At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, with more than 4,400 exhibitors from around the globe, the Israeli company Watergen was named the winner of the Energy Efficiency Product of the Year. The company has previously won a number of other awards and accolades, including for its GENNY home and office unit, which Time magazine selected as one of the 100 Best Inventions of 2019.
Watergen’s technology literally converts air into pristine, fresh drinking water. It is both energy-efficient and commercially economical. Offered in various sized units, Watergen’s products solve the need for fresh drinking water in practically any setting: a small home/office unit; another size for small towns, schools, hospitals, commercial, or residential buildings; a larger size for villages, off-grid settlements, and factories. Watergen also offers a mobile unit for emergency response; a customized, heavy-duty trailer unit; and even a unit for car usage, eliminating the need for toxic-prone plastic bottles.
The continuous combat Israel has had to be engaged in to defend itself since 1948 has brought about striking ingenuity and significant inventions, which have carried over to civilian adaptation. During the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, Arye Kohavi, an Israeli Special Forces officer, became aware of logistical issues in providing water to the front lines and other difficult-to-reach areas. He and design engineer Avi Peretz developed this product as the solution.
Even more admirable than the product itself is the Torah philosophy on which the company operates. Watergen is led by its founder, Dr. Mikhail Mirilashvili – an Orthodox Russian-Israeli – and tikkun olam and tzedakah are part of the company’s core.
I spoke with Yehuda Kaploun, president of WatergenUSA, its American affiliate company, during the CES show. Kaploun is also an Orthodox Jew who has known Dr. Michael Mirilashvili for many years. When Dr. Mirilashvili wanted to establish an affiliate in this country, he asked Yehuda to serve as president. Yehuda reached out to Ed Russo, now CEO, an environmental expert and author, who had worked as an environmental consultant to Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, and the two of them decided to work together with Dr. Mirilashvili to change the world.
“Mr. Russo and I both eagerly took on the challenge to educate the world about the benefits of clean water and, with Dr. Mirilashvili’s vision, to help change the world for the better by having healthy water.”
He went on: “If you view what you’re doing as benefiting the world, saving children, helping people in disasters and creating a positive environment, it’s a kiddush Hashem. Whether it be disasters in the floods of Texas, or the fires in California, or the hurricanes in Miami or northern Florida, you have the ability to present the Jewish world as making a huge difference in society. And that’s something that has always been the vision of Dr. Mirilashvili. Both Ed Russo and I viewed coming into the company and taking on the challenge [in terms of] both the environment and humanitarian side of what this product can do.
“Our first big project was when the floods hit in Texas, and Mr. Russo received a call from Air Force One from the director of FEMA asking us if we would be able to help the United States government provide water for the residents. We were assigned an area in Port Arthur where Dr. Mirilashvili, Watergen Israel, and WatergenUSA combined to serve about 8,000 gallons of water a day.” (Only when I asked did Yehuda mention that Watergen and WatergenUSA donated units to help in these disasters.)
Since I am from Russia – Georgia to be exact – I was curious about Dr. Mirilashvili’s Jewish upbringing. Yehuda told me he was raised Orthodox and his father was president of the Georgian Jewish community when it was part of the USSR. The family’s ties to Georgia go way back. Dr. Mirilashvili himself is president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and vice president of the World Jewish Congress.
I asked Yehuda to elaborate more on Dr. Mirilashvili. “He has a minyan in his offices. One of the rooms is a synagogue where many people come to pray, and he leads by example. During the tefillah, there are no conversations about business, and these terms are non-negotiable. It is strictly a time and place to pray.
“His son Itzak is another pioneer in the world Jewish community, and when, as the founder of Russian Facebook, he sold it, upon closing he donated a portion of the sale to help Jewish causes around the world. They are leaders by example. They are not people who will sit idly by. They are far and away a lesson and a model for families on how to conduct themselves in a proper manner – both religiously and in business.
“The beauty of working with Dr. Mirilashvili is people understand that his word is his bond, both by him and his son. It’s admirable. In today’s day and age, it is very, very rare to see that a handshake means something.”