Terps for Israel and the Upsilon Chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. came together to host “Intersectional Identities: Israel Meets Latin America,” on March 8 to learn about the connection between Jewish and Latinx culture.
The event, held in Stamp Student Union, began with a brief presentation about Latin Jewry, including the historical connection between the two cultures and typical traditions. The night also featured cultural foods, such as falafel and rice, and Israeli and Latin dance lessons.
“Latinas and Jews are both minority groups, but people never put them together at all,” said sophomore government and politics major Jenn Miller, who is the political chair for Terps for Israel. “Bringing the two groups together, by way of food and dance, is a way to bridge the gap and a way to show the similarities.”
Planning for this event began last semester when Terps for Israel’s outreach cabinet, which reaches out to other cultural and religious campus groups, contacted LTA about hosting an event together, Miller said.
“We decided that it would be a really great idea to combine our organizations and put on an event about the Jewish community and Latinos because we honestly didn’t know that it was so big,” said junior criminology and criminal justice major Johanna Lozano, who is chapter treasurer for LTA and one of the main coordinating chairs of the event.
Avirah, this university’s Israeli dance troupe, first taught attendees a typical Israeli dance. Avirah became involved with the event when Terps for Israel contacted them about teaching a dance, according to senior physiology and neurobiology major Rachel Zemil, who helped teach the dance.
LTA sisters helped teach three types of Latin dances, such as the bachata, and discussed the history and importance of dancing to their culture.
“When you think about Latin American culture, whether it is at parties, holidays, or birthdays, people always have food, music and dance,” Lozano said. “We thought it would be a great idea to incorporate dancing because the Jewish community also has their dances, and we wanted to learn about them, too.”
Terps for Israel is a pro-Israel student group that advocates for improving U.S.-Israeli relations and focuses “on engaging the campus community about Israel through a diverse array of speakers, events, and campaigns,” according to their website.
Although TFI is pro-Israel, the coordinators of Intersectional Identities stressed that it was an apolitical event, focused on celebrating and sharing culture.
Both Miller and Lozano said they would be open to co-hosting events again in the future and to holding cross-cultural events with other campus organizations.
“I thought it was a really awesome experience to combine two very distinct cultures, especially in a campus like UMD, where we accept diverse people and experiences,” sophomore Jess Koenigsberg said. “This was a great opportunity to interact with a group of people that I may not have had the chance to before.”