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The New Mexican President and a Jewish Problem

My family’s congratulations to you Madam Claudia Sheinbaum, the first woman in history to become President of Mexico.

Our connection is the Colegio de Mexico, where I was a three-year scholar for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the mid-’70s, while you researched ‘Advanced Sustainable Development’ much more recently.”

One of my daughters was born in Mexico, and my late wife, Dr. Graciela Vaserman Samuels zl, was a visiting Professor in Literature at the Universidad Iberoamericana. She represented Israel at the first ever ‘United Nations Conference on Women and Gender Equality’ held in 1975 Mexico. but was shocked at the antisemitic atmosphere.

In 2000, she organized the conference ‘Women in the 3rd Millennium’ at UNESCO, where she worked for the next 20+ years combating hate and discrimination.”

Madam President, you would have been good friends. Her vision was to match the Christian Trinity with that of the three facets in Judaism: ‘People, Book, Land’.”

Your grandparents, from Lithuania and Bulgaria, were saved from the Holocaust, finding refuge in Mexico.

We understand your belief in a secular State. Nevertheless, former President Vincente Fox has called you ‘a Bulgarian Jew’. In the Presidential debate, your opponent reproached you for wearing religious images, without being Catholic… ‘as you are of Jewish descent’. Other media have highlighted your ‘Ashkenazi Judaism’.”

Madam President, one after another, the two most recent Prime Ministers of France have proudly expressed their Jewish origins. Each have worked with us to combat antisemitism in all its forms.”

Madam, we hope the outset of your administration will address a programme against all hatred, but in particular, against mounting antisemitism.

We also suggest an eventual visit to Israel, where you will be greeted by the vibrant Israeli-Mexican community.”

We wish you success in the challenges ahead, and that your Judaism is not a problem, but a blessing.”

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NOTE: Many thanks to all who have recalled my Birthday and look forward to my forthcoming book “Outstretched Arm and Clenched Fist / Friends and Enemies”

About the Author
Shimon Samuels is Emeritus Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has served in the IDF. He was Deputy Director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, European Director of ADL, and Israel Director of AJC. He was born in UK, where he studied as also Israel, U.S. and Japan.