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Roundtable hosts open-house reception at Esperanza, Inc.


By Arooj Ashraf , La Prensa Correspondent


Cleveland: The Hispanic Roundtable hosted an open house reception at Esperanza Inc. on Jan. 13, 2009 to strengthen its friendship with the Jewish community and showcased Latino civic and social service agencies in the region.


The event was an extension of dialogues that began in June 2008 at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.


José C. Feliciano, Chair of Hispanic Roundtable, said the communities have much in common and the goal is to open lines of communication between the two, build a strong alliance that can put a united front against fundamental issues like the economy and immigration.


Bruce Mandel, Community Relations Committee Chair of the Jewish Federation, said the organization was honored to share its mission.


Mandel explained the role of JCF as an advocacy group that services nearly 70-80 thousand people in the Greater Cleveland area and funds programs in Israel and Russia through endowments and philanthropic events. He compared JCF to United Way as it supports more than 50 human service organizations that range from children to adult services, healthcare, and nursing homes.


“Our Community Relations branch focuses on building strong relationships with our neighboring communities, which is why we are especially pleased to be here today,” Mandel said. Warren L. Wolfson, Chair of Inter-Group Relations, said JCF has been collaborating with the Latino community on many initiatives that include mentoring and tutoring Latino students and addressing immigration reform needs.


Luis Gómez, Hispanic UMADAOP Board President said the event was a wonderful opportunity for Cleveland’s diverse communities to build bridges of understanding and for Latino community to be united and put its best foot forward. “This relationship will be mutually beneficial,” he said.

For Cleveland State University Professor Marty Plax the event was a reunion with old friends and family. “I am very excited; this is something we have been all been dreaming about,” said Plax. He said the event cemented existing friendships and has started a dialogue that will lead to better relationships. “It is very exciting to be back … we are like brothers,” Plax said. He was particularly impressed and proud of the success Esperanza Inc. has achieved in its 25 years.

The organization had much to share and celebrate for the evening. Felicia Soto, Esperanza Board President, was delighted with the crowd of nearly 200 who braced below freezing wind chills to attend and tour Esperanza’s home at 3104 W. 25 St., Cleveland.


Soto talked about Esperanza’s Campaign 25, and announced the establishment of the endowment fund with The Cleveland Foundation. Esperanza Chief Executive Officer Barbara Esperón presented the Foundation with the first deposit of $26,485.

Soto said the organization is looking forward to collaborating with the Jewish community, learning from their experiences and expertise in running endowment funds, and hopes to expand on joint mentoring and tutoring programs.


Andres González, provide a review of Convenciόn Hispana 2007, which passed 22 resolutions and started initiatives that have been changing the face of Greater Cleveland and the Latino community.

One of the initiatives spearheaded by the Hispanic Business Association is establishing business partnerships with Costa Rican business and luring them to Cleveland’s premiere location in the Midwest and expected to boost the local economy. Stephanie Mercado, its Interim Executive Director, said HBA is working with the Contractors’ Association, providing the entrepreneurs with industry-specific training and assistance with applying for loans and writing contracts.


Another Convenciόn initiative is seeking to create a central location in Ohio that will provide services to undocumented families. Reverend Max Rodas, Executive Director of Nueva Luz, said the center envisions a sanctuary functioning within legal boundaries that will provide social, legal, and health services to families who are victimized by enforcement raids.


 Iris Rodriguez

Rodas said good days are ahead under the upcoming federal administration but the changes will take time and the economic slump is likely to delay immigration reform. “Truth of the matter is this country cannot function without the 12 million undocumented workers,” Rodas said.


He added the Jewish community is a crucial partner in this struggle, “They have a special appreciation and understanding because of their history of displacement, persecution, and prejudice,” Rodas said. He is also spearheading Black/Brown dialogues that bring together the Latino and African-American communities, in an effort to dispel myths and ease tensions.


“The African community has been misled into believing that Latinos will be taking away their jobs,” he said.


Co-sponsors of the event included: Catholic Charities Services/Hispanic Services; El Barrio/WSEM; Esperanza, Inc.; Hispanic Alliance; Hispanic Business Association; Hispanic UMADAOP; HOLA; Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center; and the Spanish American Committee.


For updates on Convenciόn Hispana 2009, visit: http://www.convencionhispana.org


Editor’s Note: La Prensa’s Arooj Ashraf will be in Washington, D.C. Jan. 18-21, 2009, to cover the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama and surrounding pre-inaugural and post-inaugural activities.





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