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entries tagged with: New Jersey Israel Commission


Israeli ‘cleantech’ takes center stage

Lois GoldrichLocal | World
Published: 11 September 2009

Israel and New Jersey have a great trading relationship,” says Mark Levenson, a member of the New Jersey-Israel Commission and chair of the group’s upcoming U.S.-Israel Cleantech Conference. In fact, he says, New Jersey is Israel’s ninth-largest trading partner.

To “build on and enhance that relationship,” the Sept. 16 conference, at the Meadowlands Environmental Center in Lyndhurst, will provide an opportunity for U.S. business and government leaders to meet the leaders of Israel’s cleantech industry, said Levenson, who is clearly confident that the event will benefit both groups.

Chair of the Israel Business Practice Group for Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. as well as president of the Federation of Greater Clifton/Passaic, Levenson, a resident of West Orange, noted that a similar conference last year attracted nine Israeli companies.

“This time there are 15, despite the fact that money is tight,” he said. “If they’re coming for this, they must feel it will be worthwhile.”

He is also hopeful that building stronger relationships between the Israeli and New Jersey companies will lead to more jobs in the state.

“Not only is the United States a target market for the Israeli technologies, but “[the Israeli companies] want to establish a presence here, have U.S. partners,” said Levenson. “They want to hear what the states have to offer.”

Explaining that Israel has had to find innovative alternatives for renewable energy, at least in part because of its geopolitical location, Levenson said the Jewish state has more than 50 years of experience in water management and solar energy technologies.

According to a statement from conference organizers — who note that Israel is second to the U.S. in startup companies pursuing innovative sources of renewable energy — the conference “will gather the region’s most influential cleantech professionals and provide a forum for exploring business opportunities and targeted networking.”

“One day is not enough time” to accomplish all these goals, said Levenson, but he noted that networking continues after the gathering itself has ended.

The conference chair said that he has seen some of the Israeli technological developments that will be showcased at the meeting. Calling them “mind-blowing,” he noted that developing those systems “is obviously more attractive when the cost of fossil fuels is high …, [but] given global needs, investment in such solutions will eventually draw them to a point where market prices will be more in line with fossil fuels.”

“Research and development in these areas is sorely needed,” he said, citing Israeli accomplishments that will be highlighted at the meeting.

Presenters will include leaders of Israeli companies that have developed an advanced solar-hybrid power generation unit; innovative water, agricultural, and other clean technologies; solutions for the treatment of municipal solid waste and hazardous waste; and sludge-dewatering treatments. Also featured will be companies that have pioneered methods to cool, heat, dehumidify, disinfect, and clean the air — powered by energy sources such as solar panels, geothermal water, and waste heat — and businesses working on cost-effective solutions to solar and wind applications.

While the conference is a three-day affair, only one day is centered in New Jersey; New York and Philadelphia will host the other two sessions, said Levenson. He expects some 200 people to participate in the New Jersey event.

The state gathering is being organized by the New Jersey-Israel Commission in partnership with the government of Israel and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Levenson pointed out that attendees will not only meet leaders in the area of alternative and renewable energy sources, but they will connect with senior state officials to hear about progressive legislation and incentive programs for cleantech development. Experts will be on hand to discuss “how to grow a green company.”

According to the conference chair, organizers are targeting utility and industry executives, companies involved in the development of alternative energy sources, investors, technology vendors, government policymakers and municipalities, as well as scientists and researchers.

Presenters from the state will include Jerry Zaro, head of the New Jersey Office of Economic Growth; Kenny Esser, chief energy adviser; and Caren S. Franzini, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Also speaking will be representatives from energy and utility companies.

Levenson said that the day “is not about politics” and the commission is an independent entity that has permanent status. In addition, he said, New Jersey “offers great tax incentives” for the kinds of programs the conference will explore.

For further information about the conference, call the New Jersey-Israel Commission at (609) 633-8600 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For more information on the New Jersey-Israel Commission, visit


N.J.-Israel Commission funds slashed

The New Jersey-Israel Commission lost its director, Andrea Yonah, to budget cuts last week as it officially became part of a new initiative in the State Department to boost business in New Jersey.

The commission has been rolled into the Partnership for Public Action, which, under the auspices of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, is charged with attracting new businesses, retaining businesses, and making the state more business-friendly, said Sean Connor, Gov. Chris Christie’s deputy press secretary. Other programs joining the Israel Commission will be announced in coming weeks, he added.

“The New Jersey-Israel Commission will be focusing on how to bring more economic development to the state of New Jersey,” he said. “We are excited about that. The New Jersey-Israel Commission has and will continue to play an important role in helping to attract, retain, and grow our relationships with global businesses.”

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who had chaired the commission, expressed optimism that its focus on business development and cooperation, cultural exchange, and educational exchange would remain

“We’ve been reassured by the lieutenant governor that the commission itself is now a valued part of [her] portfolio,” he said. “We’re going to make this work.”

