A few weeks ago, I was walking the halls of the headquarters of OwnBackup, an Israeli-founded software-as-a-service data protection platform. As the elevator opened, I was greeted by an indoor campground and strolled through a restaurant, golf simulator and a venerable speakeasy among other notables.
It would be reasonable if you thought you were on a Silicon Valley tech campus or inside a Financial District tower in New York City, but you’d be wrong. In fact, I was in northern New Jersey, a state that, according to a recent report, has three Israeli “unicorns” (companies with evaluations over a billion dollars), including OwnBackup. Don’t be surprised though, because Israeli tech companies are advancing at a lightning pace in the Garden State.
If you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on in New Jersey, then you should. Israelis and Israeli-Americans have been making a big impact on the state’s economy, acting as a bridge between two thriving markets at an important time.
The history and advancement of New Jersey-Israel relations
New Jersey and Israel have a deep history tied to large Jewish and Israeli communities which have grown and thrived here for decades. In 1989, New Jersey created the New Jersey-Israel Commission under the New Jersey Department of State with a mandate to deepen relations between the two regions across business, culture, academia and more. Now, as we mark Israel’s 75th anniversary, that relationship has advanced dramatically from bonds of comradery to cutting edge economic development. This has happened due to an unwavering commitment to Israel engagement from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, today’s reality in which New Jersey and Israel stand as economic engines, and changes to the nature of work away from traditional urban centers since COVID.
Over the years when I’ve referenced my home state as a global hub of innovation to Israelis, New Jersey is sometimes met with smiles more than intrigue. That has been changing.
The Garden State, strategically sandwiched between two of the biggest American cities, has been turning heads in the Israeli tech community across a range of sectors. Companies like OwnBackup, Bluevine, eToro, Kornit Digital, NICE, Teva, UVeye, and DriveNets have their American headquarters there amongst others. With last year’s merger of Valley National Bank and Bank Leumi USA, New Jersey became notable for Israeli-American banking.
Earlier this year our Commission issued a report on New Jersey-Israel economic relations with big results. New Jersey accounts for 25 percent of Israeli investment in the northeast United States. Since the start of the Murphy Administration, nearly a half billion dollars has flowed from Israel to New Jersey, leading to the creation of 1,400 local jobs. While New Jersey has historically been a cradle of invention, it is drawing the eye of coveted Israeli innovators more than ever.
Israeli-Americans leaving a mark on New Jersey
Drive through some communities in Bergen County today, located up north in this state, and you’ll hear Hebrew spoken amidst thriving centers of Israeli life, serving as an anchor for Israelis who want to work and live here. As Israeli-Americans find success in this country they are leaving an indelible mark on New Jersey.
It’s time to acknowledge the significant contributions Israelis have made here. Israelis should also recognize that New Jersey has turned the page on an exciting chapter with them, above and beyond most places in the world, and this partnership will continue to bring prosperity to both sides of the Atlantic.
Andrew H Gross is the Executive Director of the New Jersey-Israel Commission, New Jersey Department of State.