Business in the Jewish Community

November 24, 2019

Other News

“It’s not personal, it’s business.”

Who doesn’t know that line from The Godfather?

The truth is, as Kathleen Kelly says in You’ve Got Mail, business is personal. And, that’s exactly what the three quick profiles on business owners Avi Eli, Jody Greason, and Lindsay Bangel are all about: the personal aspects of their businesses. They each have a story to tell and do so beginning on page 19.

Also, in this section, Tidewater Jewish Foundation offers some year-end planning tips for 2019. It’s hard to keep up these days and TJF suggests taking their tips and talking with professional advisors. Page 18.

United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Society of Professionals is an outreach group that is all about engagement, education, and networking. Learn more about SOP on page 24, along with a profile of Attorney David Kushner, on page 22.

As we go to press, Governor Ralph Northam is leading an International Trade and Marketing Mission to Israel and United Arab Emirates. How exciting for Jewish Virginians and those interested in Virginia-Israel trade and commerce. That article and one on artificial intelligence at Tel Aviv University may be found on page 23.

Of course, there are more articles—including one about a Belgian Jewish baker who is mass-producing cannabis bread. Page 25.

Since we’re on the subject of business and investments, please always try to support those businesses that support Jewish News.

Thanks!

Terri Denison
Editor

 

Year-end planning tips for 2019

Tidewater Jewish Foundation

As the end of 2019 approaches, the Tidewater Jewish Foundation offers some planning tips to community members with a note of encouragement to share this information, talk with professional advisors, and contact the TJF staff with any questions.

One big change in the recent federal tax act was the near doubling of the standard deduction. For 2019, married couples filing jointly can claim a standard deduction of $24,400 ($25,300 for those over age 65). With this increase, coupled with the $10,000 limitation to the deduction for state and local taxes and the elimination of other deductible items, less than 10 percent of all taxpayers are expected to itemize their deductions for the 2019 tax year.

“Bunching” such deductions into one year in order to exceed the standard deduction amount and claim the higher standard deduction in other years is a great strategy. And perhaps the easiest itemized deduction to bunch is for charitable contributions. One way to accomplish this is to combine all tax-deductible contributions that would otherwise be given in two or more years into one year and “bunch” them into a new or existing donor-advised fund (DAF) offered by TJF. Claim the charitable deduction in the year you make the contributions and spread distributions to favorite charities from the DAF over several years. Using appreciated securities for the DAF contribution adds another benefit of bypassing capital gains taxes. TJF has matching funds available to help open new DAFs, too.

For those who are at least 70½ years old and are considering donating to charity, it may be more beneficial to make the donation from an Individual Retirement Sccount (IRA). Qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) of up to $100,000 annually can count against the “required minimum distribution” amount that would otherwise be taxable income.

An IRA QCD is not deductible, but because it is not included in gross income, the net effect may be the same as it would have been had you made a charitable contribution. It is not necessary to itemize to get the tax benefit of a gift, so it is still possible to claim the higher standard deduction. The QCD must be made directly from an IRA custodian (and cannot go into a DAF or supporting/private foundation).

TJF offers a great online tool for this process (www.foundation.jewishva.org/qcd) which can establish a Lion of Judah (LOJE) or Perpetual Annual Campaign Endowment (PACE) or establish an endowment under LIFE & LEGACY® plans.

For more information, contact Kaitlyn Oelsner at koelsner@ujft.org, 757-965-6103 or foundation.jewishva.org.


 

Jewish News asked three Jewish-owned businesses what they do to make their brand stand out in a sea of sameness, how they give back, what they have learned, and how resilient they are to change.

Avi Eli: Hebrew Hustler

Avi Eli

Avi Eli

In 2011, Avi Eli was the guy with the funny accent hustling Dead Sea products at the mall. Today’s he’s enjoying life in Miami while Mr. Shawarma runs “hands free” and dominates Norfolk’s Middle Eastern street food sector. In 2015, following in the footsteps of his food proprietor parents, Eli went from kiosk guy to owner/operator of Mr. Shawarma, where he introduced the shawarma pole, a secret weapon of Israeli street food that flavors shaved morsels of turkey and lamb for pita and flatbread wrapping.

