Wednesday, May 30, 2007

L.A.'s famous philo-Semite

That's Mark Paredes, a leader in the Mormon Church and the national director of Latino outreach for the American Jewish Congress. Paredes once worked for the Israeli consulate, and I met him there my second day at The Journal when he emceed an interfaith event celebrating the reopening of BYU's Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.

Paredes was unaware he had been profiled in this week's Forward. Here is what Jennifer Siegel had to say:

At the seat of one of America’s largest communities of both Jews and Mormons, Paredes, 39, is working to build bridges between two communities that have longstanding ties but also a history of distrust. For years, Jewish leaders have called upon Mormon leaders to halt controversial posthumous baptisms of Jews by church members. Despite years of progress, the issue flared up again last December, when leaders of the L.A.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center discovered that the name of Wiesenthal, Holocaust survivor and famed Nazi hunter, appeared on the church’s baptism roll a year after his death in 2005.

The son of a white mother and black father, Paredes is working to counter negative feelings in the Jewish community through outreach that stresses Mormons’ historic support for Israel, and by sharing the information gleaned by their extensive genealogical research.


Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, the Los Angeles-based interfaith director of the American Jewish Committee, calls Paredes a “wonderful breath of fresh air” who is building on a history of Jewish-Mormon interfaith work in the West.

When Paredes went to work for the consulate five years ago, The Jewish Journal's Tom Tugend wrote about him for JTA.

LOS ANGELES -- Without much fear of contradiction, Mark Paredes observes, "I think I'm the only biracial Mormon representing the state of Israel abroad."

Paredes, a personable bachelor in his early 30s appointed earlier this year as press attaché at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, has other claims to distinction.

He speaks seven languages fluently -- English, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, French and Portuguese -- and served as a U.S. foreign service officer in Mexico and Tel Aviv. He studied at Brigham Young University, University of Texas -- and the Moscow University of Steel and Alloys.

Paredes was born in Bay City, Mich., the son of a white mother and a black father, though he was raised by a Chilean stepfather. He joined the Mormon Church at age 11 and served as a missionary in southern Italy. In line with his religious upbringing, he has never drunk alcohol or smoked a cigarette, and he doesn't swear.

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