A tech space for 'Jewish community and values'

Tribe 12, a Jewish group that claims prominent business and public leaders like trade publisher Irvin Borowsky and Montgomery County commissioner Josh Shapiro among its backers, says it's planning to open Tribe Commons, a "co-working" tech development center "rooted in Jewish community and values."

"Our mission is to create a Jewish network based on both a common need and desire to succeed as independent professionals and entrepreneurs, and to be part of a Jewish community of like minded individuals," founder Ross Berkowitz says on the group's home page. 

Is this progress? For a long time Jews were among the groups made unwelcome in Philadelphia's leading banks, law firms and country clubs; like others, they built their own. By the 1970s those barriers were coming down; by now ethnic firms and even the clubs have merged and faded.

Tech, in particular, has been a sort of American meritocracy where immigrants - many of them South Asian Hindus and Muslims, East Asian Buddhists and secularists - combine and compete with Americans of all backgrounds. Why divide?

Indeed, "when Tribe12 sent a message through the Philly Startup Leaders listserv about its social entrepreneurship accelerator, there was some backlash, with some members calling the accelerator exclusionary," Technically Philly reports here.

"When asked about these sentiments, Berkowitz said he believes in the benefit of creating niche communities, 'as long as those communities are willing to reach out beyond themselves.'

"He added that it’s not useful to simply refuse to acknowledge people’s differences. 'The reality is that these groups exist,'" Berkowitz told TP. "'You can’t ignore it.'"