Kurtzer tendered his resignation after the shake-up announcement just before Passover. The move was a courtesy to Christie who, Kurtzer said, should be allowed to choose his own chair. Kurtzer is hopeful, however, that the governor will see fit to reappoint him as a member of the commission.

Since the commission was already housed within the State Department, it was easier to roll it into the partnership than other programs, Connor said. The changes to the commission, he emphasized, were administrative and there would be no changes to its mission or membership make-up. The commission had been operating with an annual budget of $130,000, almost $120,000 of which went toward salaries for Yonah and another employee, he said.

April 9 marked the last day of Yonah’s eight-year tenure with the commission.

“She’s a powerhouse,” said commission member Howard Charish, executive vice president of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey. “She has been able to attract excellent leadership on the commission, bring business from Israel to New Jersey, and develop cultural, scientific, and trade relationships that have helped both New Jersey and Israel.”

“We’re not saying goodbye to Andrea,” said commission member Mark Levenson. “She will be working with us on lots of issues and ventures in terms of trying to help Israel and I can’t wait until she lands her next position because she is just a dynamo.”

Yonah remained upbeat during a phone interview with The Jewish Standard on Tuesday.

“To be able to bring the best of Israel and match it with the best of New Jersey was a dream,” Yonah said. “Both of our states have so much in common and so much to collaborate on and so much opportunity for the future.”

Her future remained uncertain, but, she said, she looked forward to spending time in Israel and continuing to help bridge the Jewish state and the Garden State.

As members praised Yonah’s leadership they also expressed outrage at Christie for cutting the commission’s funding.

“This is an affront to the people who volunteered to be on this commission,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37), a longtime member. “This is an affront to an employee who had served so well for eight years. It’s an affront to the Jewish community.”

Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) had harsher words for Christie.

“The governor’s budget sold the commission out with any number of other groups,” he said. “The New Jersey-Israel Commission was one of the first of its kind. It has been shown and proven that the commission is instrumental in creating jobs for New Jersey.”

Schaer, a member of the Assembly’s budget committee, also lashed out at Christie’s budget proposals.

“There are so many areas of real concern that so many of us have regarding seniors, education, colleges, and universities,” he said.

Christie has the option to veto any changes the Assembly or Senate budget committees make and, according to Schaer, he has pledged to do so. Despite the Christie administration’s explanations, Schaer doubted the benefits achieved by the change.

“With New Jersey-Israel Commission we see the cost was ridiculously small compared to the deficit and the very real benefit — the close relationship with the State of Israel,” he said. “In that case, the governor’s proposal doesn’t make financial sense and doesn’t make any sense at all.”

The New Jersey-Israel Commission was created in 1989 to foster business ties as part of a sister-state agreement. More than 700 New Jersey companies do business with Israel, 65 Israeli companies maintain operations in New Jersey, and 18 New Jersey companies have operations in Israel.


New head of umbrella group spells out its priorities

Ruth Cole, the new president of the State Association of Jewish Federations, sees “senior population issues” as among the most important facing New Jersey. And the association is marshaling its clout and allies to ease conditions for that population.

The Ridgewood resident cited the association’s support of the “aging-in-place program — we are urging the state of New Jersey to direct resources to serving underserved seniors so they can … continue to live as well as they can in their own homes, along with transportation so they can get to health care, nutrition services, and socialization. That would maintain their quality of life and avoid [their having to live in] nursing homes.”

The cost of maintaining people in their own homes, she noted, is about 10 percent of what it would be in nursing-home care.

For example, she said, “we try to further legislation that would amend the laws to include volunteer drivers’ efforts” for senior transportation.

“We are collaborators,” Cole said of the umbrella organization created by the state’s 12 Jewish federations. “We build teams of people” — professional and lay leaders of affiliated agencies — “with mutual interests” about “the public interest.” And then those leaders, either individually or as a group, advocate for needed funding and/or legislation.

“We really need to continue to help nonprofit agencies find funding in this very tight budget situation in this state,” she stressed. “If we weaken our nonprofit agencies, then the state would incur greater expenses in administering these services.”

At the annual meeting July 8 of the State Association of Jewish Federations, Ruth Cole was installed as the umbrella organization’s president. She is flanked by Jacob Toporek, its executive director, and Roy Tanzman, its outgoing president. Rachel Toporek

Another high-priority item is boosting the New Jersey-Israel Commission. “The people in our leadership care about this,” she said. They are “very supportive of increasing the activities of the New Jersey-Israel Commission and its visibility and viability.”

The association has “a long history of promoting New Jersey as a premier location for Israeli companies. Our goal is to assist Israeli companies in making their move to New Jersey a successful one.”

This state, she pointed out, is Israel’s 12th-largest trading partner in the United States. “That translates into millions of dollars annually for the economy of New Jersey.”

Noting that Gov. Chris Christie had expressed a commitment to leading a trade mission to Israel, Cole said that the association offered its help to set up areas of interest and meetings for the mission, which would enhance the economic development of the state.”

