Two years ago, Chabad-Lubavitch of Southwest Florida sought to unite Jewish professionals with its creation of the Jewish Business Network. Its calendar of large, social gatherings won a significant following among the Fort Myers community, but attendees soon sought more serious, intimate and business-focused gatherings which could provide valuable networking opportunities.

Thus, Business and Breakfast was born. Participants of the monthly sessions say it was exactly what was needed.

Stephanie Raskin, who is one of the youngest females to attend the breakfasts, appreciates how easy it is to connect with others at the meetings. As opposed to the organization’s nighttime meetings, the breakfasts do not draw a “crowd of hundreds” through which guests must navigate, “aimlessly handing out business cards” just to establish a bond.

“It has been great for me,” says Raskin, who works in the health insurance industry. “I’ve made a few business contacts and a close friend. I didn’t know where to look to find other Jews [before], so these meetings keep me close to the Jewish community.”

Founded by Rabbi Yitzkchok Minkowitz, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Southwest Florida, the Jewish Business Network is based on a model used by southeastern Pennsylvania’s Jewish Business Network, a project of the Lubavitch House of Philadelphia and Jewish Heritage Programs that was founded in 1983.

Each breakfast meeting, which runs from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on the second Friday of every month, begins with refreshments and time to schmooze before transitioning into a formal program. Minkowitz opens with a prayer and some words of Torah and then everyone introduces themselves; a member of the group then gives an in-depth presentation on his or her business, and finally a local leader addresses the gathering.

According to Minkowitz, the meetings show the community that Jewish services are available to everyone, no matter one’s profession.

Aaron Price, 57, says that he prefers the intimate gatherings because they enable networking in a more personal atmosphere. He has been in attendance almost every month and considers the meetings to be beneficial on multiple fronts.

“It serves a dual purpose: From a business perspective, it’s very positive, and it also makes a spiritual connection for Jews,” said Price, who works in real estate. “It’s a good way to start the day, and is great exposure for your business.”

Zalman Velvel, a 60-year-old real estate worker, praises the meetings for their promotion of ethical business practices.

“The breakfasts combine Torah wisdom with business,” he saus. “They get Jewish people to speak with one another, inject Torah into business, and helps Jews help each other and get to know one another.”