The first time a rabbi stepped into the newly opened Freehold, NJ Kia dealership, offering freshly baked challah and a chance to put on tefillin, no one was more surprised than dealership owner Jay Brichke.
“I’ve been a Jew for 56 years, and no one has ever taken the time or effort to reach out to me like this,” said Brichke, a Livingston resident. “For the first time in my life I put on tefillin, and I found myself really embracing it.”
Less than 10 months after it opened, Freehold Kia is now the largest Kia dealer in the Eastern region, with a second location opening soon in Toms River, Brichke said. But no matter how busy he is, Brichke always looks forward to Fridays, when Rabbi Levi Wolosow of Chabad of Western Monmouth County pops in to “laugh and learn” together.
The relationship has made such an impact on Brichke that he recently launched “Kia Cash for Chabad”. The dealership will donate $100 to Chabad every time a new customer mentions Chabad or Friendship Circle, which helps families of special needs children.
“Rabbi Levi and a busload of rabbinical students go up and down Route 9 on Fridays visiting Jewish business owners. They go out of their way to do something for others to make them better people,” said Brichke, a member of Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston. “It’s important to me to give thanks and give back.”
Brichke is one of about 50 local business people who attend Chabad’s monthly Jewish Business Network, where they learn about topics of interest to business owners, while helping each other promote their businesses.
“We believe that Judaism is everywhere – in your personal life and your business life,” said Wolosow, director of Chabad’s Rosenberg Center for Jewish Education.
In their private study sessions in Brichke’s dealership office, topics run the gamut from Jewish mourning rituals, the tattooing prohibition, Jewish business ethics, and CEO compensation.
“My goal is to make Jewish education accessible to anyone. If you don’t have the time to go learn, we come to your office,” Wolosow said. “You can pick any topic of interest on the Jewish spectrum. Information is empowering and doesn’t have to be boring.”
Sometimes when work becomes overly stressful, Brichke picks up the phone for a quick reality check with the rabbi. “He always tells me that Hashem runs the show. Hashem puts challenges in front of us to make us better people,” he said. “This has definitely made an impression on me, and it’s the most important lesson I can teach my children.”