Summit Unites Jewish, Latino Communities

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Michael Innocenzo, president and CEO at PECO; Alicia Kerber, consul general of Mexico; Ab Lechter; and Romy Diaz, vice president and general counsel at PECO | Photo provided

Originally from Costa Rica, a country that has a Jewish population of just a few hundred families — though “you would believe it is 10 times that, if not 100 times that” — Alan Weisleder said being an immigrant brings a special perspective to entrepreneurship.

“I grew up in Costa Rica, but then I moved to Israel, and then I moved to California, and in these three places, I’ve spent many years,” said Weisleder, partner and executive vice president of investor relations at the Israeli venture capital firm OurCrowd. “When you’re an immigrant, you come with a perspective that allows you to look at things from the outside and say, ‘Well, you know, there are things about the culture where I live in that I can adapt or adopt and there are the things that I want to keep from my legacy and my background.’”

Alan Weisleder | Photo provided

Weisleder will speak more about his experiences as the keynote speaker at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Philadelphia Latino-Jewish Coalition’s upcoming Latino-Jewish Entreprenuerial Summit. The summit, titled “The Challenges of Growing a Business,” will take place May 15 at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, and will also feature a panel of Latino and Jewish entrepreneurs and opportunities for networking.


“We’re hoping we can bring business people from the two communities together,” said Ab Lechter, co-chair of the summit.

The idea for the summit came out of the formation of the AJC Philadelphia Latino-Jewish Coalition in 2013. Members would get together every few months to hear a speaker and have a discussion, but Lechter said it felt like they were preaching to the choir. With this summit, the organization hopes they can reach new people. Lechter, a Jewish Columbian who immigrated in high school, expects about 80 participants.

Lechter said that, especially in the Latino community, entrepreneurs struggle to grow their businesses from the local to the national level.

The summit will begin with breakfast and networking. Nelson Diaz, a former judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, will give the welcome, and Jennifer Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the summit, will present an overview of the program.

The summit will include Ellen Weber, executive director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute at the Fox School, who will moderate a discussion on growing a business with Wayne Kimmel, managing partner at SeventySix Capital; Anthony Lopez, CEO at Azzur Corporation; Nicole Marquis, CEO and founder at HipCityVeg Restaurants; and Manuel Trujillo, CEO and founder of Swain Technologies.

AJC Regional Director Marcia Bronstein and Sally Cooper Bleznak, co-chair of the AJC Philadelphia Latino-Jewish Coalition | Photo provided

Fred Strober, AJC Philadelphia chairman, and Sally Cooper Bleznak, co-chair of the coalition, also will speak.

The summit will end with the keynote speech from Weisleder and closing remarks from Lechter.

At the summit, Weisleder plans on talking about Israel’s fame as the tech startup nation and what fuels innovation in the Jewish state. He said the experience young Israelis have in the Israel Defense Forces is a main component, as well as the Israeli culture to challenge authority. He also plans to cover the transition he believes Israel will undergo in the next decade from startup nation to scale-up nation.

“Israelis challenge the status quo, think outside of the box [and] challenge authority,” Weisleder said. “It makes it difficult to live here, but it does wonders for innovation and, in creative ways, to solve problems.”

The goal of the AJC Philadelphia Latino-Jewish Coalition is to build relationships between the two communities in areas like economic empowerment, immigration reform, civic engagement and homeland/diaspora relations. Besides the business summit, this has resulted in projects like a Unidos Por Puerto Rico Concert, a screening of the film, Refugee Kids: One Small School Takes on the World with the film’s director, and a table at the National Museum of American Jewish History’s Freedom Seder.

“We want to make sure that the values of the Jewish people are known in the Latino community, and vice versa,” Lechter said. “Latinos are hardworking people. They’re good people. They believe in family. They believe in friends, and they love life. There are a lot of similarities between the two communities. Another thing is the special relationship that both communities have with their ancestral country, and also the whole immigration experience the Jewish people went through coming to the states, Latinos are going through the same thing.”

szighelboim@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0729

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