On a rainy autumn evening, tens of Hebrew-speaking businesspeople gathered in a centrally located venue in Crown Heights for a “Business Evening for Hebrew-Speaking Young Entrepreneurs.”
The event’s organizer, Crown Heights resident Rabbi Yehoshua Werde, founded CHYE (Crown Heights Young Entrepreneurs) around six years ago with the goal of assisting budding entrepreneurs and businesspeople to successfully initiate and expand their ventures.
Werde summarized the evening’s objective in his opening remarks. “The Crown Heights Israeli community is a tightknit group,” he said. “Many of them arrived in New York without knowing the language and without support, yet they work hard and have succeeded in moving mountains. Their accomplishments are truly spectacular. Today, Israeli entrepreneurs and businesspeople stand at the forefront of Chabad philanthropy in the city.”
Werde also thanked the committee of people who helped coordinate the night’s event, Izzy Leiter, Gedalia Abraham, Yossi Beshari, Zev Elblioi and Shlomie Baitz.
According to Werde, the three-part event had a double goal: to inspire others by sharing personal stories of hard work and success, and to provide practical tips and the opportunity to forge new connections, helping attendees take their businesses to the next level.
CHYE’s Empire Blvd. location offers quiet, fully-equipped workspaces where entrepreneurs who have not yet settled in a private office can work on developing their fledgling businesses. CHYE also mediates between well-known business consultants and young men and women taking their first steps in business. The consultants are established local businesspeople willing to provide a listening ear and offer sound advice for any dilemma or doubt they may have.
Additionally, CHYE arranges various business-boosting programs, competitions with monetary awards, educational sessions, and programs geared to attracting potential investors in small businesses.
Mr. Shlomie Baitz, a successful dealer in building materials and home accessories, opened the evening with a dvar malchus.
The first part of the program featured Mr. Dudi Farkash, a beloved and well-known figure in Crown Heights, as keynote speaker. In his distinctive humorous style, Farkash shared his personal story with the audience: the milestones he passed as a newlywed venturing into the world of business, the ups and downs of the early years of his career, and his journey until he reached where he is today—the successful manager of an insurance company.
Farkash then addressed the potential he feels can be found particularly in individuals with an Israeli background. He reminded the crowd that when the Rebbe spoke about purchasing homes in Crown Heights to help establish the community (unlike other groups who fled the area), it was specifically the Israelis who were the first to fulfill the Rebbe’s directive. Their Israeli chutzpah combined with chassidishe kabbalas ol was the formula that ultimately led to today’s situation, where it is virtually impossible to find a house in Crown Heights for a normal price.
Farkash’s motto for success is to “think big.” But the foundation, he says, is to nurture faith and trust that livelihood comes from Above, and that Hashem will surely provide you with success. Farkash shared what he views as the secrets to success: Believe and be proud that you are the best in your field. Treat every client equally, no matter his financial status. Think out of the box. Farkash shared a personal anecdote to illustrate his point: “For my first office, I bought a file cabinet with drawers capable of storing 300 files. My colleagues were taken aback. ‘You don’t even have a single client yet!’ they said. Today, I have ten such desks and over 2000 files!” he concluded, to the resounding applause of the audience.
The second part of the program consisted of ten lively roundtable discussions. The attendees joined the table of their choice, each one focusing on a different business topic: marketing, retail, real estate, event management, investment, contracting, engineering, E-commerce, insurance, and more. In addition to gleaning practical tips and hearing success stories, participants shared amazing stories of hashgachah pratis, miraculous outcomes of visiting the Rebbe’s Ohel, and brachos experienced after having given significant amounts to tzedakah.
In the third part of the program, established businesspeople met privately with entrepreneurs to discuss various methods of collaboration that will create fertile ground for joint success. The event has apparently already begun to produce positive results that will surely continue to expand in the coming weeks and months.
Meir, a young and energetic entrepreneur who attended the event, describes the Israeli community in Crown Heights as the second group in size and influence in the neighborhood, after the American-born locals. He mentions the names of a number of local Israeli businessmen, who each began on a small scale and worked their way up the ladder of success.
Moshe, another Israeli entrepreneur, points out that although many Lubavitchers choose to become shluchim, mechanchim and rabbonim, many others see their future in the world of business. Many of these individuals have no or minimal past experience, and enter this new world without the skills and tools they need. Those who have already succeeded in business have the responsibility to assist those beginning the journey, enabling them to support their families and, ultimately, the community as a whole. This underscores the importance of CHYE’s work, which provides motivation and encourages businesspeople to work together.
Looking back at CHYE’s work in the past few years, Werde is proud to point to the 40 Chabad-run businesses that developed thanks to the professional assistance provided at CHYE, as well as the 200 Chabad-run businesses nationwide that have received professional guidance. Thousands of businesspeople have benefited in some way from CHYE’s numerous specialized events geared at providing the tools to success. Now, concludes Werde, it is time to provide these same resources to the Hebrew-speaking community.