group linked to Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29.  There was a general feeling that talking with Iran was an improbable and absolutely unreliable approach to seek justice.  No need to say how concerned everybody is, especially the delegates from Argentina. 
 
Several resolutions were approved, including:

a) to strengthen the LAJC and coordinate joint actions to enhance the links of each community with their governments and with the civil society; 

b) to encourage communities to strengthen inter religious and inter cultural dialogue;                                                                                                                
c) to channel through the LAJW support and solidarity among Jewish communities in the region, and to raise awareness to fight terrorism, discrimination and racism;                                                                                                                                                         d) d) to help, support and promote meetings of the communities with their governments as needed;                                                                                        
e) to broaden LAJW activities within the smaller communities; and            

f) to raise awareness on the fight against anti-Semitism on social networks and the internet. 

The next Plenary Session of the World Jewish Congress will take place early May in Budapest and will hold elections for the next four year term.