Top-level officials from the Israel Defense Forces enjoy magic tricks, according to Jay Paul of Washington Township.
He’s a businessman and magician and he’s entertained the IDF brass with his card tricks while plying his trade.
Mr. Paul is in the textile business and he has brought along his bag of tricks to meetings with the IDF as he pitched military uniforms and accessories. He has followed in his father’s footsteps; Bert Paul had provided the Israeli government with military specification fabrics back in the 1970s. Jay got to know the international side of the textile business by accompanying Bert to meetings at the Israeli mission in Manhattan.
While the textile business may not sound adventurous, Mr. Paul’s experiences have been unique. He loves to travel and has visited and made business connections in an eclectic mix of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Germany, Norway, and Israel.
Mr. Paul, 57, grew up in Paramus; he and his Israeli-born wife, Orit, raised their two sons in Washington Townships, attending and making two bar mitzvahs in Temple Emmanuel in Woodcliff Lake. He discovered his love of magic when he was 9 year old, and his passion for it carried into adulthood. He attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, earning a degree in textile technology. At his wife’s urging, he named his company Magic Textiles in honor of his passion for magic; he still regularly attends meetings of magicians — the International Brotherhood of Magicians (yes, it’s IBM). But he also uses his clever tricks as a sales device. “Magic is a great ice breaker,” he said. It entertains potential customers and clients. He also gets the occasional gig; performing magic at picnics, cocktail parties, and senior living facilities. “Some people really enjoy it,” he said. “Some hate it because they don’t want to be fooled.”
Magic Textiles was founded in 1989, when Mr. Paul and his business partner, Jeffrey Rubinstein, started selling fabrics to home furnishing companies. When his first son was born in 1993, Mr. Paul became interested in juvenile fabric patterns and discovered a French pastel with a children’s theme that his company sold to ToysRUs. But, Mr. Paul said, “the juvenile industry went to Mexico and China,” so the company pursued another area, the military specification business. It developed a line of fabric for chemical protection, and landed a very large account with the U.S. military.
Chemical protection suits have a special finish to repel water and toxic chemicals. “I could tell you how it’s made — but then I’d have to kill you,” Mr. Paul quipped. Then he explained that the suit’s outer shell shields a charcoal layer within the cloth that absorbs noxious gases. Military specification textiles are a very specialized area of the business, and the fabrics it requires are costly to produce.
Mr. Paul’s work with the military led to Magic Textiles getting Department of Commerce approval to market American made materials overseas. “We went to military shows,” he said. “The materials that were made in the U.S. were shipped to other countries, including Columbia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Norway. Israel was our biggest account.”
Magic Textiles signed contracts with the Government of Israel Mission of Defense in New York City. “They opened their arms to us,” Mr. Paul said. “We won many bids.” He explained that the Israeli government buys with U.S. Foreign Military Funds — that is money granted by the United States that must be spent in the United States. “The IDF also has its own money, which they use to buy direct, using shekels,” Mr. Paul said. “We connected with Israeli agents and did business with the Israeli Police Department, the border patrol, and the IDF.” Mr. Paul and Mr. Rubinstein went to Israel many times to conduct their business.
Because of his experience supplying military garb, Mr. Paul became interested in silver-treated fabrics, which have anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, are useful in garments that get a lot of wear. The company brought silver-infused army boot socks to soldiers in Israel.
“The socks have silver in them, heel to toe, to prevent fungus and smell,” Mr. Paul said. This is important in situations where soldiers may not be able to change socks daily, and reduces microbes and smelly feet during troop exercises and missions. “We pitched it to the IDF in Israel, and sold two container-loads of silver army-boot socks.” Shipping containers carry tens of thousands of pounds of goods. “ Subsequently an Israeli company developed Cupron — copper-embedded socks. “All metals are antimicrobial,” Mr. Paul said. “Copper also does the job.” Once the Israeli vendor got the bid changed from silver to either copper or silver, Cupron got the deal. “But the whole thing started with us,” he said.
And the partners moved on.
