Business in the Jewish Community

by | Dec 10, 2018 | Uncategorized

One of the many interesting aspects of compiling this Business section each year is the vastly different areas that comprise the businesses we profile. They can be large or small, start-ups or long-time family-owned establishments, virtual or brick and mortar, USA-based or international.

My first editorial job was with a business magazine, so I guess I’ve always been a bit partial to the subject—just as I’m partial to the subject of print publications, which are becoming fewer in number as advertising dollars are spread thin and the cost of production continues to rise. But, wait! An article published just last week by Bloomberg notes that many of the tech giants (such as Google and Facebook) who have turned into the largest threats to the business of print, are now themselves, “big buyers of a decidedly low-tech medium: print advertising.” That’s a big hint to potential advertisers and kudos to those businesses who didn’t need Netflix and Google to tell them that print actually is a good place to advertise!

But, enough about our business.

The lead article in this section profiles Altmeyer Funeral Home. Chris Sisler, an Altmeyer vice president and Berger-Goldrich Home at Beth Sholom Village board member, shares why the business recently moved, what it offers, and how the funeral home accommodates Jewish funerals.

Among the many Israeli businesses that have reached around the globe is one that of all things, impacts people’s drinking habits. Of course, I’m talking about SodaStream. The story of why I originally purchased mine and what the company does to improve the environment and promote peace is below.

A brief article about United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Society of Professionals highlights the benefits of participating with this affinity group. is an Israeli online shop that features the work of people with disabilities or from underserved communities. Talk about a business with a heart!

Whatever the business, we wish a coming year filled with prosperity to all!

Terri Denison


Altmeyer Funeral Home enhances services and amenities at new location

Walking into Altmeyer Funeral Home’s newest location on Rouse Drive in Virginia Beach, it’s easy to be taken aback by how unlike a funeral home it appears. The lobby is bright and spacious, filled with the sounds of a babbling fountain. The chapel to the right is airy and full of light. Straight ahead, a lounge with kitchen counters, coffee, and freshly baked cookies infuse the room with delicious smells. This is not your average funeral home. And that’s exactly the impression it’s intended to make, says Chris Sisler, Altmeyer vice president.

“We want our families to have all of the comforts of home,” Sisler explains. “Our funeral home isn’t traditional doom and gloom, it’s open, it’s bright, it’s airy. The door isn’t locked—you can walk in without ringing a bell, and people will greet you at the door.”

This welcoming facility, almost double the size of the old Altmeyer location on Greenwich Road, is the result of business savvy and visionary thinking to make the best of a tough situation. Close to 15 years ago, when rumors first began swirling about the major expansion to the I-64-264 interchange, Altmeyer’s management team approached VDOT to collaborate on the changes coming to the Newtown Road exit. James E. Altmeyer, Jr. even worked with private engineers to design an interchange that would save the funeral home and other businesses on the chopping block with VDOT’s designs. However, VDOT rejected the plan, and Altmeyer’s original Southside Chapel was forced to close.

“Our location [on Greenwich Road] was centrally located in Hampton Roads,” Sisler says. “We weren’t a neighborhood funeral home, we were a regional funeral home: our one location there serviced Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach.”

So, how did Altmeyer solve the problem of losing that ideal site? By locating less than a mile away. Altmeyer Funeral Home moved their Southside Chapel one exit down on the highway, from the Newtown Road exit to the Witchduck Road exit. Now, their 21,000-square-foot facility dwarfs their old 12,500-squarefoot site, and their new catering kitchen backs up to the Simon Family JCC’s tennis courts.

Not only does the new Altmeyer location offer superior comfort for families and more space—including three visitation rooms and a chapel that can seat 280 mourners—but the move provided the opportunity to substantially improve some of the funeral home’s behind-the-scenes operations. For instance, they built a state-of-the-art prep facility and isolation room, with a unique air filtration system that circulates 100% outside air into the rooms every three minutes. “There’s not another funeral home that has this type of operation,” says Sisler. “You’ll see it in an operating room, but not a funeral home.”