Eli was first to market it, teasing and tempting the Norfolk kosher (and non-kosher) community with thousands of years of Middle Eastern history in every bite. Today, he has three local managers, giving him the freedom to enjoy the sunshine state, conduct a real estate business, and come and go when needed.

How does Mr. Shawarma align with your customer’s lifestyle?

We are a Kosher and Health friendly business with a multicultural customer base.

What makes Mr. Shawarma different?

First, we are the only Kosher restaurant in Tidewater. Secondly, we are in the fast food niche, but we make everything fresh daily and in house. We also pride ourselves on our meticulous cleanliness.

How does internet and pop-up culture impact your business?

We have a strong Facebook and Instagram presence. Customers constantly come in and comment on posts we have made about new foods, recipe changes, and specials.

What’s the one thing you had to figure out the hard way, but wish someone told you?

Some people look for instructions and ask directions. I have found I learn best by trying and failing.

Do you mentor? What is your best experience, being mentored, or mentoring someone else?

I like to promote and mentor within my business and employee family. I would rather build up my staff and see them succeed then bring in outside help.

How do you like to give back?

It is my belief you give in secret. The blessing is in what is hidden.

What animal best describes you?

I would say an octopus. They are methodical, problem solvers, adaptive and can make the choice to be seen or blend into the scene around them.

Jody Greason: Kitchen-to-closet lifestyle zester

Jody Greason

Jody Greason

Many know Jody Greason as a mom and twin sister who helps modern women own their personal style in denim, cashmere, and organic cotton. Greason is neither hyper-focused on fitness nor averse to adding fries to an occasional food order. So, it might surprise some to know that her interest in health and nutrition got serious enough to become a certified nutritionist. Casual conversations with customers about health, nutrition, fashion, and kids took a serious turn when a good friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, eluding and rattling everyone who knew and loved her. Greason led a fierce campaign researching everything she could find on the impact of food on health, particularly on cancer. “People told me, ‘you should have been a nutritionist,” Greason says. To which she told herself, “‘I still can.’”

How does JodyG align with your customer’s lifestyle?

It’s a beach lifestyle, casual, comfortable, but classy and stylish, too. Effortless style. My girls may or may not work, most have kids of varying ages, many do volunteer work, and enjoy date night or a night out with the girls. All want to look put together, with minimal thought or preparation. I try to provide a wardrobe for this lifestyle by providing fashion right pieces that are easy to grab out of your closet for kids’ sports events to date nights to charity events to lunches with the girls.

What makes JodyG different?

I think with any boutique, it’s all about point of view. I believe fashion is a form of expression, it’s how you wish others to see you, because like it or not, first impressions are a fact of life. It’s not about age, or size, or trying to look younger… it’s about looking and feeling your best, no matter what your personal situation is. I help busy women, and bring a highly edited selection each season, that is fashion right, age appropriate, and suitable for the awesome beach lifestyle that we are all fortunate enough to lead.

How does internet and pop-up culture impact your business?

The internet is awesome! It enables us to get our message out on a consistent basis. Before the internet, we would have to send an email or snail mail postcard to announce new arrivals. It’s so quick now. We just take new items out of the box, post a photo, and it’s out there! People are constantly coming in and asking for something they saw we posted on Instagram. The power of social media is truly amazing.

What’s the one thing you had to figure out the hard way, but wish someone had told you?

Running a retail business isn’t all rainbows and butterflies…it’s really hard. My background prior to opening my store prepared me somewhat…but it’s still really, really hard and stressful.

How do you like to give back?

People are always asking for donations for charity functions. I very rarely, rarely say no. Being on the board at JFS provides new opportunities for me to give back.

What animal best describes you?

