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NEW YORK - Rabbi Marc Schneier, spiritual leader of an Orthodox synagogue on eastern Long Island, and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons will host a reception today on Capitol Hill for 13 freshman members of Congress.

Schneier, founder of Hampton Synagogue, and Simmons, founder of Def Jam records and CEO of Rush Communications, are president and chairman, respectively, of The Foundation of Ethnic Understanding, which advocates improved relations among minorities in the U.S.

Three of the first-time Congress members are senators: Democrats Barack Obama (Illinois) and Ken Salazar (Colorado), and Republican Mel Martinez (Florida).

"This event is part of an ongoing effort to promote cooperation among members of Congress who represent ethnic groups and minority sectors in the U.S.," Schneier said yesterday. "The object is also to expose elected officials to the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel."

Today's event will feature a symposium with prominent senators and members of the House of Representatives.

The Foundation of Ethnic Understanding, based in New York, is a highly regarded non-profit organization in the U.S. that has been active for years in strengthening relations between Jews and blacks. The foundation has expanded its activities to cover ties between U.S. Jews and Hispanics.