We have many common interests with Israel, certainly as the only democratic partner in the Middle East at this time," said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37th district), a state-appointed member of the New Jersey-Israel Commission in an interview with The Jewish Standard on Tuesday.
As a member of the commission for eight years, first as an assemblywoman and then as a state senator, Weinberg has sought to bring public attention to its work of strengthening the relationship between New Jersey and Israel.
"We bring business here from Israel and we export business from here to Israel," she said. "We’re going to profit as residents of the state of New Jersey through the development of the kinds of technologies [Israel is] researching."
Established in 1989, the Trenton-based commission has eight members appointed by the state legislature and 1’5 general members appointed by the governor. Most recently, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36th district), was appointed to the commission in the spring.
"New Jersey can use much of Israel’s expertise and the opposite holds true as well," Schaer told the Standard on Wednesday. "Israel is leading the world in many areas of development. Bringing many of those things to New Jersey will help employment, development, help our economy grow, help our tax base, and help our employment. It’s a win-win situation."
The commission works as the official representative of the Tel Aviv-based Israel-U.S. Bi-national Industrial Research Development Foundation to distribute grants up to $1 million to Israeli companies opening locations in New Jersey and New Jersey companies working with Israeli counterparts.
In April, Telcordia Technologies Inc. of Piscataway and the Israeli company Uniper received a $1 million grant for the design of a system to switch between communications networks based on different technologies while maintaining session continuity. Recently, the commission announced a $500,000 BIRD grant for Enforsys Systems Inc. in Whippany and Svivot Ltd. of Netanya to develop an information-sharing system. The New Jersey-Israel Commission announced the grant at its Sept. 1′ meeting at the Technology Centre of New Jersey in North Brunswick.
The commission seeks out New Jersey companies that are either interested in an Israeli partner or technology, or already have a partner and don’t know they can receive grant money, said Andrea Yonah, its executive director.
"Through BIRD we identify funding not state funding for New Jersey-Israel business partnerships that are both innovative and include technology, and benefit the constituents of New Jersey," Yonah said. "The relationship between the state of New Jersey and Israel has been beneficial to all taxpayers here in the state."
Since Yonah joined the commission in ’00’, five projects in the state have been approved for BIRD funding. In ‘004, New Jersey exported $430 million worth of goods to Israel. More than 50 Israeli companies have locations here that employ more than 1,000 people.
Leonard Cole, past president of UJA of Northern New Jersey, helped organize, with the commission, a ‘005 delegation from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, state homeland security officials, and others, to Hadassah Hospital’s facilities in Israel to study a new field called terror medicine.
Cole saw the trip as an opportunity for New Jersey institutions to learn from Israel’s experiences.
"This is another vehicle for bringing Israeli expertise to an American audience and to American specialists in the area of medical response but also across the board," Cole said.
On Nov. 8, New Jersey will host a stop on the Israel Life Science Roadshow, a tour of 1′ to 15 Israeli life science companies in partnership with the BIRD Foundation, the Israeli Economic Mission, and the Israeli Center for Research and Development. This year’s tour will begin in Virginia, head to Boston, New Jersey, and New York City. Although the New Jersey leg of the trip has been held in Newark for the last two years, this year it will be closer to Princeton. The commission will bring executives from New Jersey-based pharmaceutical and biotech firms to meet with the Israelis, as well as host panels on economic incentives and companies that have already created successful collaborations.
"All of these initiatives are looking to increase economic growth in the state, specific to technology and innovation in Israel," Yonah said. "We try to understand the needs that exist in the state in relation to Israel and foster the close relationship that exists between our two states."