I have no idea. I love most animals. My husband says “cheetah.”

Lindsay Bangel: Behind the LABL

Lindsay Bangel

Lindsay Bangel

Lindsay Bangel lived in New York and loved her work and workout life. During the day, she taught second graders with Asperger’s syndrome. Her typical after-work routine included hailing a cab to one of her top three spin gyms and fitness studios, and meeting girlfriends for drinks and dinner.

In 2016, Bangel moved back home to Virginia Beach to heal after losing her twin brother, Justin. At the time, both parents faced health issues that worried her enough to kiss her New York lifestyle goodbye.

As a walking billboard for elevated work-out wear that local women couldn’t help but notice, but didn’t know about, and wanted for themselves, Bangel, the entrepreneur, saw and seized a budding athleisure market. The idea for LABL solidified on a trip home for her grandmother’s graveside unveiling where everyone asked, “What are you wearing and where can I get it?”

LABL began as a pop-up at Jim White Fitness studios and at various other area venues. In 2018, Bangel joined Tommi Long, owner of Contravan, and together they formed The Collective, first at La Promenade in Virginia Beach and most recently, at Hilltop East on Laskin Road. Merchandise at LABL consists of: leggings, joggers, sports bras, tanks, sweatshirts, casual dresses, kitsch hair accessories, Alexa Leigh Jewelry, and men’s activewear.

How does LABL align with your customer’s lifestyle?

Fashion meets function and comfort. I started this business because being in fashionable activewear made me feel confident during workouts and everyday life. There’s something for everyone and if you go anywhere in town, everyone is in activewear!

What makes LABL different?

I bring the knowledge of my favorite brands from NYC to Virginia Beach. I am always researching new and different brands that I can bring to the area.

How does internet and pop-up culture impact your business?

It’s nice living in a small town because there seems to be a mentality of supporting small business. Social media has helped business tremendously. People see things and want it instantly.

What’s the one thing you wish someone told you when you started LABL that you had to figure out for yourself the hard way?

You can’t make EVERYONE happy!

Do you mentor? What is your best experience, being mentored, or mentoring someone else?

I am in a unique situation in that my business partner, Tommi Long (Contravan) has been in retail for over 10 years. We are fortunate in that we can bounce ideas off each other and working on growing our businesses together. It’s been nice sharing this experience of growing a business with someone who is like-minded and creative.

How do you like to give back?

Tommi and I have organizations that are close to us and we have decided to choose an organization monthly to host a shopping event in which we donate a percentage of sales from the day.

What animal best describes you?

Owl. Owls are wise and birds of integrity. I’m good at getting what I want and take my responsibilities seriously.


Society of Professionals:Spotlight on David Kushner

Comprised of area Jewish legal, medical, and business professionals, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Society of Professionals encourages engagement and networking through a variety of activities.

David Kushner

David Kushner

David A. Kushner

A partner in the law firm of Willcox Savage, David Kushner maintains a busy legal practice concentrating in the areas of Labor and Employment law, as well as Fair Housing and Public Accommodation. He is married to Nichole Kushner, has two daughters, and somehow finds time to serve on the boards of directors of Ohef Sholom Temple and United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

Jewish News: What is one thing that would surprise people to know about you and your practice?

David Kushner: After generations of Kushners in the rabbinate in Eastern Europe, the last three generations have been attorneys. Despite the fall from grace from the rabbinate into the law, I love my job. I am passionate about helping my clients solve difficult employment issues in an efficient and pragmatic manner.

JN: What are you most proud of as a Jewish lawyer?

DK: I aim to treat my clients’ challenges and opportunities with as much urgency and passion as I would my own. Navigating the minefield of employee relations can create near daily emergencies, and I want my clients to feel confident that I will be available when they need me, and will help them find a solution efficiently and cost-effectively.

JN: Can you describe any recent changes that might be noteworthy?

DK: I recently became chair of Willcox Savage’s labor and employment law Practice Group. I also head up the firm’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodation group.

