Business networking group draws members to synagogue

Business networking group draws members to synagogue

Nobody was sure what Jonathan Rochlin did for a living. Apparently, people assumed he was a stockbroker. But, said Rochlin, now that he’s started a business networking group at his synagogue in River Edge, more people understand just what a financial adviser does.

Jonathan Rochlin and Ron Block discuss how to better their businesses at the Temple Sholom Business Networking Group.

"All those who are in business for themselves realize that marketing is the key to what they do," said Ron Block, a member of the group, pointing out that since not every business can afford an ad in the New York Times, entrepreneurs need to find other ways to promote what they do.

In October ‘006, while dropping their children off at Temple Sholom’s Sunday school, Rochlin and another congregant — talking about how to promote their businesses — had what Rochlin described as "an ‘Aha!’ moment," leading to the creation of the Temple Sholom Business Networking Group. Now, about a dozen shul members meet twice a month to pitch themselves, share best practices, and get referrals for their businesses.

The group has brought benefits not only to the members but to Temple Sholom as well, said Rochlin. That’s why he wants to expand the program to include synagogues across Bergen County.

"The networking group has been fantastic for Temple Sholom in that we’ve uncovered resources in our community… people who lost touch [with the synagogue]," who, thanks to the group, have now become more involved, said Rochlin, a trustee on the shul’s board. "They’ve attended, gotten involved in the men’s club, and donated goods and services to the temple."

Rochlin has been in touch with Judy Beck at the Synagogue Leadership Initiative of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, as well as with representatives of various synagogues in the area, describing the benefits of such a group. The expansion process is slow, however, and part of the problem, he said, is that not everybody understands what business networking is about.

During the first few minutes of every meeting, each member stands up and gives what is called an elevator speech, a 30-second spiel about what they do, so that all the members know what everybody else does and can make referrals to friends. The second part of the meeting is devoted to discussing how to promote each other’s businesses. Membership in the group is $10 a month.

"Over time, you develop an awareness of opportunities for everybody in the group," said Block, who runs a franchise of Priority Management, a consulting company, from his River Edge home. "It’s basically getting a lot of people to have an awareness of who you are, so when an opportunity does arise, you can take advantage of it."

The group also organizes free events at the temple. Block hosted a breakfast in October called "Organize or agonize: Working smart with Microsoft Outlook." Next month, the group will host a breakfast on estate planning with an attorney, a financial adviser, and Rochlin. Such events help all synagogue members, while the networking group draws busy people into the shul, Rochlin said.

"When I initially joined, it was a way for me to spend more time with the people at the temple," said Howard Adler, a partner in Pascack Data Services in Glen Rock, who noted that while he has always paid his dues to the temple men’s club, he never attended any events. In the past six months, however, he’s been to at least a half dozen events because people in the network convinced him to go. "They’ve told me about different things in the temple worthwhile for me and my family," Adler said.

But for Adler, the benefits have been even greater, going beyond increased synagogue attendance.

"I have gotten several very good leads for business from the group," he said. "Nowhere else can you join a group and get all this out of it for $10 a month."

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