Evett Shulman, development coordinator at Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction, took a look at the community that supports the Jewish temple where she works, and this is what she saw: 700 families, many of them including business owners. Among them are a financial planner, a consignment shop owner, a doctor, a baker, real estate broker, travel agents, lawyers, party planners, dentists, and accountants — all professions that benefit from networking with one another.
Then she took a look around Mercer County to see if there were any large networking groups. Although there are many, none were very big, she thought. Thus, an idea was born: the Congregation Beth Chaim networking group.
The Congregation Beth Chaim networking group is meant for all members of the business community. You don’t have to be a member of the synagogue or even Jewish to join.
“It’s not a religious group,” Shulman says. “It’s not about promoting religious tenets. We are modeling, through our practices, selflessness, positive attitude, and social relevance, which are Jewish traditions, but we’re not teaching it.” Shulman says the main idea is for the temple to support the community, which will, in turn, be a good place for the members of the temple to live.
If there is one thing Shulman is familiar with, it’s supporting the community. Some of Shulman’s earliest memories are of working alongside her mother, when she was three years old, peeling eggs at a local temple where she was a volunteer. “Doing this kind of thing is ingrained in me,” she says.
Though Shulman has volunteered for nonprofits all her life, she only recently made it a career. She was formally trained as a teacher, with a graduate degree in education. For 20 years, she helped run a family durable medical goods business. In that line of work, she learned the value of networking.
“Networking always helps,” she says. “You can promote your own business and you can help the community. When your community is stronger, your business is going to be stronger.”
The first meeting of the CBC Business Networking Group was this Wednesday, September 25, at 7:30 a.m. at the temple, where McCarter Theater managing director Tim Shields spoke on business and the arts. On Wednesday, October 16, also at 7:30 a.m., someone from Bachrach Men’s Fashions will give a talk entitled “You are what you Wear.” Other meetings in the future will take place in the evening to accommodate different schedules. To apply to join the group, and for more information, go online to www.bethchaim.org.
Shulman says each meeting will be about an hour long, with a half-hour speech and unstructured time before and after for networking. Members will also have an opportunity to introduce themselves to the group and say what kind of referrals or connections they are looking to make. The speakers will cover a variety of topics of interest to the business community.
“We expect this to be a very substantial group,” Shulman says. “There are networking groups in and around Mercer County, but nothing really like this one. I think we’re going to pull the best of all the networking group models and try to make it as good and relevant as we can.”
The temple itself has deep roots in the community. It was founded 40 years ago, and the rabbi, Eric B. Wisnia, has been in charge for 36 years. Shulman says some of the current members of the congregation have been with it since it was founded.
Congregation Beth Chaim is not the first area religious institution to start its own non-religious networking group to help the community. The Princeton United Methodist Church hosts a weekly networking breakfast. St. Gregory the Great coordinates a monthly meeting for jobseekers. Shulman hopes the networking group will be another strong tie between the community and the temple. “I really think this could be a very positive thing for the synagogue,” she says.