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Home / Jewish Values  / A cowboy, Native American & Rabbi walk into a bar….The welaunch Friends Raising Tour Summary

A cowboy, Native American & Rabbi walk into a bar….The welaunch Friends Raising Tour Summary

An Evangelical cowboy cotton farmer, a Native American tribal leader, and a rabbi from Tel Aviv walk into a rural, western Oklahoma bar….

Sounds like a joke? Well guess what?… the jokes on you because this was just one of many “can’t make this stuff up” real life experiences which I recently enjoyed on a three week welaunch “Friends Raising” tour across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota,

Three weeks. Two flights. And one rental car with 2500 miles driving throughout the Silicon Prairie, and do I have some stories tell.

First, a quick word about why this rabbi was hanging with the Chickasaw Nation Native Americans in Oklahoma, drinking tequila shots with the Cotton Farming Cowboys near the Texas Panhandle, praying the afternoon prayers with Orthodox Jews in Overland Park, Kansas and preaching to a packed Evangelical congregation in inner city Moline, Illinois.

In one word – welaunch.

welaunch is a U.S. based not-for-profit whose mission is to connect the Start-up Nation (Israel and its unparalleled technology and innovation) with opportunities throughout the US Midwest, or as we call it, the Silicon Prairie. In this region, if you want to do anything, particularly business, it comes down to relationships. The phone is fine. Videoconferences are helpful. But at the end of the day, if you want to make it in Iowa, Texas or Missouri – the “show me state,” there is simply no substitute for breaking bread, personal interactions, and some good old-fashioned preaching.

Yes, welaunch is about making introductions between Israeli tech startups with Silicon Prairie investors and businesses with the intent of doing business. However, first and foremost, welaunch is also creating relationships between the people within the Startup Nation and Silicon Prairie, educating them about one another, and building relationships.

Although this trip will undoubtedly lead to business and investment between these two places, as well as funding to sustain welaunch (a not-for-profit) what has been even more exciting and hopeful is also how it’s changing perceptions, minds and hearts.

Back to my newfound friends, the Cotton Farmer Cowboys. Think about this for a moment… Having been invited to join them for dinner at a local steak restaurant in Oklahoma (with not a single thing for this kosher keeping rabbi to eat), we began with a bit of an awkward silence. “What do you mean you can’t eat the meat flashbacks to the Pace Picante salsa commercial, “get a rope,”) ultimately turned into an interesting conversation about Judaism and the origins of Christianity. This lead to one bold, and brutally honest cowboy to speak up. “Rabbi,” he said, in a heavy southern twang, “I can honestly say you are the first Jew I have ever met.” Whereas many of my colleagues might have been taken aback, having grown up with many Evangelical friends in Nebraska, I didn’t miss a beat. “Brother,” I said. “Is that true? Last I checked Jesus was a Jew and I’m certain you have met him, if not in this restaurant, than in your heart.”

“Good point,” he replied. “I take that back. You are, indeed, the second Jew I have met and I am damn glad to have met ya” And from there me and my newfound friends talked Netafim – Israeli drip irrigation (which he was using without even knowing it’s Israeli origins) and other ways Israeli technology has, and will, transform his farm and his life.

The cowboys walked away wanting more Israeli information, introductions and innovation. As did the Orthodox Jews, the secular venture capitalists, the Arab descent academic and every single person I met along this journey. Liberal or conservative; Democrat or Republican; Reform or Orthodox; Christian, Muslim, Jew; Gay or Straight; city slicker or rural farmer – after dozens upon dozens of conversations, all I received in the bar, the synagogue, the church, the boardroom or the classroom was “Amen,” “Hallelujah,” “Sign me up!” “Lets do business.” “How do I contribute?” “When can I invest.”

All of this simply confirms what I have now seen time and again – whereas religion, politics and nationalism divides – cutting-edge innovation inspires, technological breakthroughs excite, and entrepreneurial conversations unite.

This is why we have launched welaunch. It’s not just about business or investment. It’s about, as my Christian brothers and sisters call it, building the Kingdom of God on earth, or Tikun Olam as it’s termed in Judaism. Or in the language welaunch it is, “Tech-un Olam,” fostering relationships, uniting people, and repairing the world one Israeli innovation, conversation and opportunity at a time.

Yes, a cowboy, Native American and rabbi did, indeed, walk into that bar as complete strangers with seemingly nothing in common. However, they left that bar interested in doing business, committed to improving the world, and above all else – with a deeper sense of mutual understanding, respect and well on their way to becoming lifelong friends.

This was a successful “Friends Raising Tour”.

This is what we launch at welaunch!

Baruch HaLevi,

welaunch co-founder & CEO

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