The Birmingham Jewish Federation for years has financially supported the work Conexx does to connect Americans and Israelis for business opportunities and has helped Conexx establish partnerships between Israeli companies.
This year Sandy Springs-based Conexx is showing its appreciation to the Birmingham Federation by giving it the U.S. Community Partner of the Year award.
“We’re delighted to receive it,” said Steven Brickman, one of the Birmingham Federation’s past presidents. “It’s a great honor. We believe in the work that they do and are just really humbled and gratified that we received it.”
The Birmingham Federation has been one of Conexx’s longest-term supporters and has helped finance the group’s work since 1993, the year after it launched as the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Region.
“The Federation again and again has proven its commitment to Conexx as well as the U.S.-Israel business relationships, serving as a leader and connector between various organizations in the city and the state of Alabama,” Conexx President Guy Tessler said.
Connecting Israelis with Alabama companies is one of the Birmingham Federation’s main focuses. Economic development has become a more important part of how the organization provides support to Israel.
The Birmingham Federation has helped establish business ties and connected Israeli contacts with Alabama companies. Brickman said there have been tremendous technology and workforce opportunities in Israel to work with Alabama companies.
“It opened up a new paradigm in the Jewish community,” Brickman said. “It became a way for us to share Israel with our non-Jewish friends, who then become connected with Israel. It opened up a lot of eyes and doors.”
For example, a mission to Israel 12 or 13 years ago made the connection between an Israeli company and a leading health care company in Alabama, and the two were able to conduct clinical trials together.
“I know that there’s a significant presence in Huntsville with Israeli defense companies and the defense industry,” Brickman said.
The Birmingham Federation is busy promoting its Jewish community to the outside world. The organization raises money for local and national organizations that fulfill its mission. It also sponsors programming and is the glue that holds the community together, Brickman said.
“I think the Jewish community is well respected and a major force for good,” Brickman said. “We’ve done a lot to promote the well-being of the Jewish community at large through significant philanthropists. We’ve got some great people in the community. Those are our best resources. It’s a good place to live and a good place to raise a family, and it’s a great place to be a Jew.”
The Birmingham Federation estimates that the city’s Jewish population grew from 4,500 to 6,300 between 1984 and 2016.
Brickman hopes that the future will see young Jews moving into the Birmingham community. The Federation has formed a committee to reimagine what the community could look like five, 10 or 15 years from now.
“The world is changing, and we have to change with it, both in terms of organizations, fundraising, allocation of resources — just what we want to be and what we should be in the next 10 or 20 years,” Brickman said. “We’re not static. We’re looking to the future to see how we can make this a better place to live.”