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RELIGION : Ethnic Dinners Reflect Jewish Heritage

January 27, 1994

There were no bagels, lox, gefilte fish or other typically Jewish delicacies served at the Congregation Shaarei Torah Temple in Arcadia on Saturday night. Instead, members ate black beans, baked bananas and white rice.

Was it kosher?

"One hundred percent," said Evita Maya, a Cuban-born congregation member who prepared a Cuban meal for about 100 members and guests who attended the first in a series of ethnic dinners at the temple.

"Most people in this nation stereotype Jews as being of European descent only, and they aren't," said Octavious David, 27, a congregation member who was raised in Honduras and lives in Arcadia. "(Jews) are of many different faces--Latin, Indian, Arabic. . . ."

In California, Latino Jews are a double minority--and a relative rarity. Organizations that combine the two are rare, but one recently sprouted in Orange County, where about 200 Jews of Latino background have recently found camaraderie in the new Club Hebreo Latino.

At the temple in Arcadia, Maya and David are among less than a dozen Latino Jews in their congregation, which has more than 300 members.

Congregation leaders say the new ethnic dinners are meant to expand the membership's understanding of its far-reaching heritage. The next such dinner, in March, will explore Jewish migration and life in India.

During Saturday night's meal, there was salsa music and several Latino congregation members shared stories of their ancestors' migration to Central and South America, where there are more than 1 million Jews.

For more information on the Congregation Shaarei Torah's world ethnic tour dinners, call (818) 445-0810.

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