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entries tagged with: Cross River Bank


Is there such a thing as a kosher bank?

Warren BorosonLocal
Published: 04 September 2009

What’s so different about Cross River Bank in Teaneck?

About half the staff is Jewish, and many of the men wear kippot at work — including the chairman, Gilles Gade. Gade, who is 43, even wore his kippah — proudly — while being interviewed on CNBC and Fox Business News.

The bank is closed on Friday afternoons (at 4), Saturdays, and Jewish holidays. Doesn’t this hurt business? Gade replies, “It’s a blessing.” The bank gets a good deal of business from Jewish institutions.

The bank is doing well, too, although it opened only in November. Deposits are closing in on $50 million. And anyone can open a checking or savings account there — if they aren’t scared away by all the PRIVATE PARKING signs.

Gade was born in Paris and went to school there, then came to this country in 1991, when 25.

He pronounces his name the English and not the French way — “Gil Gade.” He’s quiet, modest, and careful in what he says. His office is small and windowless; on a wall, there’s a photograph of Albert Einstein, with this quote: “Imagination is more valuable than knowledge.”

Gilles Gade, a banker who is an authority on anti-Semitism

He’s unusually knowledgeable about anti-Semitism: that’s what he wrote his thesis about while in a Paris business school.

What are some of the causes of anti-Semitism? Gade mentions dislike of the unlike; a belief that Jews have too much power; the Jew as scapegoat: “Jews have been in the wrong place at the wrong time for 3,000 years”; and allegations of deicide. But he concludes by saying that “the real reason is, the Jews began bringing morality and conscience to the world.”

Why are some Jews themselves stridently anti-Israel?

Gade talks about a post-Holocaust trauma, where Jews have been so intimidated they want to erase all vestiges of their own Judaism. And he points out that it’s a few liberal Jews who may be anti-Israel; political conservatives are overwhelmingly pro-Israel.

Gade is deeply involved in Jewish affairs. For 15 years, he’s been visiting college campuses all over the country, from Boston to California, giving lectures to Jewish students (usually at Hillels) about Judaism and Israel, under the auspices of Aish HaTorah, an international network of Jewish learning. He used to make as many as 50 trips a year, but now it’s down to 15 to 20. He’ll talk for an hour or an hour and a half, focusing on Jewish values and the Jewish heritage. “I want to make them feel proud to be Jewish,” he says.

Jewish students are more timid these days, he reports. “They’re not as willing to defend their positions” as earlier waves of students had been. The pro-Palestinian groups on campus are well organized and well financed.

“As Palestinian propaganda has ratcheted up, the Jewish students have gotten more defensive,” he says. Sometimes the Palestinians even have the support of faculty.

What has helped enormously, Gade goes on, is Birthright Israel — the program that sends Jewish young people, free of charge, to the Jewish state. Some 220,000 have gone on Birthright so far, and these youngsters tend to be more energetic in defending Israel. Besides, “If you’re attached to Israel,” he observes, “you tend to become attached to Judaism as a whole.”

Not long ago, very few Jews in the United States were bankers. Why was that?

In Europe, Gade replies, Jews were restricted to money-lending; when they came to the United States, they deliberately avoided banking and eagerly became doctors, lawyers, and teachers.

But he does not rule out anti-Semitism on Wall Street: Back in the early 20th century, J.P. Morgan, for example, the famous banker, would never hire Jews. Eventually Jews launched their own financial institutions, like Goldman Sachs and Bear Sterns.

“Today, it’s totally changed,” Gade says. Anti-Semitism in banking seems to have vanished.

This reporter asks, “How come you’re starting a new bank? A few years ago, banks were consolidating like mad.”

New banks, Gade explains, have a blank slate — no toxic loans fouling up their books. So they can be more liberal in granting loans.

But even now, underwriting standards are tougher: Today there’s a 65 percent loan- to-value ratio whereas once it was 80 percent. (Your investment must be 35 percent of the loan.)

How will Cross River compete?

