Federation groups mingle and learn about Israeli and Virginia businesses

by | Mar 1, 2013 | Uncategorized

Michael Spinelli explains the beneficial properties of chickpeas.

Michael Spinelli explains the beneficial properties of chickpeas.

The growing collaboration between an Israeli entrepreneur, an American businessman and a Virginia agency seemed like a great topic for several of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s affinity groups to explore.

The Business & Legal Society of the UJFT could benefit from hearing how the Virginia Israel Advisory Board has been instrumental in bringing partnerships such as this one, known as ClearFarma USA, to establish their businesses in Virginia.

The Maimonides Society of the UJFT could learn about the new company’s concepts of functional foods, or nutraceuticals, which are proven to be medically beneficial through extensive clinical trials, are administered by a physician, and can perhaps be grown in Virginia.

As it turned out, on Sunday, Feb. 10, the two groups joined together at Gary and Jessica Kell’s home in Chesapeake to hear from Ralph Robbins, executive director of VIAB and Michael Spinelli, chief technology officer of ClearFarma USA. The evening’s program was called Israel and Virginia: Where Food and Health Intersect.

Gina and Neil Rose, Craig and Joanna Schranz.

Gina and Neil Rose, Craig and Joanna Schranz.

“We found that many of the issues involved in the discussion of VIAB and ClearFarma pertain to medicine and also to business,” said Dr. Michael Gross, Maimonides Society cochair. “We are all glad to be here to learn more.”

The group of about 50 Jewish Tidewater physicians, dentists, researchers, attorneys, business people and entrepreneurs first heard from Robbins. He gave background on the evolution of ClearFarma USA—how he linked Spinelli, most recently the former CTO of Sabra Dipping Company— based in Chesterfield County, Va.—with Dr. Ascher Shmulewitz, an Israeli cardiologist, inventor and investor.

“Can you imagine being in the room when Google was created?” Robbins asked. “What you’re hearing about tonight is something like that—I think you have an incredible opportunity to see this Israeli Virginia company from its beginning, and in another year you’ll say, I was there when it was first getting off the ground.”

After Robbins’ introduction, Spinelli described how ClearFarma has set up a Research and Development hub in Virginia to explore ways to create memorable change within the food supply—with the chickpea.

“The chickpea, we think, holds great promise as a medical food. All claims will be measurable, with scientific backing, or at least a clinical study or two,” said Spinelli. “If we can create a non-GMO, nonallergenic protein and have a scientific backing to validate our position, this is very promising.”

Robbins explained that VIAB is working with ClearFarma and others to develop a chickpea that will grow in the state’s climate, eventually giving Virginia farmers new uses for fallow fields that once grew tobacco. Not only could those crops be used for companies like ClearFarma that could extract beneficial parts of the plant for food additives, but they could also be used to supply the Sabra plant in Chesterfield County with locally grown chickpeas for hummus, according to Robbins.

After Spinelli concluded his briefing, he invited guests to join him in the Kells’ kitchen for samples of smoothies, shakes and desserts made with the notyet- on-the-market chickpea additive. The consensus from those sampling? Delicious.

Visit www.jewishva.org/maimonides and www.jewishva.org/businessandlegalsociety to find out more about membership in these societies. For more photos from this event, Like the JewishNewsVA on Facebook.

article and photos by Laine Mednick Rutherford