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 a pulpit rabbi 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, nonetheless, I would 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 through revolutionary ag-tech, food-tech and clean-tech solutions.
They are innovation radicals — forging pathways around death and through disease with life-saving digital health, med-tech 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 Start-up 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.
Rabbi Baruch HaLevi is the former rabbi of Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott and the CEO and co-founder of welaunch, a U.S.-based non-profit introducing Israeli technology start-ups to corporations, investors and research partners as a platform for economic development, Jewish community engagement and Israel innovation education. www.welaunch.org