Having faith in business

Company owners and professionals form Jewish Business Network

Jewish business owner Danny Tehrani said people in Clark County would likely be surprised to learn the same thing he recently did about the local Jewish community – there is one. Tehrani, owner of Computers Made Easy, is a member of Clark County’s Jewish Business Network, a newly-formed group of Jewish business owners and professionals.

"I was surprised there are a lot of Jewish business people in Clark County," said Tehrani. "We have been here and are very successful and willing to help."

The group was formed as an opportunity for members to network and find ways to help underprivileged families in Clark County.

The Jewish Business Network is an extension of a growing Jewish community within the county called Chabad Lubavitch of Clark County. Chabad Lubavitch is an international Jewish organization that sends emissary families around the world to develop more active Jewish communities.

Seeing a need in Clark County, Rabbi Shmulik Greenberg and his wife Tzivie Greenberg and their son Mendel moved to Vancouver in 2003 to establish a Chabad center. Greenberg explains his work as "helping the Jewish community be more Jewish."

Rabbi Greenberg was raised in a city just outside Tel Aviv, Israel. He was educated there in Chabad schools and later studied in the Rabbinical College in Brooklyn, New York, where the Chabad Lubavitch organization is headquartered. Greenberg was married to his wife, who was born and raised in New Jersey, in 2001. The couple began looking for a place to work in Jewish outreach and settled in Vancouver.

"Clark County was chosen because it is a growing community in general," said Greenberg.

Just recently, the first Jewish synagogue was established in Clark County. Marty Rifkin and Kate Jones, owners of Vancouver vitamin supplier Nutrition Now, purchased and donated a 2,500-square-foot space in EastRidge Business Park to house the synagogue and other programs and activities.

"We wanted to find a place that had some permanence," said Rifkin. "It’s a beginning."

Having a permanent home has always been a challenge for other Jewish groups in the area, said Rifkin, such as Congregation Kol Ami, which holds services at the First Congregational Church in Vancouver.

Besides serving as a synagogue, the building has provided a home for many of the Chabad’s gatherings, such as cultural activities, Jewish studies and classes for children and adults, social events and senior and parent groups.

There is also a comfort to those in the Jewish community that there is a "Jewish place," said Greenberg. Additionally, Greenberg said he gets many phone calls from people considering moving here and are interested to know if there is a synagogue in the community.

Stephen Eichen, chief information officer for Nautilus, moved to Vancouver about two years ago. His family is involved with Chabad, and, despite the precious little free time he has outside of work, he was interested in investing in the Jewish community by participating in the Jewish Business Network. The group allows participants to share capabilities, he said.

The impetus for the Jewish Business Network, said Rifkin, who serves as chair of the group, was to initiate programs to serve those in need in the community. The group was formed in January this year and has grown to include about 20 people at its monthly meetings. Participants identify specific programs they are interested in supporting and how to best do so. The meetings also feature guest speakers, such as Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard and local businessman Paul Christensen.

The group helped families in need celebrate the Passover holiday, and has supported families in crisis. A fund has also been developed for a Jewish day camp over the summer.

Greenberg said it is good for business people of a common background to get together, because "as a group they can accomplish so much more."

A lot of Clark County Jews are tied into organizations in Portland and are surprised to learn that there is such a thing here, said Rifkin. And getting the word out has attracted more participants.

"If they are going to help people," said Rifkin, "they like to know the programs are benefiting people here."

Tehrani said sharing a common religious background gives individuals of the group a connection and motivates the group’s efforts. Everyone – not just Jews – are invited, participants emphasize. Anyone with intersecting interests, including diversity and fighting global persecution, are encouraged to attend, said Eichen.

Greenberg hopes to make the Jewish community in Clark County as strong and successful as other Jewish communities in the world with the help of the Jewish Business Network. Eichen agrees it is a good starting point.

"Sometimes it starts with business leaders and then leveraged from that network," he said.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Jewish Business Network or find out about upcoming meetings can call 360-993-5222 or email JBN@chabadclarkcounty.com.

On the Web: www.chabadclarkcounty.com