 

Amazon adds Hebrew to its international website

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Amazon has made its international website available in Hebrew and is offering free delivery on purchases over $49.

Hebrew becomes the eighth language offered by Amazon. The Hebrew site launched this month also provides prices quoted in shekels. Customer service also will be available in Hebrew, according to the Israeli business website Calcalist.

International orders from Amazon will continue to be subject to local import laws and regulations. Duty on imports is waived for orders under $75.

Amazon also has a local sales platform that hosts Israeli merchants for Israeli customers.

Among the other languages offered by Amazon are English, Chinese, German, Spanish and Korean.

Marcy Oster

 

Governor Ralph Northam led International Trade and Marketing Mission to Israel and United Arab Emirates this month

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam led a six-day international trade and marketing mission to Israel and the United Arab Emirates November 15–21. The Governor was accompanied by Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring, as well as representatives from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Israel Advisory Board.

“We live in a competitive global economy, and it is important that we share the Virginia story with businesses and trade partners around the world who are interested in buying our goods and services,” says Governor Northam. “International trade and marketing missions are critical tools to recruit new investment to the Commonwealth and maintain the relationships that will lead to new jobs, more exports by Virginia companies, and shared economic growth.”

Governor-led international trade and marketing missions aim to promote the Commonwealth’s desirable business location advantages, increased opportunities for Virginia agricultural products, and tourism assets. In Israel, the Governor visited Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and in the United Arab Emirates, he traveled to Dubai.

 

First AI Week takes place at Tel Aviv University

AI Week, Tel Aviv University’s first international weeklong conference on the fast-growing technological discipline of artificial intelligence, opened on November 17 to industry experts, academics, business executives, and government officials from Israel and abroad.

The brainchild of TAU’s Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (Blavatnik ICRC) and its Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security, AI Week explored the greatest challenges facing the burgeoning industry. The conference was presented in association with Intel and the Israel Innovation Authority and attracted more than 2,000 technologists, researchers, and data scientists from around the world.

The role of artificial intelligence was explored for medicine, computer vision, startups, transportation, and human capital development, among other areas. State-of-the-art artificial intelligence, data science, applied machine learning and AI predictive applications were all addressed.

“As Bill Gates said recently, artificial intelligence is poised to overtake electricity in its importance to the world,” master of ceremonies Menny Barzilay, chief technology officer of Blavatnik ICRC, said in opening remarks at a filled-to-capacity Smolarz Auditorium at TAU. “Here, in this auditorium, we have gathered some of the world’s leading minds in artificial intelligence to answer the burning questions facing the industry.”

 

‘Meet and Greet’—and grow your business and network with Society of Professionals

United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Society of Professionals is a professional outreach connecting business leaders though speaker events, networking, exclusive engagement opportunities, social gatherings, and targeted educational events that feature nationally and globally recognized industry and medical leaders and experts. Entrepreneurism, medicine, social enterprise, technology, healthcare, and geopolitics are areas explored.

Carly Glikman, UJFT’s outreach manager, says, “Our group includes physicians, attorneys, clergy, and business owners, anyone who works really,” says Glikman.

We welcome talented professionals who see advantages offered and who envision the growth potential of this collaborative society. SOP is an opportunity to invest in the professional community, take on a leadership role by becoming a committee member, and grow professionally.”

Future events planned include a Networking Happy Hour at Butchers Son in Virginia Beach in January and a women’s only business event for February. A recent event featured geopolitical expert Jamie Metzl.

“Our purpose is to foster community—to learn about each other, to support each other, and to give back where we can. SOP is a group of medical professionals, attorneys, business owners—anyone who considers themselves a professional is welcome,” says Greg Zittrain, co-chair of the Society of Professionals.

“We proudly consider ourselves an outreach arm of our Federation, and we connect with the greater Tidewater community. Going forward, we have a dynamic lineup of trailblazing industry icons to look forward to,” says Zittrain.

