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Prominent leaders seek ways to fight poverty at IV International Congress of Jewish Communities of the Americas

SÃO PAULO, Brazil – International and Brazilian leaders and delegations from Jewish communities in the Americas and Israel have called for a concerted effort to fight poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean.

TheSão Paulo Declaration, drafted by participants at theIV International Congress of Jewish Communities of the Americas on 2 and 3 December, asks governments, civil society, businesses, and international agencies to join forces to promote ethical issues for the region, such as the fight against poverty and social inequality.

The meeting, titled Fighting Poverty with Solidarity, was organized by the IDB’s Inter-American Initiative for Social Capital, Ethics, and Development, the Latin American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.

The gathering was inaugurated by IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias; the president of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Jack Terpins; São Paulo Mayor Marta Suplicy; the governor-elect of the state of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin; and the president of the U.S. chapter of the World Jewish Congress, Evelyn Sommer.

Alckmin underscored the special interest of the state of São Paulo in the dialogue launched to fight poverty, which he referred to as “the most pressing issue in our hemisphere.”

São Paulo Mayor Marta Suplicy stated that the congress represented “a major contribution to Brazil by the IDB and a sector well known for social action - the Jewish communities”.

“Social issues are central to the entire history of the Jewish people,” observed Sommer.

The general coordinator of Programa Hambre Cero (Zero Hunger Program), José Graziano, special envoy of Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, presented 25 projects for a campaign to end hunger in a country where 44 million people are malnourished.

Iglesias highlighted the importance of sharing valuable community-support experiences and seeking solutions to poverty in Latin America, “which hits the most vulnerable groups hardest, such as children and women, as well as broad sectors of the Afro-American and indigenous populations.”

During the gathering, a series of initiatives were presented to fight poverty, and participants worked to identify programs and counterparts for national and regional efforts, as well as avenues of international cooperation to promote these proposals. Special emphasis was placed on volunteer work as a strategic tool for improving the living conditions of vast sectors of the low-income population.

The exemplary experiences in the fight against poverty included cases such as the Asociación Mutual Israelí Argentina, which - with assistance from the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund - has opened one of the most widely known job placement centers in the country.

Other examples presented were the Albert Einstein Hospital of São Paulo, which provides medical care to surrounding neighborhoods; and the Ten Yad de Jabad Lubavitch organization, which with the cooperation of the government of São Paulo has opened restaurant where more than 1,600 needy favela residents are able to have lunch each day in a dignified setting.

The president of São Paulo’s volunteer community, Milú Vilella, described the efforts of Brazilian civil society, such as the work of the Syrian-Lebanese, Korean, and Japanese communities of São Paulo and the efforts of UNIBES, the social action hub of the city’s Jewish community.

Other Jewish organizations from Uruguay, Chile, and various Brazilian cities are committed to promoting and supporting microenterprise and creating jobs.

The general coordinator of the initiative and co-organizer of the congress, Bernardo Kliksberg, stressed the significant value of these shared experiences and noted that the congress is part of the dialogue on poverty launched by the IDB with faith-based communities of the hemisphere through the Inter-American Initiative for Social Capital, Ethics, and Development, established with support from the Government of Norway.

The initiative seeks to “respond to the hunger for ethics that has emerged in the region, promote a return to the relationship between ethics and economics, and identify specific joint actions,” Kliksberg said. This congress, like the three previous ones, has engendered a number of relevant projects, he added.

The participation of the IDB in this initiative falls within the dialogue established by the institution to support the efforts of the most active sectors of Latin American civil society to alleviate social problems. The Bank has called upon the Catholic Church, Protestant churches and the Jewish communities to take part in dialogues on poverty. The previous meetings with the Jewish communities were held in Washington, DC, in 1999; in Montevideo in 2000, and in Buenos Aires in 2001.

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