A typical monthly meeting of the Jewish Business Network of Monmouth County includes networking, mutual support, and a taste of Torah.
Before members hear from a guest speaker and then swap business tips and leads, Rabbi Boruch Chazanow suggests a connection to an upcoming holiday or the weekly Torah portion.
“What I like best about JBN is the way it combines Jewish values with commercial interests,” said David Jacobs, a CPA from Manalapan. Chazanow “inspires us to think about our heritage and our responsibility at the same time we seek leads and contacts from our fellow JBN members.”
Now in its 15th year and boasting 65 members, the JBN, held at Chabad of Western Monmouth County in Manalapan, was the brainchild of Chabad’s Rabbi Levi Wolosow, who is Chazanow’s associate and son-in-law.
In the early days, Wolosow recalled, he worked with Neil Seidman, a local jeweler, and Kevin Uniglicht, an attorney with offices in Freehold. “I loved the idea of people getting together to help each other out while benefiting themselves at the same time,” Wolosow said via e-mail.
There are three major components to the JBN: providing access to local and national business leaders and innovators, opportunities to share business skills, and helping participants increase their professional networks.
As the JBN has grown, it has added tools and techniques. Today, it features monthly networking meetings, often with a speaker, who may be a member of the group or an invited outside guest.
A free listing in the JBN directory, which is available online as well as in print, offers free exposure for member companies.
Social mixers are sometimes held at individual members’ business premises, and they are always marked by what Wolosow called a “warm Jewish environment.”
The JBN also publishes a quarterly newsletter, maintains a blog, and mails its directory to 1,000 Jewish homes in the region. Members and their families are occasionally invited to the Chabad House for a Shabbat dinner.
Dues are $150 for the year, but some members have chosen to go further, said Chazanow. Participants in the so-called 5% Club donate 5 percent of the profits generated by leads they got at the JBN. The money goes to support adult education at the Chabad House, said Wolosow.
JBN member Barry Bloom, a Hazlet-based insurance broker, said he appreciates the lack of pressure at the organization’s meetings. “I’ve visited several other networking operations, including some JBN groups, and many of them make you feel uncomfortable if you don’t come in with at least 10 leads to share,” he said. “It isn’t like that in Monmouth County. There’s a slow organic buildup. Members develop relationships. The mood is very comfortable.”
Still, leads are exchanged, according to Sharon Marks, a RE/MAX real estate agent with an office on Route 9 in Manalapan. “The key currency of real estate is networking, and I’ve been the recipient of many useful referrals from my colleagues at JBN,” she said in a phone interview.
Mitchell Beja, owner of the Worldwide Art Showroom in Manalapan, has the only home decor business currently listed in the JBN directory. “We sell artwork and also do a lot of framing,” he said. It doesn’t matter what your specialty is, he added. Anyone can become aware of potential business contacts and make them known to the rest of the group.
Picking up on this theme, Debra Levy, a lifestyle coach and owner of Organizing Made Easy in Marlboro, said, “Even though we provide different services, many of us serve the same customer base. By combining our efforts, we are better able to show our customers the value of dealing with us.”