Homeland security is also high on the association’s list of priorities. “The New Jersey-Israel Commission,” she noted, “was one of the major sponsors in June of ‘09 of a symposium on terror medicine, preparedness, and transportation systems, etc., that should be protected.” A similar symposium, focusing on local preparedness for terrorism and disaster, is set for Sept. 22 at Montclair University and is being coordinated, she noted, by her husband, Dr. Leonard Cole, an expert on bioterrorism. “At last year’s symposium,” she said, Gov. Jon Corzine was the honorary chair, “and we are anticipating that Gov. Christie will be the honorary chair” of the September symposium.

The state association also advocated for the state’s divestment from Iran, and as of March, according to Cole, “had divested more than 90 percent of its investment in companies [that do business with Iran] and are working with our Community Relations Councils and other community partners to now work for the ‘No Nuke for Iran’ initiative and ‘New Jersey Stop Iran Now.’”

Cole came to the SAJF as a member of the board of trustees of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, where she serves as chair of Partnership 2000 with the city of Nahariya in the Western Galilee. A past chair of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council and a past president of Jewish Family Service of Bergen County and North Hudson, she was also chair of leadership development for the federation. Her fellow officers have similar federation activities on the résumés. (Cole’s is also heavily weighted with Hadassah accomplishments, and she is the current national chair of Hadassah magazine.)

Another representative from UJA-NNJ, Susan Penn, is a member-at-large of the association.

Members-at-large, Cole explained, “represent the other executive board members of the state association and bring years of dedication and experience in community policymaking and advocacy.”

Penn, Cole continued, “is a very experienced knowledgeable leader on these issues, since she has been a chair of the CRC and along with myself and others is a leader in the Jewish Council for Public Affairs,” a community-relations councils and policy group umbrella organization. “She and I work with Joy Kurland,” director of UJA-NNJ’s Jewish Community Relations Council.

Asked how effective the association is, Cole said, “Very.” She noted that Stephen Sweeney, the president of the state Senate, had driven two hours from Gloucester to address the July 8 meeting, which had also been attended by the deputy consul general of Israel, Benjamin Krasna. “Having the top senator at our meeting,” she said, “indicates his respect for what we do.”

Meanwhile, “tough economic times require more advocacy and more education of our elected officials. You [have to] work with other bodies or you can’t be effective. It takes teamwork and working together to reach consensus and find a way to reach the goals — that programs that need to be supported are supported.” It helps, she said, that “the Jewish community leadership is strong, talented, experienced, and wise.”


Honig named to Israel commission

Gov. Chris Christie appointed Tenafly businessman Barry Honig to the New Jersey-Israel Commission late last month, and Honig wants to use his new position to build more bridges between the Jewish state and the Garden State.

“New Jersey is a great place for Israeli companies to set up,” Honig said, noting that the Garden State provides access to New York City and a talented pool of marketing gurus. “It’s a perfect partnership.”

Outsourcing to India and China has been a concern in the United States for years. While corporations find cheaper labor costs, American workers argue that they are being priced out of their jobs. Although the costs of doing business in Israel can be lower than in the United States, the motivation behind the U.S.-Israel business relationship is not one of outsourcing to save a few shekels, according to Honig.

“Israel has real talent in real-time systems and mission-critical software and development,” he said. “In the U.S., we have that talent but we also have considerably better talent in marketing and operations management and finance. Bridging those two sets of talent pools together is where the value is.”

Israeli companies, meanwhile, can open themselves to new markets and expertise by creating satellites in the United States, he said.

“The idea is for Israel to bring business here and leverage their skills, and for Americans to take their business there and leverage their skills,” he said.

Honig is president of Tenafly-based Honig International, an executive search and management-consulting firm specializing in the financial services industry. “Governor Christie nominated Barry Honig for a seat on the N.J.-Israel Commission because he believes his experience as a successful business leader will be a strong addition to the commission as its role in New Jersey’s economic development, through the Department of State’s Business Action Center, grows,” said Sean Conner, spokesman for the governor’s office.He is a board member and a past president of the Jewish National Fund for northeastern New Jersey.

Honig is no stranger to the Israeli business community. Most recently, he was in Israel in June for an economic mission through the Ministry of Finance to build the relationship between Israel and the financial sector. During the 1990s, Hoenig ran Zmanim, a software company based in Haifa.

Because of the faltering economic situation in New Jersey, the state needs an engine for growth, Honig said. Israel, which is experiencing economic growth, is looking to expand its businesses. In his role with Honig International, Honig matches companies with the right candidates. Because of that, he said, he can help broker deals for Israeli companies to set up in New Jersey.

“It’s one of those situations you can really feel great about,” he said. “As a New Jersey resident I want to see more people work, and as somebody who loves Israel I want to see Israel thrive as well. I can help boost both economies. That’s a win-win.”

The New Jersey-Israel Commission was created in 1989 to foster trade, culture, and educational exchanges between Israel and New Jersey.

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