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SA Organisations

LaunchPad lands in SA - and is here to stay

  • LaunchpadFeldmanK1
I’m always a little sceptical when someone extolls the virtues of something from Australia on such a grandiose scale. But this idea of taking an assortment of Jews, throwing them into a room and seeing what happens, intrigued me. Was it really that simple? Surely there was more to it.
by KIM FELDMAN | Sep 21, 2016

I first heard about “this LaunchPad thing” via a phone call from Aron Turest-Swartz, the deputy director of the United Jewish Campaign, Cape Town. LaunchPad is an Australian initiative whereby a group of young, dynamic changemakers - the buzzword de jour - come together to look at issues surrounding the Jewish community and try to come up with innovative new approaches and solutions.

It had been running in Australia for the past four years and Aron and his wife Kris decided it had to come to South Africa.

Launchpad


Capetonian participants really enjoyed Launchpad activities last week

I’m always a little sceptical when someone extolls the virtues of something from Australia on such a grandiose scale. But this idea of taking an assortment of Jews, throwing them into a room and seeing what happens, intrigued me. Was it really that simple? Surely there was more to it.

I and the 29 other Jews, selected from Cape Town and Johannesburg, were simply told to meet at Old Mac Daddy’s in Elgin on September 4 for a three-day “retreat”. Details were scant and it quickly became apparent that none of us had anything more than the vaguest inkling of what was to come.

It was new, it was unprecedented and in the words of participant Nissen Goldman, “[it] was the single most important step taken by the Jewish community [in recent years]”.

Looking around the room on that first day, I recognised some familiar faces. But far larger was the percentage of people I’d never seen of, or heard of, before in my life. As a Capetonian, having been through the full Herzlia gauntlet, along with some communal involvement thereafter, you definitely get the sense that you know everyone.

But LaunchPad SA proved yet again, this simple assumption is so false. The group ranged from 22-year-old rabbis and NGO-founders to 40-year-old MDs and COOs. Educators, entrepreneurs, accountants and creatives were all there. Religious and secular alike. The only thing connecting us seemed to be a shared interest in the Jewish community and a concern about the shape of its future.

Throwing preconceived notions aside and opening ourselves up to the process, we went on a highly crafted journey. We explored our own identities and our place within the community. We spent our time breaking through the clutter to distil down the key drivers and potential pitfalls of communal success.

We spoke in small groups. We spoke in large open spaces. We laughed. We cried. Then we laughed some more. We passionately debated and enthusiastically brainstormed. In the end, we pitched new projects and ideas to key community stalwarts - the likes of Marco van Embden, Mike Abel, Avin Lieberman and Tracie Olcha (the founder of LaunchPad); initiatives both large and small that addressed education and environmental causes to structural hierarchies and social platforms. They ran the gamut of needs and reflected the multitude of personalities present.

Two initiatives have already started the process of moving from idea to reality: an app that connects hosts and the willing-to-be-hosted for Shabbos dinner, and a fundraising education project for teens to start contributing to the community in a real and impactful way.

Whether all the initiatives turn into global successes or some peter out, the impact of LaunchPad SA will be felt in the community it created and the inspiration they returned with.

It’s the small changes, harder to measure, but oft-times with greater results, that will propel LaunchPad SA onwards.

We were thrown together to see what would happen, and I found my community again.

A huge thank you must go to the Schusterman Foundation, the UJC Cape Town and the SA Cape Jewish Board of Deputies in association with Mensch and Old Mac Daddy’s without whose support and financial backing, LaunchPad SA would not have happened. 

1 Comment

  1. 1 Benzion 25 Sep
    May I suggest that you check out the App for Shabbat.com?  It is connected to the Shabbat.com website and has nearly 100,000 Jewish uses (The website) finding hosting for Shabbat in 121 countries and 5000 cities across the globe. Each week, between 5000 and 10,000 users find places for Shabbat!

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