MONTREAL — The Jewish Chamber of Commerce (JCC) is betting that its invitation to international gaming guru Mitch Garber to speak at an Oct. 26 cocktail party will help revive interest in the JCC.
Elliot Greenstone and Cheryl Stein are the co-presidents of the newly restructured Jewish Chamber of Commerce.
The JCC was created 14 years ago by Federation CJA as a means of encouraging young Jewish adults to establish their careers in Quebec and get involved in community affairs.
Garber, a Montreal native and Bialik High School graduate, last year became the CEO of Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment, which stages the annual World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas. Previously, he headed the online gambling company PartyGaming.
A former practising lawyer who graduated from University of Ottawa in 1989, Garber specialized in gaming related matters, and his clients included the entertainment conglomerate MGM and IGT, a leader in the manufacture of gaming machines. He was known to the public as a radio and television sportscaster in Montreal.
While maintaining its affiliation with the federation, the JCC is changing its programming and who it wants to attract, focusing on providing more services that will help people advance their careers, in addition to the traditional networking get-togethers.
The JCC has restructured its governance, trimming its co-presidents down to two from three. Elliot Greenstone is a lawyer with Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg and Cheryl Stein is a family business consultant and executive coach.
The membership is being broadened to include Jewish business people and professionals of all ages and at all levels of seniority. The JCC is also making an effort to attract more women and Sephardim to its ranks.
“We are not just a social club; we want to offer more member services and concrete business opportunities, whose success we can actually measure,” said Greenstone.
There are now six vice-presidents with specific portfolios, among them relations with the other chambers of commerce, including the many associated with other ethnic groups in the city. The JCC is also a member of Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, which has 162 member groups throughout the province.
The new executive now comprises people of varying ages, and five of its eight members are female.
Women-only activities are being planned for the coming year, said Stein. “A big part of my role is to be an ambassador to working women,” she said. “Women will feel comfortable in the JCC.”
Other new initiatives are Power Business Lunches and a Presidents’ Exchange to appeal to those higher up on the corporate ladder. The lunches, featuring a guest speaker, will be held monthly and limited to about 10 participants.
The JCC was founded by the federation’s ProMontreal program to appeal primarily to the 25-40 age group, those in the earlier stages of their careers, who wanted to network with their peers and do some community work.
The JCC’s expansion of its target audience reflects the reality that the people associated with the chamber have been getting older, said Greenstone.
The JCC has about 400 paid-up members and approximately 3,000 recipients on its e-mailing list. Events, which typically take the form of cocktail receptions, round-table discussions, or meetings onsite at businesses, attract from 200 to 300, Greenstone said. Most events are open to non-members.
“They include those in start-ups up to executives of huge organizations,” Stein said.
Nevertheless, Greenstone and Stein believe the JCC could be better known, and VP Gilda Abdulezer, a partner in the event planning company C3 Communications, has been charged with marketing and communications.
She was sold on the JCC early. “I made a new client at the first event I attended,” she said.
The JCC remains committed to contributing to the Jewish community by fostering a healthy business climate and identifying potential leaders. “The JCC is often the entry point for people into the Jewish community,” said Greenstone.
However, Greenstone and Stein emphasize that the JCC is not a division of the Combined Jewish Appeal and there is never any solicitation of funds at its events.
The JCC is equally open to professionals, as well as those in business, and many lawyers, accountants and even doctors and dentists, are associated with it. “It’s all about building relationships,” Greenstone said.
The JCC also runs the Choice Business Club in which about 25 outstanding people from different sectors, selected by the executive, meet over six months to take part in educational sessions and form closer ties.
The JCC also continues to support the Promies, the biennial awards to successful younger business people as well as an exemplary leader of longstanding. The most recent recipient of the lifetime achievement award was Martin Schwartz of Dorel Industries.
The JCC is creating an update website, which should be ready in about a month. The address remains the same: www.jccmontreal.com. One new feature being worked on is a members-only directory.