Approved by local rabbis to conduct Jewish burial rituals, the new facility’s improvements have major implications for Jewish patrons of the funeral home, especially for those participating in the mitzvah of chevra kadisha, or accompanying the deceased around-the-clock from the moment of death to burial. “Our facilities are very welcome to the chevra Kadisha (the holy society) committee, our prep facilities where they perform this mitzvah is state-of-the-art, and impeccably cleaned daily, making it an inviting work environment for them to perform these mitzvot,” says Sisler.

Other amenities at Altmeyer include an array of TVs, that combined with cameras in the chapel may be played “in every room in this building if we have overflow,” says Sisler. A “huge reception area combined with our complete kitchen,” he says, enables the ability to host full catering receptions. And, soon, Altmeyer will have the capabilities to live stream services for out-of-towners and others who aren’t able to attend a funeral in person.

In addition to working with Altmeyer to support the JCC and other local Jewish organizations, Sisler is an active participant in the Jewish community himself. He and his family are members of Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk, where he and his wife were married by Rabbi Lawrence Forman. Sisler is also a member of the board of directors for The Berger-Goldrich Home at Beth Sholom Village.

Sisler says he is convinced that Altmeyer Funeral Home is best equipped to serve Jewish families in the area. After all, as far as Sisler knows, he is the only Jewish funeral director in Hampton Roads.

Madeline Budman


Jewish professionals connect through SOP

An affinity group of Jewish business, legal, and medical professionals dedicated to educational, social, and philanthropic activities, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Society of Professionals (SOP) is committed to UJFT’s mission of serving vulnerable communities locally, in Israel, and around the world. Stacey Neuman and Greg Zittrain are SOP’s current co-chairs.

The group also provides an opportunity for collegial networking and helps Jewish professionals in Tidewater connect with one another, as well as understand the value of the contributions they make to support the greater community. Last month in one of those gatherings, for example, SOP members met with Avi Jorisch, author of Thou Shalt Innovate. Jorisch discussed the many ways in which Israeli ingenuity has transformed the world.

Other networking opportunities are planned this year. In addition, SOP will host an event with Ambassador Ido Aharoni on May 8 as a part of the Israel Today series. Ambassador Aharoni is a globally distinguished professor and a career public servant in Israel’s foreign ministry.

UJFT’s Society of Professionals provides members with:

  • Resources: To maintain and grow the Jewish and Hampton Roads community.
  • Programming: To inspire, educate, and promote shared values.
  • Social Action: Activities and events, which benefit the local community, as well as others around the globe.
  • Connection: Opportunities to build personal and working relationships with an array of Jewish professionals, and to promote members’ businesses or practices, and be highlighted in the UJFT Professional Directory.


For information, contact Betty Ann Levin, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater executive vice president, at or 757-965-6100.


SodaStream still sparkles

Back in 2014, for what some might deem an irrational reason, I purchased a SodaStream. The impetus for my acquisition? Scarlett Johansson stood by her deal to promote the product, against the wishes of Oxfam, an international relief organization for which she had been an ambassador. Oxfam criticized Johansson because SodaStream, a company headquartered in Israel, had a controversial factory in a settlement on the West Bank. I read about Johansson and Oxfam parting ways and I went directly to the nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond and purchased my first Israeli-made SodaStream. For someone who doesn’t drink sodas, I must admit, it was a rather out of character moment.

But as I quickly discovered, just like “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish Rye,” one doesn’t have to be a soda consumer to appreciate a SodaStream.

A highly differentiated and innovative alternative to consumers of bottled and canned carbonated soft drinks, SodaStream is the No. 1 sparkling water brand in the world (in terms of volume consumption). With a SodaStream, it’s easy to transform ordinary tap water into sparkling water and flavored sparkling water in seconds, which helps consumers, like me, drink more water. Sparkling water is refreshing—especially with a wedge of orange or lime or piece of practically any fruit, for that matter. In fact, it’s a healthy alternative to sugary, chemical-infused drinks. And, my family agrees—always at the ready to push the button to fizz up their H2O.

Now, I’m the proud owner of the latest model. It’s sleeker, taking up less room on the counter (makes my husband happier), and offers three levels of carbonation. Plus, since electricity is not required to operate a SodaStream, in my house, at least, it gets moved from place to place.

While as I mentioned, I typically don’t drink sodas, I do indulge in some fun mixed drinks, and a splash of carbonated water livens up all sorts of cocktail concoctions—without the chemicals and added sugars, I might add.