“Once we started with silver socks, we figured let’s make silver handkerchiefs,” Mr. Paul said. “We had them tested to market as a consumer product.” The “Germ-Eraser,” a handkerchief that reduces microbial contamination, was developed to be a handy, portable hand and surface cleanser.
There is a history of using silver to fight germs, Mr. Paul said. For example, “men at sea used to put silver coins in the barrels of water to purify the water.” Silverware also has antimicrobial properties, and medical equipment made of silver reduces transfer of germs. “The military uses it,” Mr. Paul said. “Now we’re bringing it to the consumer level. It’s a proven technology.”
The Germ Eraser is a light square cloth with silver ions embedded in it. “It’s a dry, safe alternative to liquid hand sanitizer,” Mr. Paul said. “Liquid sanitizer dries out your hands and causes skin cracking.” He frequently wipes his hands, shopping cart handles, and other surfaces with his silver hanky. Some silver ions are released when wiping hands or other surfaces.
He has found that the Germ Eraser is very useful for travel. “The tray table on an airplane is the most germ-ridden area of the plane,” he said. “I’ve traveled the world and I use it, and I never get sick. I shook a lot of hands and touched a lot of handrails.”
There is a website, www.germeraser.net, that provides information on the product, including a link to microbial test results showing that it kills bacteria. “You can use the Germ Eraser until the fabric degrades, or until you lose it,” Mr. Paul said.
Another unique product Magic Textiles developed is for clinical use. In recent years, Mr. Paul has accompanied his parents — both his father and his mother, Gerry, are 88 — to many doctors’ appointments. He was concerned to noticed that doctors did not seem to be cleaning their stethoscopes properly. “Doctors say they never clean their stethoscopes, or cover them,” Mr. Paul said. But, he continued, “the stethoscope is the most germ-contaminated item in the doctors’ office. The second most contaminated are the doctors’ or nurses’ fingertips, with which they touch the stethoscope.
“Jeff came up with the idea of stethoscope covers,” he continued. “We put silver on stretchy spandex, to slip over the standard stethoscope. It’s the first and only non-disposable stethoscope cover.” Magic Textiles is marketing Santé Reusable Stethoscope Covers through a medical distributer.
Partners Jay and Jeff have traveled quite a bit, including to a military base in a very remote area of Colombia, South America. For five years they worked with contacts in Melgar, 60 miles from Bogota, where they produced uniforms treated with permethrin, an anti-malarial natural insecticide made from chrysanthemums. Some U.S. army uniforms also are treated with that chemical, and so are some golfer’s hats.
Not all the two men’s travels were as fruitful. In Ecuador they pitched silver-embedded sheets to hospitals, but that turned out to be too expensive an outlay, even though such products could save hospitals money in the long run.
Mr. Paul was wary when he arrived in Saudi Arabia; as a Jew, he did not know what to expect. What he found was hospitality from all of his customers. “I sold them fabric for their navy,” he said. “We met their specifications for white fabric. I always try to find a common bond between myself and whoever I’m talking to. I made a lot of friends in Saudi Arabia.
“Although I had multiple stamps in my passport from Israel, I didn’t have any problems entering the country,” he added. His customers insisted on taking them to restaurants, for camel rides, and even to the Riyadh branch of the restaurant Friday’s, where his clients surprised him with a birthday cake with sparklers.
Mr. Paul discovered that the Saudi weekend is different from New Jersey weekends. First, it’s observed on Friday and Saturday. But he also noted, “I went out on Saturday morning for a walk in Riyadh, their largest city. I walked for more than an hour and saw nobody. ‘Where is everybody?’ I wondered.” He learned that “everyone was inside with their families, praying. They don’t come out until about noon.”
Mr. Paul continues to carry his bag of tricks wherever he travels, and he hopes to spread better health with his newest products. “Spread the word, not the germs,” is the motto for this line of protective fabrics. He hopes to continue to provide products for improving health to many people.
Dr. Miryam Z. Wahrman of Teaneck, the Jewish Standard’s science correspondent, is a professor of biology at William Paterson University. Her book, “The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World,” provides tips on how to reduce the risk of infectious disease and stay healthier at home, in the workplace, and in school.