Mexico’s President Honored by 900 North American Jews

President Jose Lopez Portillo was honored last Thursday night at a special convocation where he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The degree was conferred by Avraham Harman, president of the university, with the participation of Sam Rothberg, chairman of its Board of Governors, Prof. Shlomo Avineri and Bernard Cherrick, university vice president.

More than 900 leaders from the United States, Canada and Mexico, meeting at the first North American Conference of Friends Organizations of Hebrew University, attended the dinner honoring the President.

In accepting the honorary degree Lopez Portillo described the birth of the State of Israel as an extraordinary phenomenon of history. He praised the Jewish people for maintaining their identity as a nation through centuries of dispersion and persecution until “they could reclaim and return to their promised land where they established a state and government in accordance with democratic principles.” The President said the Hebrew University served as a vehicle for bringing Jewish cultural heritage and values to the rest of the world.

The citation, inscribed in Spanish and in Hebrew, bailed the Mexican President for his achievements as an illustrious leader, legal authority, political scientist, teacher and author, and for his support of the program of mutual cooperation with Israel in agricultural development and cultural and educational exchange projects. One of Lopez Portillo’s books is soon to appear in a Hebrew edition in Israel, Harmon said.

FIRST TIME FOR MEXICO’S LEADER

Rothberg, toasting the President, said “Mexico and Israel speak the common language of democracy, share a common interest in human rights and social justice and common goals of peace and economic independence.” Isaac Becker, vice president of the Mexican Friends of the Hebrew University, who presided, called the special convocation an event of outstanding historic significance for Israel.

The festive occasion marked the first time Lopez Portillo had appeared before a Jewish audience since his election in December, 1976. It was also his first address on the subject of Israel as head of the government. Speaking for the Mexican Association of University Friends, David Brucilovsky, president, lauded Lopez Portillo as a humanist and a symbol of freedom and rights enjoyed by Jews of Mexico on the level of complete equality with the rest of the country’s population.

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