Meet Daniel Algazi Cohen, MERCAZ Youth Representative from Mexico
MERCAZ is approaching Mexico using a two-pronged campaign with the rabbis focusing on the political angle while simultaneously launching a community-wide educational campaign.
MERCAZ youth representative Daniel Algazi Cohen tells us that educating people about Masorti is critical in Mexico where only around 20% of the Jewish community defines itself as Masorti, while a majority embrace a Masorti lifestyle, giving MERCAZ a large potential base of supporters. Daniel explains that “most Jews in Mexico are affiliated with the community that their grandparents attended, and most of these communities, both Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, are Orthodox, even if the majority of the congregants don’t lead an Orthodox lifestyle.”
Daniel says that our strongest argument is to talk about our values and about equality, which are important to many people, even though currently only two congregations out of a dozen or more are egalitarian. He points to the current rightward shift in many Orthodox synagogues as a catalyst for this change, as shuls that once merely had a mechitzah have now moved the women’s section up to a balcony, making their practice even further out of line with their membership. Therefore, he says, it’s a good time to educate about issues of equality and egalitarianism.
The Mexican community also has to harness the massive potential of youth. There are over 500 community members between the ages of 25-35, only 50 of whom are involved in committees and activities in the community. MERCAZ’s educational strategy is also to increase education about Israel and have young people form a new relationship with Israel that is actually grounded in reality and to have young people see Israel as a living and thriving country, not just “a place to go to pray.” If people began to see Israel as a modern, thriving day-to-day country, they would understand the urgent need for equality and freedom of worship for all types of Jews in Israel.
With regards to the political angle of the campaign, it is primarily to be carried out by the rabbis within the structures of the Mexican Jewish Central Committee. Unlike most other countries, the Zionist organizations in Mexico don’t hold general elections, but rather assign Mexico’s four WZO delegates based on negotiations which take place in the monthly meetings of the Central Committee of the Jewish community which represents the Jewish community of Mexico to the government. Bet-El (the Masorti community in Mexico City) has a favorable position in the committee due to its good relations with the other organizations in the committee and therefore MERCAZ is in a good position to retain its seat.
Daniel Algazi Cohen lives in Mexico City, Mexico where he is married with a baby boy. He is a member of the Bet El 3.0 initiative whose objective is to find young adults within the community who will eventually become the next generation of community leaders.
He is particularly interested in Jewish Philosophy and in Zionist History, and considers Jewish Culture and Community Engagement to be the key elements to ensuring the survival of the Jewish people and flourishing of its culture. He believes in an egalitarian, progressive and inclusive Judaism.
Daniel’s main focus is in education, and his purpose is to improve the quality of life of all the members, mainly through learning and discussing Jewish Values and Tradition, Entrepreneurship, and family wellness, including hosting sporting and healthy lifestyle programs.
Bet-El 3.0 is currently working on several interesting projects, such as “Understanding the Community”, where they are working with statistical analysis and focus groups in order to learn more about the composition of the community, and their main interests and needs.
On the Jewish and Zionist front, they are planning several conferences on the subject. They also have the “Oy Vey Nights”, which is an entrepreneurial networking event, where some successful business people have an open discussion with young members of the community.