A Jewish Journey Through South America

At the Beth Torah Benny Rok temple in North Miami Beach, Argentine-born rabbi Mario Rojzman leads a monthly Spanish-language biblical study group called Café Con Torah. With a crowd of mixed Latino Jews who hail from all over —Bolivia, Cuba, Argentina— the study group is a good cross-section of the Latino Jews living in the United States. One person in the crowd is Verónica Zaragovia, whose Colombian family has been in south Florida for a few decades, but whose family’s roots are in the Jewish shtetls of Eastern Europe. Across oceans, continents, languages and major historic events, Verónica’s family journey showcases just how a Jewish Latino identity is formed, and how history is central to it all.

Featured image: Martha Saragovia leads the family in the bracha (or blessings) for the Sabbath candles at her home in South Florida. (CREDIT: Verónica Zaragovia)

Do Cubans Still Run Miami?

Cuban culture has dominated Miami for the last 50 years, ever since Cubans fled to the U.S. following the Castro revolution. But recently, other Latin Americans have been moving in—leading to tension around the idea that Cuban immigrants get preferential treatment.

Image of mural at Miami’s Little Havana district by Infrogmation (Wikimedia Commons)

After Ferguson: Being Black In Miami

The killing of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, M0. has reignited the spirit of the civil rights movement in the African American communities around the nation. While protests regarding Brown’s case continue in Missouri, his death has also reopened a long overdue conversation about the policing of black communities.

Miami-Dade County has not been the exception. The county in South Florida is predominantly Latino — Hispanics make up 65% of the population, blacks are just over 20%. The county’s mayors have been consistently Hispanic since the late seventies. And Hispanics make up a majority of the County’s Board of Commissioners.

On September 3rd, 2014, Dennis Moss, one of the county’s four black commissioners, opened the County Hall floor to a discussion about the lessons that Miami could learn to prevent events like Ferguson in Miami-Dade County.

The Commissioner and other members of the black leadership spoke of the feeling of hopelessness in the city’s black communities. They spoke of language discrimination in job applications — you have to speak Spanish for jobs– lack of access to private and public contracts, and opened a frank discussion about the policing of African American communities, especially black males.

The police department in Miami-Dade county is sharply different to the one in Ferguson. Miami-Dade’s police force reflects the different population groups, including Hispanics, blacks and other groups. Still, black leaders continue to sensitize police forces of every race on how blacks, especially men, experience police encounters.

City officials like Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez took part in the conversation, and all parties were glad the conversation happened in the open.

For this segment, we ask Dr. Walter T. Richardson, senior chaplain of the Miami-Dade Police Department, and Retha Boone-Fye, head of the Black Affairs Advisory Board in the county, about the conditions of African Americans in a place that is predominantly Latino/Hispanic.

 

Dr Richardson

Dr. Walter Thomas Richardson, a Miami native, is the senior chaplain for the Miami-Dade Police Department and Senior Pastor at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in Perrine, Florida. Dr. Richardson currently serves as adjunct professor of religion at St. Thomas University where he teaches “World Religions.”

 

 

 

 

Retha BooneRetha Boone-FyeRetha Boone-Fye is the director of the Miami-Dade County Black Advisory Board. She previously served as Public Affairs Director for South Florida’s only Historically Black University—Florida Memorial.  She has been recognized by InFocus Magazine’s “Quiet Storm Award”; was named one of South Florida’s “Most Distinguished and Influential Black Women for 2010” by Success Magazine and was recently honored by ICABA World as one of South Florida’s “Most accomplished Black Professionals for 2011.”  She’s the second generation daughter of Bahamian parents and Jamaican great-grandparents. Mrs. Boone-Fye was the first of her immigrant family to attend university and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and her graduate degree from Nova-Southeastern University.

 

 

 

Latino USA intern Julia Shu contributed reporting.

Photo of gathering in front of Government Center in Miami on December 1st, 2000. Photo by Robert King/Newsmakers via Getty Images. 

A TASTE OF HELADO NEGRO

Ecuador-via-Florida musician Roberto Carlos Lange, aka Helado Negro, just released his latest record Invisible Life. Hear about his family life, musical philosophy, and meanings behind the new tunes in his own words.

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Click here to download this week’s show. 

HeladoNegroHeadshot From the room he grew up in, in South Florida, to his apartment in Savannah, where that restless tropical silent partner, humidity, continued to creep in, and now in his current home in Brooklyn – Roberto Lange of Helado Negro has never not made music. Tones whittled out of these places, memories, time and all its impressions, Invisible Life is Helado Negro’s third full-length album. Like captured light, it is a reflection of Helado Negro’s refined love affair with synthesis, sampling, and his own strengthening voice.

ELECTIONS NATIONWIDE

As the elections wrap up, we have briefings from key areas around the country where the Latino vote had a key impact on the election – and also reflects America’s changing demographics.

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Click here to download this week’s show. Image courtesy of Colorlines (creative commons).

Ashley Lopez is a reporter for WLRN-Miami Herald News. She also splits her time as a reporter/blogger for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and as a local print reporter for The Miami Herald. Previously, Lopez was a reporter/blogger for The Florida Independent — a nonprofit news blog that covered Florida politics and public policy. A native Miamian, Lopez graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree. She also interned for Talking Points Memo and an NPR affiliate in Durham, North Carolina.

Robbie Harris is WVTF/RADIO IQ‘s New River Valley Bureau Chief. Based in Blacksburg, Robbie covers the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia. She is a former news director of WBEZ/ Chicago Public Radio and WHYY in Philadelphia, where she led award-winning news teams and creative projects. She has also worked in public and commercial television, as well as print journalism.

News Director Peter O’Dowd leads a newsroom that includes reporters in seven Southwestern bureaus. His work has aired on The BBC, NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, and American Public Media’s Marketplace. He’s covered technology, the housing bubble and the constant flap over immigration policy that keeps Arizona in the national spotlight. Peter began his radio career at Wyoming Public Radio. He has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and he’s taught English in Tokyo, Japan.