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Using Our Business to Make Change

Jonathan Plutzik is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

Jonathan Plutzik

Jonathan Plutzik is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

We are grateful for the opportunity that our hotel, The Betsy, has had to connect with our community. In early 2009, we opened our doors just after President Barak Obama’s inauguration and enthusiastically embraced his vision of a society in which citizens actively and effectively serve their communities and solve problems.

Over the past five years, through our Philanthropy, Arts, Culture, and Education (PACE) program, The Betsy has worked with local, national, and international organizations and has become a catalyst for energized discourse and collaborative change-making. While operating as a luxury hotel, we’ve been privileged to work with over 250 nonprofit partners in various fields. I have found that success comes when partners combine resources to reach goals together. The Betsy’s collaborative model is an authentic commitment to the tenet that “every little bit helps.” And our experiences underscore that truth.

The immigration issue hits close to home, both personally and professionally. My wife is an immigrant, as is my mother. And while my father was born in America, he did not speak English until he was 7 years old. Yet, he still became a Professor of English and an award-winning American poet. Our staff at The Betsy speak over thirty languages, nearly a third of our workers hold Green Cards, and many of our employees have pursued U.S. citizenship.

But these trends extend far beyond our business. More than 500,000 people in Miami, and eight million in our nation, are eligible to apply for citizenship. Many have been working here for years, filing taxes and contributing in critical ways to our economy; yet without citizenship, they are not able to become full members of our society. Like their predecessors, today’s immigrants can and will play an important role in building a better future for all of us.  

Our hotel was privileged to become the first business in the nation to field-test model of the Bethlehem Project, in which employers help their workers prepare for citizenship. We shared our experience to ensure that the program would be replicated throughout South Florida so that thousands in the hospitality industry would get the chance to pursue their own American dream. We’re proud now that the program is spreading across the country.

Moving forward, I am excited about the opportunities for community partnerships in the world of hospitality, in the realms of immigration, and in the many other arenas needing our attention and involvement.

Jonathan Plutzik is Chairman and principal owner of The Betsy, a luxury hotel in Miami Beach, Florida.