New group promotes business ties between R.I. and Israel


Building a business relationship between Rhode Island and foreign countries is not a new idea – but now there’s a group specifically seeking to strengthen and promote business ties between Rhode Island and Israel.


The Rhode Island-Israel Collaborative (RIIC) was formed earlier this year to grow business between Rhode Island and Israel, promote academic exchanges and support research.

Rhode Island business consultant Avi Nevel said he volunteered to try to build a board to start the nonprofit. “I was surprised at how quickly it happened,” he said.

Nevel, president and CEO of Nevel International, is now the president and CEO of the 12-member RIIC board, while lawyer Adi Goldstein is vice president.

In addition, several Rhode Island companies are partners in the venture. 

“Israeli companies are looking for U.S. partners,” said Nevel, noting that Massachusetts has been promoting Israeli business partnerships for years.

“We [were] missing out,” Nevel said. “We would like people to come to Rhode Island and invest in Rhode Island.”

The new collaborative grew out of several trade missions from Rhode Island to Israel. The first, in 2011, included eight Rhode Island businesses and had positive results, including a business partnership between Mearthane Products Corp., a Cranston polyurethane parts manufacturer, and Hewlett Packard in Israel.

The R.I.-Israel Collaborative represents the BIRD Foundation in Rhode Island, which has already given three grants that encourage joint research and development between Rhode Island and Israeli companies, Nevel said.

The BIRD Foundation was established 40 years ago by the U.S. and Israeli governments to promote and support industrial research and development that benefits both countries. It’s an acronym for Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development.

“For a small state, three grants is quite successful,” said Nevel. “Money for research can be hard to get. This is good and it connects Rhode Island with Israel.”

The grants are financing the following projects:

• Hasbro, of Pawtucket, and an Israeli company, VivoText, are working together on text-to-speech technology.

• An Israeli company, Timocco, that creates games for kids with autism is working with Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University to develop therapies through games.

• SoftWheel, an Israeli company that “literally reinvented the wheel,” creating one with interior suspension that allows those with handicaps to use it on stairs and other places where wheels aren’t usually used, is working with Crawford High Performance Composites, of Providence.

RIIC is now endeavoring to raise money to fund additional trade missions.

The group has received official backing from Israel as well as Rhode Island. Both Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island secretary of commerce, and Inon Elroy, Israel’s economic minister to North America, have officially endorsed the group on its website,

“… Nothing can substitute for a focused, local organization connecting Rhode Island’s businesses and government with Israel,” wrote Elroy.

FRAN OSTENDORF ( is the editor of The Jewish Voice.