NEW YORK (VINnews/SandyEller) – More than 4,000 people flocked to the Garden State on Wednesday for the first-ever trade show dedicated to furthering business within the Satmar community.
Held at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison, the full day expo was a project of Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar and the Hisachdus Avreichim D’Satmar. The show cast the spotlight on the community’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit, with over 300 booths reflecting the Satmar presence in a wide variety of industries including finance, insurance, real estate, construction, technology, health care, food, publishing and more.
Designed to encourage members of the Satmar congregation to support each other’s businesses, the event was open to the entire Jewish community, with all exhibitors and vendors hailing from the Satmar community.
The event was heavily subsidized by the Satmar congregation, with admission kept to just $5 a person in order to encourage attendance. Running from 9 AM to 8 PM, the expo provided a wealth of networking opportunities, three full meals and discussions on matters of Jewish law and business, with prominent rabbonim and leaders of the legal, accounting and financing worlds sharing their experience and advice throughout the day at informative lectures.
Addressing participants throughout the day, Zecharia Waxler, co-managing partner at Roth&Co, Sim Shapiro, partner and co-chair of litigation services at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Eli Leshkowitz, partner at Leshkowitz & Company, and Gedalia Stern, partner at Necheles Law discussed a variety of issues including insurance, liability, labor laws, taxes and the importance and benefits of compliance. Serial entrepreneur Aron Polatsek encouraged those just entering the business world by recounting how he had once been in their shoes and had built a successful career from scratch, persevering as he met challenges along the way.
Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar president Rabbi Berel Jacobowitz emphasized the beauty of being part of a larger congregation, where members patronize each other’s establishments and help each other succeed. He noted that the show was just one of several initiatives being launched to help community businesses flourish, with multiple seminars already in the planning stages to provide invaluable advice to those just starting out in the world of commerce.
Additionally, Satmar resources centers in Borough Park, Williamsburg, Monsey and Kiryas Joel are being developed to provide assistance to community members and the Satmar congregation is working on a directory that would give those building or renovating a home the ability to complete the entire project using Satmar contractors.
“There isn’t a segment of the economy that our community is not involved in and doesn’t excel in,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn told VIN News. “Who would have ever believed that after we were almost wiped out during the war that we would be able to rebuild our community, and that our great Rebbe, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, would have the foresight to recreate the shtetl in the melting pot of America?”
Ensuring the prosperity of his community so that its members would have the wherewithal to continue flexing its charitable muscles was a high priority for the Satmar Grand Rabbi, explained expo organizer and real estate developer Joel Braver. To that end, Rabbi Teitelbaum built up a yeshiva system that now has an enrollment in New York State of over 40,000 children who are following closely in the footsteps of their European ancestors. The expo continued highlighted that tradition which has long supplemented religious education by teaching community members a trade as they prepare to embark on the next chapter of their lives.
“These children and grandchildren who were born here are being raised as real Yankees, but they did not assimilate or change and are still so successful in helping to put bread on the table for thousands and thousands of families from all religions and ethnicities,” said Rabbi Niederman. “The Satmar community’s success is built on the foundation of a yeshiva education and this expo portrayed its success, providing a platform for thousands of entrepreneurs to come together to share ideas, to network, and to talk about their latest innovations and success stories.”
OJPAC co-founder Yossi Gestetner noted how the expo drove home the point that the Jewish community, and Chasidim in particular, can be found in practically every industry.
“Literally all types of businesses and services that someone could access throughout life they can essentially get in the Jewish community and more so in the Charedi community,” said Gestetner, a business strategist with a focus in marketing.
With potential New York State regulations looming that could be devastating to the yeshiva educational system, Gestetner noted how he built on his schooling to make his way in the business world, getting a GED and using his general knowledge and experience to eventually earn a bachelor of science in his chosen field. He believes strongly that that the fact that members of the Chasidic community can expand their educational horizons on their own schedules in the areas that interest them most, in no way suggests that their yeshiva education did not lay valuable groundwork that would help them succeed in later life.
“This expo was a testament to the underlying economy that the Chasidic community has, which due to family size and the young age of their heads of households may not be seen in official data which gets skewed by these two factors,” observed Gestetner.
With poverty statistics measuring income relative to family size, it appears that an overwhelming number of young Chasidic families fall into that category in their twenties, those numbers rebalancing later in life to exactly match that of the general population.
“At 45 years old, members of the Chasidic community have typically reached full earning capacity and have few to no children at home,” explained Gestetner. “These non-educational factors show how our community members have a better chance to succeed over time.”
Organizers were overwhelmed by the expo’s turnout, noting that as they number of exhibited and ticketed attendees grew, they had to open up additional sections of the convention center to accommodate the crowd.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we expect to have such a turnout,” admitted Braver. “This was pure siyata dishmaya, help from G-d, and we have no doubt that the power of the Rebbe, who believed in people owning their own businesses, made this event the success it was.”