It began in Bayonne.
Jimmy Davis had just been elected the city’s mayor, and David Rosenberg, a Union City native who was director of communications for Union City’s Hatzolah ambulance corps, organized a lunch to introduce the mayor to a group of about two dozen Jewish business owners he had assembled.
That was in August 2014.
Now six years later, what started as the Hudson County Jewish Business Alliance and then expanded into the North Jersey Jewish Business Alliance has rebranded as the New Jersey Jewish Business Alliance. And to help its brand of networking expand statewide, Mr. Rosenberg has brought on Joshua Pruzansky, who had been the state political director for Agudath Israel and then for the Orthodox Union, as vice president of member engagement.
At the first meeting, Mr. Rosenberg discovered the potential that exists when business owners gather.
“There were two people sitting across from each other at the table,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “One asked the other, ‘What do you do?’ He said he manufactures garbage bags. The other guy said ‘We distribute janitorial supplies.’”
And like that, a shidduch was made, and the New Jersey distributor found a New Jersey supplier.
Now, the alliance has around 200 members, from small businesses to nationally traded public companies.
“We would love to have all the Jewish business community be part of this alliance,” Mr. Pruzansky said. “There is strength in numbers. Hopefully business will see the advantage of there being a united voice in the Jewish business community.”
In the last few years, according to Mr. Pruzansky, many businesses have moved from New York to New Jersey. “A lot of businesses that were in Brooklyn are now situated in larger facilities in North Jersey,” he said. “Even in Central New Jersey: Mesorah Publications — ArtScroll — recently moved from Brooklyn to Rahway. We’re working together with the state on economic packages to make it more feasible to be here than across the river.”
The alliance helps businesses making the move by connecting them with local officials, Mr. Rosenberg said.
“The bureaucracy is very different here. In New York City, it’s one big central government. The population is almost like that of the whole State of New Jersey, but when you come to New Jersey, every few blocks is a different municipality. There are different counties, different zoning laws, different officials, different people in charge. The mindset can be very different from one municipality to the next.
“I’m a matchmaker. I’m not the expert in everything, but I can put you in touch with experts in most fields, whether it is legal, governmental, or you need a new broker,” Mr. Rosenberg said.
Both Mr. Pruzansky and Mr. Rosenberg are Orthodox. Mr. Rosenberg is from the Sanz-Klausenburger chasidic community, which opened an outpost in Union City in 1968.
“I would say most of our members are probably not Orthodox,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “Many of them are not even Jewish. We don’t discriminate.”
Why bring in non-Jewish members?
“It gives us more diversity,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “It’s all about building a stronger voice. They see a value in being part of the network and they want to sign up.”
In August, the organization held its annual legislative luncheon.
Governor Phil Murphy sent a video message. “His chief of staff was online, as was the department of labor. They understand this is an important alliance they need to work with,” Mr. Pruzansky said.
The organization also has taken members to Washington D.C. and Trenton. “When life gets back to normal, we will have a lot of events and get people together again,” Mr. Pruzansky said.
Mr. Pruzansky said that relationships with public officials are very helpful for businesses.
“Sometimes there can be stuff that can hold up a whole project,” he said. “Seeing what the problem is and helping them navigate the problem can make a difference. Sometimes it has to be addressed with the town, sometimes with the right attorneys, accountants or lawyers.”
Perhaps the alliance’s biggest political ask came several years ago, and it involved Bayonne. The Port Authority was rebuilding the Bayonne Bridge so a new generation of large ships could pass under on their way to the Port of Newark.
The rebuilding meant that the bridge was closed frequently. Without traffic, and with the bridge, it’s 30 minutes from Bayonne to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, via the Bayonne and the Verrazzano Narrows bridges.
“The closures created a lot of issues,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “It affected the trucks sending their stuff to New York. It affected the workers coming in.”
So Mr. Rosenberg, speaking on behalf of the alliance, set up a meeting with Port Authority officials. “We asked them to keep it open at least on Fridays, so people can get back home at a normal hour,” Mr. Rosenberg said.
“The authority is very difficult to do anything with,” Mr. Rosenberg said with a shrug. “Nothing really changed, except one courtesy they gave us: Erev Yom Kippur they left the bridge open. That was pretty nice of them.”