Tuesday, November 13, was one of those jam-packed days in the life and career of a Jewish media professional where I truly feel blessed with the job I have. Although I normally don’t leave our Jewish Link office much on Tuesdays and Wednesdays due to the rigors and stresses imposed by our demanding Wednesday-night deadline cycle, I managed to be out of the office all day last Tuesday attending two major events and had a very fulfilling and uplifting day.
Working backward, the last half of my day was spent in Secaucus at the Meadowlands Exposition Center at Kosherfest, one of my favorite annual events. Billing itself as the world’s largest and most-attended kosher-certified products trade show, Kosherfest certainly had a lot of people and a lot of kosher food. It’s also probably one of the largest business conferences for Orthodox Jews outside of Israel. More meaningfully for me and the many Jewish attendees and exhibitors, Kosherfest is a time to network and make connections with other Jewish and kosher business professionals and, of course, try a lot of interesting foods and new products. It’s an important day as I get to meet and put faces to the many advertisers and ad agencies with whom I email sometimes daily and weekly but may only see in person once or twice a year. Many of our largest advertisers are there, as are representatives from almost every local and regional restaurant, caterer, food manufacturer, Pesach program, food distributor, winery, kashrut agency, etc.
I always find that I make a few good connections and have a few good meetings and introductions, and this year was no exception. At the same time, my editors and our writers were also at Kosherfest roaming the floor shooting videos, taking notes, tasting and trying new foods, and you can read about some of their experiences on Facebook, Instagram and in next week’s editions. I left Kosherfest with two bags of great new product samples for my wife and family to try (although I ended up eating most of what I brought home) and a lot of business cards.
Earlier that same day I attended the first-ever Tribeworks One Day Business Accelerator event at the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island. This unique event was advertised in our paper and we also published an in-depth article explaining its value by Bracha Schwartz, and I saw many people I knew from our community and readership areas. More than a few of the people I saw told me they came because of the ads and article in The Jewish Link. That’s always gratifying to hear.
Tribeworks was put together by a unique partnership of nonprofit groups and backed by the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, Yeshiva University and the National Council of Young Israel with a goal of helping Jewish entrepreneurs and innovators succeed. I have attended a number of similar types of conferences over the past decade or so in different capacities, and I felt that Tribeworks was a cut above some of the past events with a more professional atmosphere, a stronger program and a wealth of good speakers and topics.
When I arrived, my friend and fellow Teanecker and Tribeworks co-founder Laizer Kornwasser was expertly interviewing IDT founder Howard Jonas in front of a full room. After that ended, I bounced around and tried to stick my head into as many seminars as I could, but a few stood out for me. I really enjoyed a presentation by Lisa Schneider, the chief digital officer of Merriam-Webster. Who knew that the process of adding words to the dictionary would be so interesting? She also talked about her efforts to bring the world’s leading dictionary company into the modern era and engage readers and online viewers. Other excellent presentations I heard parts or most of were by Andrew Singer of Constellation Energy, Bruce Taragin of Blumberg Capital, and my old MTA and YU classmate and chavruta Dr. Hillel Wiener’s older brother, Ben Wiener of Jumpspeed Ventures.
However, the highlight for me and I think for many there that day was the excellent high-end lunch and the special keynote presentation by Prof. Noam Wasserman, a best-selling author and business professor at USC and formerly of Harvard, and one of the leaders of the Jewish community in the Boston area. His topic was “Life Is a Startup: Entrepreneurial Lessons from Founders & Judaism.”
Prof. Wasserman spoke energetically and eloquently about entrepreneurship and the lessons one can learn both from the Torah and contemporary business wisdom. He cited his favorite Steve Jobs quote, “Follow your heart but check it with your head,” and compared it to the phrase from Lecha Dodi “Sof ma’aseh, b’machshava techila,” and emphasized the need for business founders to follow their passion but not to do so blindly. He also discussed the founding “team” of the world and noted the term “eizer k’negdo” to describe Chava’s role as the first wife. He noted that a founder needs to have someone who can criticize him or her, and founding teams have to learn how to fight well. Every business needs to focus on the “k’negdo” part and not be afraid of difficult conversations. In the same vein, he explained, the goal of a chavruta or any partnership is that your partner pushes you to do better, aspire to greater heights and more success.
He closed with the need to take the famous Jewish idea of “gam zu l’tovah” and take setbacks as an opportunity to rethink and reframe one’s business and approaches. He urged those present to foster and create an “anti-fragile” system in our lives and businesses that gets stronger when faced with adversity, similar to the way the human body gets stronger after heavy exercise and activity. He encouraged us to take all negative events as a chance to rethink the derech we are on and use them as a chance to possibly choose new directions and paths.
His earnest and knowledgeable style and approach won over many that day, including myself, and I left the lunch and Tribeworks with a bit of business wisdom and chizuk.
All in all, what a day!
By Moshe Kinderlehrer, Co-Publisher of The Jewish Link of BWC