12 | The Jewish Press | April 6, 2018
Tech-un Olam: Repairing the world one - Israel innovation at a time
Rabbi baRuch haLevi Co-Founder & CEO, welaunch n his 2012 book, Revolution of the Jewish Spirit, Rabbi Baruch Halevi wrote: “As a central tenet of Judaism proclaims: kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh—all Jews are responsible for one another. The Jewish journey may begin with the individual but must culminate in the communal.” It’s an important concept to Baruch, in more ways than one. Born and raised in Omaha, he made aliyah in 2014. An entrepeneur by nature, he continues to look for meaningful and effective ways to promote Israel and make connections. “Judaism itself,” he said, ”is a start-up. We are a start-up people. We can transcend politics and speak a universal language. Good business opportunities can pave the way for peace.”(Editor’s note) In Judaism, there is a well-known expression that many Jews have heard, called Tikun Olam. Literally, Tikun Olam translates to, “fixing the world.” This implies that the world is a broken place, and these days, with all the fires, floods, hurricanes, droughts, shootings, and other tragedies, it doesn’t take a lot of convincing to see that, indeed, our world is in need of repair. Tikun Olam can be seen in a thousand different places and faces. And you don’t need to be religious to want to help. One of the reasons I transitioned from being the rabbi of Congregation Shirat Hayam (Swampscott, MA) and started my new non-profit organization, welaunch, is because I am so passionate about what I call Tech-un Olam: the power of technology, R&D, innovation, entrepreneurism to repair this
broken world. Over the past decade, Israel has arisen as an innovation superpower, last year ranked #2 in the world for innovation by the World Economic Forum (The World Global Competitiveness 2016-17 Report). In fact, there is so much entrepreneurial, investment and startup activity in Israel that it has been dubbed, “The Start-up Nation.” And this has been accomplished, in no small measure, due to Israel’s scientists, researchers, engineers, technicians, entrepreneurs and CEOs. Although most of these men and women would describe themselves as secular, I would nonetheless suggest they are among the most devout, dare I say “religious,” people whom I have ever known. They are entrepreneurial zealots -- seeking solutions to the global water crisis, food shortages, and environmental issues
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through revolutionary ag-tech, foodtech and clean-tech solutions. They are innovation radicals -- forging pathways around death and through disease with life-saving digital health, medtech and bio-med breakthroughs. And they are technology fanatics -- refusing to give up on the problems, or give in to the despair, pioneering new pathways which literally allow the paralyzed to walk and the blind to see. For a while I told myself I was no longer a pulpit rabbi. However, with the launch of welaunch, and the ascent of the Startup Nation, I’ve come to understand that I simply have a new congregation which I’m helping to build. The shul (synagogue) is located in R&D centers, co-work spaces and research centers throughout Israel. The siddurim (prayer books) we use come in the form of research papers, business plans and pitch presentations. The tefilot (prayers) are expressed through the sweat, sacrifice and service of these tzaddikim (righteous people) who have transformed Israel into “Congregation Start-up Nation.” And my congregants, these are men and women fueling the Start-up Nation, fulfilling the mitzvah of Tech-un Olam, repairing the world one Israeli innovation at a time. Baruch HaLevi is the former rabbi of Tifereth Israel Synagogue, Des Moines, IA and the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of welaunch (welaunch.org), a U.S.-based nonprofit introducing Israeli technology startups to corporations, investors and partners throughout the Silicon Prairie (U.S. Midwest) as a platform for economic development, Jewish community engagement and Israel innovation education.
Mazal Tov, Aaron! We are so proud of your achievements – membership in NHS, varsity letter in tennis and a Merit Award from the Band.
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