Florist brings what he learned in Israel to inner-city Chicago

Quilen Blackwell, a Madison, Wisconsin native who became a born-again Christian at 18, took an interest in Israel and all things biblical as a University of Wisconsin-Madison student. Blackwell, now 38, participated in Hillel events on campus, which marked his first relationships with Jews.

But when he received an email from the Consulate General of Israel in the Midwest in 2021—the year after he opened a flower shop in Chicago—Blackwell assumed it was spam. It turned out that the consulate, which had been researching Chicagoland sustainable organizations, found him in a Google search.

“Quilen is a passionate business and social entrepreneur, who has managed to create an amazing impact within the community of Englewood,” Yinam Cohen, consul general of Israel to the Midwest, told JNS. “One of my major goals as the consul general of Israel is to enhance our partnership with communities in Chicago’s South and West sides. The minute I heard about what Quilen does, I knew that he was exactly the kind of partner I was looking for.”

In Israel, Blackwell and his family visited sites that Christians hold sacred, including Nazareth, the Galilee, Capernaum, and Jerusalem’s old city. But this was also a business trip. At the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, Blackwell learned from a Jerusalem florist how to make wedding chuppahs (canopies), certain Israeli bouquets and centerpieces, and international European designs. Throughout the trip, he was impressed by Israel’s agricultural prowess.


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