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A bank for Jews, by Jews

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Is this a bank or a bar mitzvah?

Two Orthodox Jewish business leaders are building bank branches in the center of Hassidic Brooklyn to cater to the financial needs of fellow Orthodox Jews, and, just as importantly, to help their clients schmooze.

“We network our clients together,” said Meyer Eichler, Liberty Pointe Bank’s vice-chairman and a prominent merchant of Judaica products. “If we have a client that does light fixtures and another doing construction, we’ll introduce them at events.”

Liberty Pointe Bank, whose first branch opened on Wall Street in 2005, is the brainchild of Eichler and real-estate tycoon Shaya Boymelgreen. By the end of this summer, the bank plans to expand to Borough Park and Flatbush, both centers of the tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community.

The investors are betting on a customer-service-driven approach, underscored by the bank’s motto, “We understand you.”

“We know where they’re from,” explained Eichler, who, like Boymelgreen, lives in Crown Heights, home to a large population of Orthodox Jews.

Indeed, Eichler contends that the only thing that differentiates banks these days is customer service.

“In the end of the day, finance is finance,” said Eichler.

In Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, the bank has its appeal.

Zvi Bar-Levav, an Ocean Parkway resident and the owner of a software company, said he’s drawn to the idea of banking with people he knows.

“[Eichler’s] son’s a friend of mine, and they’re very honest people,” said Bar-Levav, whose sons attended the same school as at least one of Boymelgreen’s children.

Of course, this isn’t the first bank to serve a specific community. In 2003, University Bank opened a subsidiary to cater to Michigan’s Muslim community. Carver Bank, at Atlantic Terminal, has found its niche by focusing on the city’s black community. And on Court Street, Downtown, there’s a bank catering to trial lawyers — dubbed, appropriately enough, Esquire Bank.

For their part, Eichler and Boymelgreen plan to widen their target clientele after a few more years to include people other than Orthodox Jews. But for now, they have plenty of would-be patrons to exhaust.

“Monsey is begging us to come out,” said Eichler.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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