2016-12-21 / Voice at the Shore

Israeli stock club offers a wealth of benefits for members

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Members of the local Israeli Investment Club, which meets monthly at the JCC, include: (back row, from left) Jules Freeman, Mike Modiano, Sam Perilstein, Iris Seltzer, Jim Landau, Gail Weiss, Rabbi Jonathan Kremer, Jerrold Savoy (club financial advisor), Joel Miller, (front row, from left) Elizabeth Modiano, Eve Rose, Carolyn Jewell, Eileen Raynes (club president), Shirley Belitsky, and Joanne Platt. Members of the local Israeli Investment Club, which meets monthly at the JCC, include: (back row, from left) Jules Freeman, Mike Modiano, Sam Perilstein, Iris Seltzer, Jim Landau, Gail Weiss, Rabbi Jonathan Kremer, Jerrold Savoy (club financial advisor), Joel Miller, (front row, from left) Elizabeth Modiano, Eve Rose, Carolyn Jewell, Eileen Raynes (club president), Shirley Belitsky, and Joanne Platt. Wanted: Members for a new local Israeli stock club.

How, exactly, does an Israeli stock club work? By investing a relatively small amount of money and time, club members will gain a wealth of knowledge about Israeli companies and investing, said Jerrold Savoy, a stockbroker with Linwood-based Thomas and Company, who has been advising another local Israeli Investment Club for almost 20 years.

The existing local club was formed in 1998 by 18 people who each put in an initial investment of $250. Today, that club has grown to nearly 50 members and has an investment portfolio worth $200,000. New members are rarely accepted unless someone drops out.

“We just don’t have the space,” said Savoy.

That’s why he wants to start a new club. This new club needs a minimum of five members, although more is better: More people means more money for buying stocks, Savoy explained.

“Members would need to be interested in learning about the stock market and willing to research Israeli publicly-traded companies,” he added.

A look at the history of the existing 20-year-old Israeli Stock Club, which meets monthly at the JCC in Margate, paints a picture of the rich rewards that this kind of club can yield. Although these rewards are mainly educational, said Savoy, the club has also made money in the long run.

The idea for starting the first local Israeli Investment Club grew out of a random conversation about Israeli companies during a meeting of an Atlantic County Jewish Men’s Club that Savoy was then part of.

“Someone mentioned something about a Microsoft development, and I said that it was the result of Microsoft’s collaboration with an Israeli company,” he recalled.

Savoy, who had been fascinated by a visit to the Tel Aviv Stock exchange in 1976, knew quite a bit about Israeli tech companies at that point. As the discussion progressed, it became clear that many people knew little about emerging Israeli companies, which was not surprising given that most publicly-owned Israeli companies were not traded on the New York Stock Exchange, he said. Subsequent to that discussion, the men decided to start an Israeli Stock Club with Savoy as its advisor.

“The primary goal in starting the club was to become better educated about Israel; making money was a secondary goal,” recalled Bruce Peskoe, a founding member of the club. “This club has been successful on both accounts,” he added. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount about Israeli companies and how they impact the world.” He now invests in some of these Israeli companies even outside of the club. ”Many of the companies are just plain good investments,” said Peskoe.

Since the club’s inception, members—who now include many women as well—have seen explosive growth in partnerships between Israeli and American companies. They have also seen Israel blossom into the world’s startup nation for tech companies.

A few examples of companies the club has invested in include: Given Imaging, an Israeli medical technology company that developed a pill-camera for doing endoscopies (after buying and selling the stock a few times, the club doubled its money on this investment when Given was purchased by a private company, said Savoy); Teva Pharmaceuticals, which recently announced plans to market an inhaler for medical marijuana within Israel; and Elbit Systems, an Israeli-based company that develops new technologies for defense, homeland security and commercial aviation.

The club also holds stock in American companies that have an Israeli connection, such as Berkshire Hathaway, which owns part of a metals company in Israel, and Apple, which owns half a dozen Israeli companies, said Savoy.

Like the stock market, the value of the club’s portfolio has gone up and down many times since the club’s inception. According to club member Jim Landau, the portfolio’s value dropped to a low of $90,000 after the market crashed in 2008. At its highest, the portfolio was worth $250,000.

What happens at a typical club meeting? Prior to each meeting, every member must kick in $36 (double chai) so that the group has money to invest, said club president Eileen Raynes, who runs the meetings with Savoy’s help. Members then look at the performance of their current holdings and discuss which stocks they might want to trade and which ones to buy. Members present research they have done on various companies that guide these decisions. Savoy also offers guidance, although club members make the final decision on which stocks to buy and sell.

Raynes, who has been a club member for many years, describes the experience as “a learning process. We have a very organized decision-making process for deciding what to do for the good of the club. None of us are making huge amounts of money,” she added. The goal is to support Israel and to learn about the Israeli economy and the process of investing.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of a new local Israeli Investment Club should contact Savoy at Jerrold.Savoy@lothomas.com or (609) 927-4044. s

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