Lisa Richmon

 

Chef Michael Solomonov is helping to build a culinary school in Israel

NEW YORK (JTA)—Michael Solomonov, the award-winning Philadelphia restauranteur, has joined the advisory council of an Israeli culinary school set to open in 2021.

Solomonov announced he was becoming the inaugural member of the school’s advisory council at a press conference in New York this month alongside Lior Lev Sercarz, an Israeli chef involved in the project.

Both chefs are working with the Jewish National Fund to create the Galilee Culinary Institute at Kibbutz Gonen near Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel. Solomonov is also working with JNF to build a food and technology innovation center in the city. The institute and center will cost $29 million to build.

The institute will offer a four-year accredited program, and the first class is expected to start in the fall of 2021.

“I always felt bad that young men and women in Israel or the region don’t necessarily have where to go to learn about cooking and the culinary studies. There are a few private schools now, which is great, but not at the scale that I would want it to be,” Sercarz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2017.

Both chefs are born in Israel, but based in the United States. Solomonov has opened a number of restaurants, and his Philadelphia eatery Zahav was named the best in the country in May by the James Beard Foundation. Sercarz owns La Boite, an upscale spice shop in Manhattan.

“We are seeing a renaissance in Israeli food as American diners embrace the cultural melting pot of cuisines from my home country,” Solomonov said in a statement. “GCI by JNF will be a new type of culinary school, where budding chefs will work with the unique mix of cultures and cuisines that can only be found in the north of Israel.”

Josefin Dolsten

 

Belgian Jewish baker launches Europe’s first mass-produced cannabis bread

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—Connoisseurs can find a wide range of products containing cannabis in the Netherlands, where it has long been practically legal: Cannabis popsicles, lollipops, chocolate and soap are but a few of the products available for purchase in the Dutch capital.

But don’t expect to have an easy time of it if you’re looking for something to hold your lunchtime turkey slices. For that, you will need to take a trip to neighboring Belgium, where a Jewish baker is about to launch Europe’s first commercial line of cannabis bread.

Cannabread will be available for purchase in Carrefour supermarkets in Brussels and two other Belgian cities later in November, according to a report last month in Vice Belgium. The bread is already on sale in at least one of five Lowy’s bakery shops in Brussels.

Lowy’s owner Charly Lowy said about 15 percent of the dough in Cannabread is made from cannabis seeds, but eating the bread will not get you high. The level of THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis, is low, which is also why it can be sold without restrictions in Belgium, where marijuana laws are more restrictive. Cannabread is also certified organic and, according to Lowy, full of minerals, vitamin E, Omega 3 and 6, fibers, carotene and magnesium.

“The bread is intended first and foremost for people who just love bread, and different kinds of it,” Lowy told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “But it’s true that cannabis products are in right now.”

Boutique bakers in the Netherlands and beyond have occasionally offered cannabis bread in the past, but Lowy is the first to mass produce it, according to media reports.

While not intoxicating, the bread does taste and smell like cannabis, the Vice report said. Which may be why Belgium’s Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain raided the bakery in 2018 and destroyed Lowy’s entire stock of Cannabread, citing the absence of certificates proving it does not get people high.

Lowy is tall and handsome. The Vice writer found him to resemble Don Draper, the lead character portrayed by Jon Hamm in the hit television drama Mad Men. And he has a history of baking innovative breads, including one with beer and a purple bread containing wild rice.

His family story is also a common European Jewish tale of success amid adversity. His late father, Otto, fled to Belgium from his native Austria, when it was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. After the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940, Otto went underground. It was then, during the most perilous period of his life, that he met his wife, Hania, a Jewish immigrant from Poland. They wed in 1942 and had three children. Charly is the youngest.

When Otto died in 1980, Charly, who was then studying political science, took over the bakery and massively expanded the family business that his father had established in 1947.

Back then, the bakery’s motto was: “Bread, that’s all.”

No longer.

Cnaan Liphshiz

Letter to the Editor