Says Gade, “We’re offering friendly, courteous, personal service — unlike the impersonal service at Chase or Citibank. We tend to say ‘yes’ a lot.”

He explains that the name Cross River comes from the bank’s eagerness to do business with both New Jersey and New York customers — as well as customers from other states. “It suggests that we have no boundaries.” Also, it refers to Abraham’s crossing a spiritual river — introducing “a new type of banking, one where the customer is not just an account number.”

He says that Cross River chose to locate in Teaneck because of the large Jewish population there and in nearby Englewood, Tenafly, and Bergenfield.

Gade lives in a house in Cedarhurst, Long Island, and his commute is usually 40 minutes each way. Before starting Cross River, he worked for Bear Sterns and Barclay’s Capital and was CFO of First Meridian, a mortgage company in New York City. He’s been married for 14 years, and he and his wife, Sarah, have four very young children, all girls.

His favorite local restaurants? Dougie’s, Chickies, Sushi Metguyan, all on Teaneck’s West Englewood Avenue.

How does he like Teaneck in general? He answers: “I really like the sense of community, the Jewish life, the friendliness,and the fact that it’s centrally located.

“My wife especially loves the Paramus mall.”


Bank offers to make up for Teaneck busing budget cut

Many parents in Teaneck are protesting the consolidation of private school bus routes. Larry Yudelson

The school busing controversy in Teaneck took some sharp turns this week.

On Monday, 400 parents gathered at the Richard Rodda Community Center to protest the consolidation of private school bus routes announced by the Teaneck Board of Education late last month. The controversial plan would save bus drivers time and the board of education $85,000.

Monday’s meeting was called by a group of concerned parents under the banner of Safe Teaneck. The parents warned that the plan endangered their children. It required children to walk long distances in the early morning, and to wait in unwieldy groups of as many as 20 students at street corners, many of which have no sidewalks. The group of parents of day school students was supported by two of the town’s Orthodox council members, who echoed parents’ concerns that the changes would endanger the children.

Board of education members present at the meeting said they were concerned for the safety of the children, but they did not endorse the complaints.

In a related development on Monday, a Teaneck bank offered to donate $85,000 to the school district to offset the cost of restoring full-service bus routes.

“I feel very close to the community,” said Gilles Gade, chairman of Cross River Bank in Teaneck, explaining why he asked his bank’s board to approve the donation.

Gade, an Orthodox Jew, commutes to Teaneck from his home in Cedarhurst, Long Island.

“As a parent, I feel for the parents in the community,” he said. “The bank was specifically opened to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.”

Gade was alerted to the issue by the councilmen, Elie Katz and Yitz Stern, he said.

The offer would seem to resolve the issue, but the board of education was not prepared to accept it in advance of a public meeting it planned to hold on Wednesday, after this paper went to press. The public meeting was called to give parents another chance to express their concerns.

“The devil is in the details,” Ardie Walser, president of the board, told The Jewish Standard. “As a board, we have to be bogged down in the details.”

Walser said that students in public school will also suffer under the new school budget, which eliminated “courtesy” busing to students in kindergarten through fourth grade who live less than two miles from their school.

“This is a safety issue,” Stern told Monday’s meeting. “This is not about religion, not about how much property tax people pay.”

But property tax bills came up in heated one-on-one conversations between day school parents and school board members after Monday’s meeting ended. Many day school parents felt that in cutting back on bus services, the school board had broken an unspoken social contract they had with the school board.

“People moved to Teaneck for the busing,” said one mother of four, who asked for anonymity. “When the Realtors showed us the houses, they said, it would cost a little bit less to buy in Bergenfield, but there it will cost you $2,000 a child for busing.” Property taxes in Bergenfield are significantly lower, she said.

The mother said that parents of yeshiva students feel that the board of education was instituting a serious cut to the services to close a very small budget gap. The board of education does not dispute the numbers. It said that the combined savings from both consolidating private school busing and eliminating in-town courtesy busing come to one-third of one percent of the district’s $87 million budget for the coming year.

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