Garden State and Jewish state
Tough times call for tough measures, and we don’t envy Gov. Chris Christie’s task of taming New Jersey’s out-of-control finances. Budget cuts are never popular, especially when they appear to cut to the bone, as they now seem to when it comes to education and municipal budgets.
In that context, it is hard to argue with a plan to fold the work of the New Jersey-Israel Commission into a new entity, the NJ Partnership for Action, which will work with various ethnic-based offices, and the decision to cut the salary line of the commission’s long-time executive director, Andrea Yonah. That being said, it’s important that the governor and his aides recognize the accomplishments of the NJIC and do what they can to maintain its effectiveness in its new incarnation.
At a time when businesses were fleeing the state for more tax-friendly havens, the NJIC worked to woo, and woo successfully, Israeli businesses and entrepreneurs. It sponsored symposia and conferences that brought together Israeli security and emergency response experts with their counterparts in New Jersey, and demonstrated the way Israeli strides in green energy could be translated in the Garden State. Yonah and NJIC served as matchmaker between NJ firms and the Tel Aviv-based Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, whose grants help underwrite joint projects involving firms here and in the Jewish state.
Yonah, who lived in Israel from 1985 to 1994, brought a strong commitment and sense of creativity to her job, and she will be missed. It would be a shame if the budget cuts and reorganization mean the end of some of her unfinished plans, like a New Jersey-Israel jazz festival or an economic development subcommittee.
Israel and New Jersey have always been linked, according to a journalism cliche, by the fact that they are nearly the same size. We urge the governor to insure that their connections remain even stronger than that.