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Murphy’s trade mission to Israel focuses on startups, innovators
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Murphy’s trade mission to Israel focuses on startups, innovators

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Gov. Phil Murphy addressed participants of the Four Corners of Israel Community Trip during a Havdalah ceremony at the Jerusalem International YMCA.
Gov. Phil Murphy addressed participants of the Four Corners of Israel Community Trip during a Havdalah ceremony at the Jerusalem International YMCA.

One of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s first stops when he arrived in Israel on Oct. 20 was to participate in a Havdalah gathering with Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ, as well as the Jewish Federations of Southern NJ and Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties, who made up the Four Corners of Israel Community Trip from Oct. 14-22.

His address on the economics of the New Jersey-Israel partnership included strong condemnation of anti-Semitism. He cited many recent incidents, including the vandalism of a Sussex diner and the property of supporters of Jewish congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-Dist. 5), and spray-painted swastikas in towns such as Princeton, Trenton, and Hoboken.    

“When good citizens come under threat, we will stand up as one and speak out as one,” he told the 260 mission participants gathered for the ceremony at the Jerusalem International YMCA. “And, it will be incumbent upon those of us in positions of leadership to set the example. Trust me, I know there are no ‘very fine people’ out there spray-painting swastikas on schools.

“We will treat these actions for what they are — hate crimes — and find and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The governor’s first overseas trip since his January 2018 inauguration included stops in Germany, where Murphy served as U.S. ambassador from 2009-2013. Nearly every governor of New Jersey since Thomas Kean’s first term in 1992 has visited Israel, often as part of the administration’s first overseas trip.

“It was a very special treat to have the governor of the state of New Jersey join us for Havdalah and greetings in Jerusalem after Shabbat, along with Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York,” said Keith Krivitzky, CEO of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ. (Dayan accompanies all heads of states from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Delaware when they travel to Israel, and he facilitates some of their meetings.) “It shows the governor cares about the Jewish community, from Cherry Hill to New Brunswick to Newark. And we are grateful for one of our leaders, Roy Tanzman, for making the arrangements for his visit to all the NJ federations during all their respective missions.” Tanzman is a past president and current executive board member of the State Association of Jewish Federations, as well as chairman of the board for Rutgers Hillel.

The trip was organized by Choose: New Jersey, a privately funded non-profit focusing on economic development throughout the state, especially in urban centers, and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) new Office of International Trade and Investment. Tim Sullivan, the EDA CEO, joined the governor for part of the trip.

During his three days in Israel, Murphy met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and received a briefing from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem was not on his itinerary, although he visited popular diplomatic sites such as Yad Vashem and the Western Wall.

The governor’s trip was focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and ways for Israel and New Jersey to partner for mutual economic benefit. He held meetings with Airobotics (which offered an autonomous vehicle demonstration), life-sciences companies, university presidents, and startups. In addition, Murphy formalized an agreement to move Teva Pharmaceuticals’ North American headquarters to Parsippany-Troy Hills.

Murphy has been an outspoken supporter of partnerships between Israel and New Jersey. He has been critical of previous administrations in that area, particularly with regard to the New Jersey-Israel Commission. Created in 1989, the Commission had a salaried director position beginning in 2002; however, the position was eliminated by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2010. Murphy has included funding to reinstate the position in his proposed 2019 budget.

While in Israel, several memoranda of understanding were signed, including one between the EDA and the Israel Innovation Authority to strengthen economic ties and enhance bilateral partnerships among innovators in the Garden State and the State of Israel. Another agreement, this one between Choose NJ and the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, promotes best practices in corporate social responsibility on both sides.

“The Garden State and Israel both have economies deeply rooted in innovation as well as brilliant scientists, researchers, and academic minds doing ground-breaking work across a broad spectrum of high-growth sectors,” Murphy said in a statement. The New Jersey-Israel relationship already generates an estimated $1 billion in annual shared economic activity.

Although Israel is still among the top 25 countries to which New Jersey exports goods, the number has steadily declined since 2014, when exports totaled $741 million. By 2017 it was down to $263 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“New Jersey is an important state economically, politically, academically, from every aspect,” said Dayan. “He has an important role in enhancing cooperation with the State of Israel.”

The October trip marked Murphy’s sixth visit to Israel in three years; he visited twice during his campaign. During this trip, the governor also met with participants of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s mission to Israel. Murphy returned to Trenton Oct. 23.

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