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Jewish Journal

Importing Israeli creativity

by Abigail Klein Leichman, Jewish Standard

November 17, 2011 | 11:31 am

Nili Shalev, left, Israel’s economic minister to North America.

Nili Shalev, left, Israel’s economic minister to North America.

Don’t buy Israeli products just to support the Jewish state. Buy them because they’re well-made, cutting-edge, even avant-garde in quality, look and feel, says Nili Shalev, Israel’s economic minister to North America.

“It’s not just important to buy Israeli. It’s a pleasure,” Shalev said.

“Israel produces high-quality products mainly targeted for export, since Israel itself is such a small market. Whether it’s fashion, jewelry or gourmet foods, they’re packaged beautifully to give the buyer a real feeling of uniqueness and innovation,” she said. “There is no better way to support the Israeli economy than to get engaged with Israeli companies that are active in the United States.”

Speaking from the two-day KosherFest exhibition in Secaucus, N.J., Shalev zeroed in on the many Israeli edibles that are marketed to (not just Jewish) consumers in all niches, from gluten-free to gourmet. “The advantage is that they are kosher but also tasty and healthful,” she said.

As for gadgets, Israeli brands such as Epilady are epic, but for the most part Israeli technology is on the inside. “Israeli innovation is embedded in practically every high-tech device on the market,” Shalev said.

There are other ways to wear Israel on the outside, however.

Lilly Berelovich, president of New York-based trend forecasting company Fashion Snoops, lived in Israel for four years and is now looking to promote hot Israeli designers such as Sharon Brunsher, Yosef Peretz, Anya Fleet and Aluma. She’s expecting to meet and greet these and many other established and up-and-coming designers at Tel Aviv Fashion Week, Nov. 21-23, and is working with the Israeli Embassy on ways to introduce them to American buyers.

“I want to elevate awareness of the creativity that Israel has to offer in all realms, to get the focus off the constant talk of conflict,” Berelovich said. “There are other things to talk about.”

She calls Israeli designers “daring, innovative and different. I think their creative angle is unlike anything I’ve tasted here in the U.S. It does not surprise me that a lot of high-tech ideas are born in Israel because of that creativity and daring. Israeli designers are not held back by commercialized concepts, and it shows in their use of fabric, detail and composition, even how silhouettes are cut.”

Berelovich is also a fan of home décor designers, such as Elemental, which don’t have much recognition outside of the Jewish state. “Our goal is to curate an event to highlight that,” she says. “People are still asking if there are a lot of camels in Israel, and they’re missing out on a lot of creative talent.”

There’s another category of creative talent that British-born Nikki Jason is working to publicize. She’s formed Co’motion (comotiongrp.com), a “super agency” composed of 14 Israeli providers offering a full range of sales, marketing, promotional and branding services to overseas companies, including some Fortune 500 A-listers.

“This is a wonderful example of how you can get creative, top-notch business services at lower cost from Israel,” Shalev said.

Jason explains that while living in Israel, she established a branding agency to help Israeli companies develop export strategies for marketing and branding. Now she’s expanding the concept.

“Israel is very isolated and restricted in terms of growth because it’s such a small market, so I turned to our collaborators and put together services for every field in business. We are helping HP launch new technologies and products, and we recently helped Apple launch its flat screens in Europe,” Jason said.

“We realized the capabilities of Israeli creativity are not limited to technology. We have package designers, print production experts, Web developers, social media and e-commerce specialists, top photographers and more. If you bought the same level of services in Manhattan, it would cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you can buy them in Israel for a fraction of the price.”

The Israeli government is supporting this effort, which represents some 150 employees working in Israel. “My mission for Co’motion is to make sure we can sell creative services the same way technology is selling Israeli innovation,” she says. “I feel that the way to support Israel is not [just] through philanthropy but through the work we do so well, sometimes in surprising areas.”

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