People have been known to whip out their wallets when Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg knocks on the door.
After all, why would a black-hatted chasidic Jew be approaching if not to collect tzedakah?
Well, Rabbi Ginzberg doesn’t need any handouts. In fact, this 34-year-old father of four has built an international reputation telling others – from Jewish communities to politicians to corporations – how to increase their bottom line through more effective marketing and networking.
On March 25, he is scheduled as a featured speaker at the Parnassah Expo at the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center in Edison. The expo is billed as the largest business networking event in the country and is targeted specifically to the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox sectors. (For more about the expo, go to parnassahexpo.com.)
|Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg lectures on the fine points of networking.|
Last year, the expo’s inaugural year, Rabbi Ginzberg was a last-minute addition to the program and ended up speaking twice, once in English and once in Yiddish. A native of Brooklyn, he now also speaks Hebrew since moving his family to Jerusalem from Lakewood five years ago.
“I have three topics I can speak on, to be of service to the community,” he said. “The main one is about the psychology behind networking and marketing. What people pay me for is my understanding of how to apply principles of psychology in business, marketing, and social media. Social media usually doesn’t lead to sales, but I understand how to use it in a profitable way.
“I don’t mean to say I have superhuman powers or I’m psychic. It’s just that I understand what works, why it works, and how to make it work.”
This knack has earned Rabbi Ginzberg a host of accolades. In December 2013, he was named an Orthodox Jewish All Star by “Jew in the City,” along with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Nobel laureate Robert Aumann. He has been voted one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 10 Entrepreneurs, writes a weekly business column for the Jerusalem Post, and as a teenager got his first Internet-based business – creating and selling icons – featured on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s website.
No fancy degrees ““ in fact, barely any degrees at all ““ stand behind Rabbi Ginzberg’s reputation. He attended Bobover yeshivas as a boy, a chasidic yeshiva in Israel as a teen, and then Ohr Somayach Education Center in Jerusalem, where he earned his rabbinic ordination, bachelor’s degree, and teaching credentials.
Oh, and he is also a trained mohel – a ritual circumciser.
“I am certified to hatch, match, and dispatch – cradle to grave,” he jokes.
An early adopter, he got one of his first checks – for $35, from an Apple executive – for his custom icons.
“Suddenly I realized the world is flat, and no matter what you look like or what credentials you have, if you have the goods people will buy from you,” he said. “As long as you know what you’re doing, you don’t need credentials. People only want to make sure you’re not a scam artist, and you can prove that with testimonials and facts on the ground. Not everyone can take what they learned in school and do it well.”
His appreciation of the divine hand that guides him is reflected in the name of his consultancy company, All From Above, based in Brooklyn and Jerusalem.
One of his other frequent topics is networking. “It’s not just about coming to an event and collecting business cards. It’s a lot more strategic than that,” he said. “You have to use online and offline tools to get to the people you want to meet.
“You have to realize that one of the main reasons to go to an event is to network with organizers and speakers, not just participants.”
His third topic is how publicity works. “Orthodox people have an image problem in the media – rightfully, in most cases. We are scared of the media because it can hurt us tremendously. The media has spread the impression that charedi Jews live under the poverty line on government handouts, yet there are many successful charedi Jews in business,” he said.
“Since we all dress the same and look the same and drive minivans, you can’t tell if a charedi Jew is successful or not just by looking at him. But I show people how they can use publicity to make a Kiddush Hashem [sanctification of God’s name] and promote themselves in the media.”
Rabbi Ginzberg, who spends each morning learning in a yeshiva, is careful to note that his advice does not include following his example to career success.
“I do not believe everyone should do what I did – not going to college, not having any professional background. I’ve been successful through siyata d’shmaya” – with the help of heaven – “but I’m not advocating my path for everybody.”
Paradoxically, he says his credibility in Jewish communities has grown out of his successes in the gentile sphere. Testimonials on his website, www.issamar.com, are from a rainbow of people, including a Coptic Egyptian and an Australian pastor.
“This week I did a seminar in Montreal for the Jewish community,” he said. “Why are they willing to listen to me? Once I gained credibility in the non-Jewish world on several continents, then my own community can accept that I have knowledge they can gain from.”