And, then, there’s my family’s constant concern to be good to the environment and stay away as much as possible from disposables—such as plastic bottles. Another plus for SodaStream! It comes with one bottle that is easy to clean and reuse and reuse and reuse.

For those who do enjoy soda, however, SodaStream offers plenty of flavored syrups—from cola to root beer to lime to tonic and everything in between.

All in all, I can vouch that SodaStream makes a good kitchen addition—for practically all drinkers—and at any time of year…especially just in time for the start of 2019. It shouldn’t be hard to find one, by the way, as products are available at more than 80,000 retail stores across 45 countries.

Terri Denison


A bit more about SodaStream

TEL AVIV (JTA)—SodaStream is an Israeli company that makes and sells seltzer machines for home use. Since it was founded in 1991, the company has sold more than 10 million machines. The footand-a-half-tall machines turn still water into seltzer in 30 seconds. The company also markets dozens of mix-in flavors, such as cola, ginger ale, lemon-lime, and fruit punch.

Why is SodaStream controversial?
Originally, SodaStream’s main factory was located in Mishor Adumim, an industrial park in the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. Because the settlement is likely to be included in Israel in any future peace deal with the Palestinians, many Israelis don’t view it as all that controversial.

But groups that oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank called for boycotts of SodaStream due to the factory’s location. The debate over SodaStream gained attention when the actress Scarlett Johansson became the face of the company, appearing in a SodaStream ad during the Super Bowl. Johansson ended up resigning as a spokeswoman for Oxfam International, an anti-poverty group that opposes the West Bank factory, after it criticized the actress’ involvement with the company.

SodaStream’s position on its West Bank factory
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum touted the Mishor Adumim factory, which was its primary location beginning in 1997 and until it moved, as a successful example of Arab-Jewish coexistence in the West Bank. Some 500 Palestinians worked at the factory alongside Israeli Jews, and Birnbaum says he paid them well and treated them as equals with their Jewish co-workers, though pro-Palestinian groups allege that the Palestinian employees were treated poorly. The factory included a mosque for Muslim employees.

Birnbaum is a proponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has noted that Mishor Adumim is defined as an area under Israeli control by the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords, and argues that Israeli industry there is thus not a violation of international law.

Unfortunately, that factory closed and moved to a less controversial location in 2015.

SodaStream International LTD. Spends a lot of time encouraging peace, coexistence, and efforts to improve the environment.

SodaStream International LTD. spends a lot of time encouraging peace, coexistence, and efforts to improve the environment. Just another reason I purchased mine, by the way. Following are a few examples of the companies activities from this year.

Israel’s largest Ramadan break-fast event in celebration of peace

This June, SodaStream hosted Israel’s largest Ramadan event ever at the company’s plant in Rahat, Israel. The facility, which is known as the “Island of Peace,” supports diversity and coexistence by employing 2,000 people from all walks of Israeli society, including Bedouins, Israeli Arabs from East Jerusalem, Jewish Israelis from all backgrounds, new immigrants, and Palestinians from Judea and Samaria.

The highlight of the event was a kite flying demonstration by SodaStream employees, led by CEO Birnbaum. The kites, which were printed with the word “Peace” in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, were flown toward the Gaza border, which is only 22 kilometers from Rahat. One large kite, 6-foot x 5-foot, was made of a tapestry of pictures drawn by children of Jewish and Muslim employees—with an olive branch tied to the kite tail.

A reward for ocean clean-up commitment
In support of World Cleanup Day initiated by the Let’s Do It! Foundation, SodaStream issued a challenge: Take part in International Coastal Clean-Up Day on September 15, 2018 and get a permanent Sea Turtle tattoo—compliments of SodaStream.

To apply, participants told their story, explained why the fight against single-use plastic bottles matters to them and why they deserve to be rewarded for their commitment. SodaStream chose 200 people and sponsored their Sea Turtle tattoo in the design of their choice.

A 20-foot Statue of Liberty replica drowning in plastic bottles
Also in September, people wandering around Flatiron Plaza in downtown Manhattan were met with an unusual sight: a 20-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty standing in a steel cage filled with empty plastic bottles and metal cans.

