It started with lunch.
As the world bounced back from the pandemic in 2022, Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld started inviting young business people to meet amid kosher meals and engaging conversation. By July, the Jewish Business Network, an arm of Chabad Young Professionals, was launched.
“It was basically born out of trying to find a space for young Jewish professionals to connect,” Rosenfeld said. “It was just a fun way to socialize over business-related matters.”
Since last summer, JBN has held monthly happy hours at area breweries and similar venues. Rosenfeld encourages each member to hold at least one meeting based off the connections made at those happy hours between each monthly event.
The next happy hour is 5-7 p.m. on May 17 at the distillery Noire Expedition on Penn Avenue, Rosenfeld said. JBN buys the first drink for all who register in advance. Expanded programming is coming, too.
Rosenfeld said breweries work well for the meetups because, in addition to providing a fun atmosphere, they typically allow Chabad Young Professionals to bring in catered kosher food. It’s also pretty easy to scan ingredients to see if their craft beers are kosher.
The events have drawn business professionals from fields as wide-ranging as tech, health care and real estate, he said.
Orly Olbum, a fourth-generation Pittsburgher who moved to Shadyside three years ago after living in Washington, D.C., started attending JBN happy hours after meeting other members at a meal.
“I ran into some friends from preschool — as one does in Pittsburgh — and they took me to a Shabbat dinner,” she said.
The owner of the home hosting the meal? Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld.
“I was excited to move from the college Chabad to the ‘young professional’ Chabad,” said Olbum, who runs the data science department for a software company founded by Carnegie Mellon University alums. “Personally, I get two things out of [the happy hours]. I get to meet people who are in the Jewish community without being religious. And I get to be in a place that’s Jewish-ish when meeting them.”
“Chabad? It’s been a good resource,” said Aaron Weiss, a civil litigation attorney who lives on the South Side. “I think Henoch does a good job of doing things for that young 20s, young 30s, even 40s community.”
Eli LaBelle, a Realtor with RE/MAX, enjoys the social aspect of JBN. And he loves connecting to people in the Jewish community who someday might need his services when house-hunting.
“I enjoy all the events [Rosenfeld] throws, and my wife and I try to make it to as many as we can,” said LaBelle, a fifth-generation Pittsburgher who grew up in West Homestead and now lives in Morningside. “It helps me to be around in my community, [and] it just helps me be on their minds.”
“I truly think what Henoch is building is great community,” he added. “I’m just happy to be a part of it.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.