A minor league baseball stadium in Lakewood, N.J., served as the outdoor meeting ground for some 500 participants in the JBiz 2020 COVID-19 Business Expo and Conference sponsored by the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce.

The event held on Nov. 16 was attended by both Jews and non-Jews, and featured a recorded message from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and an address by Mark Zelden, director of the Center for Faith & Opportunity Initiatives, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Several local politicians were also in attendance including State Sen. Robert Singer, Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari and Lakewood Mayor Raymond Coles, who opened the event.

“The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce has been an invaluable partner throughout this crisis. All of New Jersey thanks for helping keep everyone safe,” said Murphy in his address, which was shown on a jumbotron at the Blue Claws Stadium. “Considering the welfare of others is a core tenet of the Jewish faith and now as we look to restore the health of our economy, I know the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce will be an incredible asset and leader in this complex effort.”

According to OJCC’s founder and CEO Duvi Honig, the business expo was originally supposed to be held in May to celebrate the first New Jersey Economic Development Day, which the OJCC has been instrumental in getting established as a day to “empower everyone” in business.

A look at the JBix Expo at Blue Claws Stadium in Lakewood, N.J. Credit: Courtesy.

Lakewood was hit hard by the coronavirus in the spring; to date, 1,100 people have died. Still, the economy has suffered as well, and companies are looking towards this spring.

“The Expo was even more important than ever because businesses are suffering, and people don’t have a platform where they can find services to help their businesses or potential new clients,” said Honig.

In addition to networking, businesses and organizations had tables set up around the perimeter of the park where people could get information. Workshops were offered on various industry topics, including cybersecurity, small-business loans, the art of networking and scaling a business. A “Women in the Workplace” panel for women entrepreneurs was also held to address issues of concern specifically for that demographic.

Speakers came from a cross-section of the local business community.

During his keynote address, Zelden announced that due to the efforts of OJCC of “forthcoming legislation would make it easier for small and mid-size organizations to apply for government grants and funding.” He also presented OJCC’s Honig with a pair of gold cufflinks sent by President Donald Trump in recognition of Honig’s work on behalf of small businesses.

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