Andrés Roemer’s International Sephardic Leadership Award Ceremony

Mexico & Moral Courage

In honor of this year’s Yom Yerushalayim, The American Sephardi Federation awarded its International Sephardic Leadership Award to former Mexican Ambassador to UNESCO Andrés Isaac Roemer Slomianski. The event, “Mexico and Moral Courage,” was held on Sunday, May 21st, at the Center for Jewish History.

(NEW YORK, NY) May 29, 2017 – The evening featured remarks by Professor Ephraim Isaac, Director of the Institute for Semitic Studies at Princeton, NJ., and a founder of Harvard University’s Department of African and African American Studies, and Jesse Rojo, Director of Hispanic Affairs at The Philos Project, a Christian organization dedicated to positive engagement in the Middle East, as well as a performance by baritone opera singer David Serero. The Philos Project co-sponsored the event, which was attended by members of New York’s Christian and Moroccan Muslim communities.

Jason Guberman-P., ASF’s Executive Director, explained how “tempest-tossed Jews throughout the Diaspora have yearned for Jerusalem” throughout time. “‘For one glimpse of Jerusalem’s dust,’ the classic Andalusian composer of Piyyut (or Sephardic liturgical poetry and soul music), Yehuda Halevi, gave his creative energies and life. HaLevi left the glory of Spain for the Land of Israel, then a dangerous war zone bitterly and bloodily contested by Crusaders and Caliphs.

In the wake of the Inquisition, thousands of Jews followed HaLevi’s heart to the East, establishing great Jerusalem families that continue to call the city home.

Speaking before the Knesset in 1982 to mark the 100th Anniversary of Aliyah from Yemen, Rabbi Yosef Qafih wryly noted: ‘the Aliyah of Yemenite Jewry did not begin 100 years ago. In fact, it never ceased… [there was an] unbroken continuity.’

Professor Ephraim Isaac (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

Professor Ephraim Isaac (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

As we come together today to celebrate the 50the Anniversary of Jerusalem’s liberation during the Six-Day War, we must remember these facts and how there are those who seek to erase the city’s Jewish and, therefore, Christian history,” said Mr. Guberman.

“Jerusalem is the most renowned city of the ancient world…. most renowned city, really, throughout history,” said Professor Isaac, who drew on his diverse and extensive erudition to describe Jerusalem’s central place in Jewish consciousness as the spiritual and political capital of ancient Israel, the most frequently referenced city in Jewish texts, and the most desired destination of Jewish exiles. Professor Isaac cited population data attesting to a continual Jewish communal presence since biblical times, and related his own personal experiences, recalling, for examples, how his Yemeni Jewish father was moved to tears by the mere mention of Jerusalem and how he was in Jerusalem, Israel during the Six Day War.

This past October, however, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Executive Board voted for a resolution whose very language stripped the Temple Mount and Western Wall of their Jewish names. “By perverting the past, the resolution’s proponents—authoritarian regimes, such as Algeria, Iran, Sudan, Qatar, and Russia—believe they can subvert the future,” said Mr. Guberman. He added: “They had not counted on one individual’s refusal to be cowed into compliance. Andres Issac Roemer, the then Mexican Ambassador to UNESCO, knowingly risked his position to voice and vote his conscience, choosing to leave the voting hall rather than follow the instructions he had received from his government to vote in favor of the resolution. While the resolution still passed and Ambassador Roemer was recalled and removed from his post, his moral courage convinced several countries, including his own, to seek to reverse the resolution’s pernicious position against historical truth and the possibility of peace.”

ASF President David Dangoor (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

ASF President David Dangoor (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

“Ambassador Roemer, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the American Sephardi Federation, Jason and I, I would like to personally thank you for the important impact you have had on the issue of the true history of Jerusalem, the claims to it by the Jewish people, but also its relevance to Christians and Muslims,” said David Dangoor, President of the American Sephardi Federation. “You have single handedly helped move the debate back in the right direction….”

President Dangoor described Ambassador Romer as “full of life, humor and an endless energy of wanting to contribute to mankind…

And listen to this. He is not a politician or a civil servant. Ambassador Roemer is a lawyer, economist, author of many inspiring books, and a playwright with two award winning plays. He is a television personality leading a talk show at home in Mexico with one of the major networks. Ambassador Roemer has founded recognized think tanks similar to the TED Talks – the most famous being La Ciudad de las Ideas. He has also served as Mexico’s Consul General in San Fransisco.

Looking back Andrés Roemer has a Ph.D. in Public Policy (1991 to 1994) from the Goldman School of Public Policy of UC Berkeley, where he earned academic distinction for his thesis regarding water public policies. He earned a master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. He specialized in cultural policies, law and economics, and evolutionary psychology. And is member of several economic, public policy, and cultural associations in the United States, Mexico, Latin America, and Europe. All his degrees were nailed summa cum laude!

ASF President David Dangoor, ASF Executive Director Jason Guberman-P., and Ambassador Andres Roemer with his International Sephardic Leadership Award (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

ASF President David Dangoor, ASF Executive Director Jason Guberman-P., and Ambassador Andres Roemer with his International Sephardic Leadership Award (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

Finally, to add to his very Jewish resume, he is the grandson of a Viennese conductor who escaped from the Nazis. A quaint fact is also that he is a relative of the much missed columnist and humorist Art Buchwald.

So I think I have proven my case. Andres Roemer is a true ‘Renaissance man’ who will continue to make many more contributions to the betterment of man purveying truth as well as new creative ways of thinking,” said President Dangoor.

“I am very grateful for this recognition from my heart,” said Ambassador Roemer. In his remarks, the first time he has spoken publicly about what happened, Ambassador Roemer expressed his motivations: “I am a very passionate person for culture and art. I am a very strong promoter of science. I really love the mission of UNESCO. And I knew that part of its mandate was not to do anything related to these kinds of political issues, but to actually protect the cultural heritage of everyone—of all the traditions. But I thought if I face this kind of resolution… I could start changing what hasn’t been done correctly. Because I knew that the last twelve time—the last twelve times—all of our history, Mexico always voted against Israel.”

Ambassador Andrés Roemer (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

Ambassador Andrés Roemer (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

Ambassador Roemer affirmed his stand for truth and critical thinking despite the consequences he suffered as a price worth paying for progress.

David Serero (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

David Serero (Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)

Click here to see additional photos from the evening

Mr. Serero performed a special repertoire in honor of Ambassador Roemer, including Mexican classics (Granada, Cielito Lindo, Besame Mucho), Ladino/Sephardic Songs and Culture, and Jerusalem of Gold. Remarkably, Emanuel Aronson Rund, the only surviving engineer from the original Israel Radio recording session of the Naomi Shemer classic as well as a Defender of Jerusalem, was in the audience.

A Jewish Telegraphic Agency report about “Mexico and Moral Courage” was featured in the following publications:

New York Jewish Life covered the event here.