On the other side of the eye-catching set-up, titled “Drowning Liberty,” were booths with people handing out glasses of seltzer. The installation was organized by SodaStream, together with the Oceanic Society.

Its goal was to raise awareness of the negative consequences of single-use plastic (and drum up business for the company while they’re at it). Passers-by were encouraged to sign SodaStream’s sustainability pledge, promising to eschew one-use bottles for reusable ones. The company claims that making soda at home in reusable bottles results in “less plastic manufactured, less plastic waste and less transport of bottled beverages.”

“We have no choice,” Birnbaum said in a statement. “We have to go reusable. Annual plastic production is skyrocketing and the U.S. is one of the biggest polluters in the world.”

Ben Sales and media reports


Israel’s Arbe Robotics recognized by Frost & Sullivan with 2018 Global Technology Innovation Award for breakthrough 4D Imaging RADAR

TEL AVIV, Israel—Arbe Robotics, the first company to demonstrate 4D high-resolution imaging radar, recently received the 2018 Global Technology Innovation Award from Frost & Sullivan. The company was recognized for its breakthrough full-stack 4D imaging radar system for the automotive environment, along with its future business value in terms of scalability, application diversity, technology licensing, and human capital.

Headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, Arbe has business development and customer service locations in the United States and China. The company was founded in 2015 and is backed by 360 Capital Partners, Canaan Partners Israel, iAngels, Maniv Mobility, Taya Ventures, and O.G. Tech Ventures.

Frost & Sullivan calls Arbe Robotics’ 4D high-resolution imaging radar technology a “breakthrough solution” set to disrupt autonomous vehicle sensor development and asserts the technology represents a significant step toward mainstreaming fully autonomous vehicles. Frost & Sullivan also predicts Arbe Robotics’ technology is poised for wide adoption, and that it will have a high impact—beginning in the automotive, security, and unmanned vehicle markets.

“An award of this magnitude truly validates how crucial our system is to the future of autonomous driving,” says Kobi Marenko, CEO of Arbe Robotics. “We are humbled to receive this honor and hope to continue to serve as thought leaders and disruptors in this industry.”

Arbe Robotics’ high-resolution technology capabilities will help alleviate current challenges faced by radar, such as false alarms caused by the inability to distinguish between objects in real time and interference caused from the increasing use of radar sensors in the automotive industry. Frost & Sullivan analysts follow a rigorous and detailed 10-step process to sift through and determine the best candidates for their Best Practice Awards. The process includes research, interviews, and input from thought leaders and industry experts.

The award from Frost & Sullivan marks one of several accomplishments for Arbe Robotics in 2018. After debuting its 4D high-resolution imaging radar to the mobility industry in May, the company announced it had raised $10 million in additional capital, led by 360 Capital Partners. In September, they won the Most Exciting Start-up Silver Award at the AutoSens Awards, the company progressed in developing its breakthrough radar and preparing for mass production.


For more information, visit


New online shop offers handcrafted Judaica that supports Israeli vocational training centers

A new website that helps support more than 20 Israeli non-profits and vocational training centers is now spreading the light in the lives of its workers, as well as those who purchase its products. It’s called, and all the products sold on the site are made by people with disabilities or from an underserved  community.

The idea behind the initiative is that everyone has the power to make an impact with their consumer choices, says Buy for Good’s founder, Yuval Arbel. “If I want to buy a new Menorah for Hanukkah, or a gift for any other occasion, and I can get a beautiful product at a good price, why not purchase the product that supports someone’s rehabilitation process and helps him or her get back on their feet?” Arbel asks.

“Our Jewish tradition shows a lot of compassion for the less fortunate and I think we can show our compassion not only through donations, but by creating employment opportunities for those in need,” he says.

Buy for Good offers a wide selection of products: Menorahs in different designs, from modern to classic; kids’ games; home décor; ceramics; tote bags; Judaica; and designer items—all produced in collaboration with vocational centers.

Buy for Good partners with vocational employment centers to encourage people with different types of disabilities and from underserved communities to develop their skills with an aim toward helping them become employed.

These programs focus on providing people with disabilities a holistic vocational framework suited to their individual abilities. This enables them to learn, gain experience, and acquire or enhance personal skills that lead to the realization of their personal potential.

Shoppers can spread some light and, at the same time, create a sense of pride and hope, by shopping at