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Getting together to dig deep and find purpose




Kayli Vee Levitan, a LaunchPad participant, describes the retreat as three days “where people who want to leave the world a better place than when they entered it, get together, open their hearts, dig deep, and leave with a renewed sense of purpose and passion”. She was one of about 100 attendees, who are now part of a robust network that meets the last Thursday of every month.

LaunchPad is run by the United Jewish Campaign (UJC), in collaboration with the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies, and Mensch, an organisation which works to create positive social change in South Africa.

“We believe that by uniting incredible change-makers, giving them skills, networks, and opportunities to connect, think, create, and lead together… magic can happen, says Kristy Evans, UJC’s Director of Fundraising, Strategy and Operations. “Through annual LaunchPad retreats, networking events, professional development opportunities, and grants, we are building leaders who will grow Jewish life, transform wider South Africa, and have an impact on our world.

LaunchPad was started in Australia by Tracie Olcha from the Australian Jewish Funders network, who recognised a gap in programming and networking for 25 to 45-year-olds in her community in Melbourne.

UJC’s Aron Turest-Swartz met Olcha at the Schusterman ROI summit (an international young Jewish leaders conference) in 2015. He heard Olcha describing LaunchPad Australia, and felt that it would be a perfect fit for the South African Jewish community.

Evans and Turest-Swartz went to Melbourne in May 2016 to attend LaunchPad Australia, and decided to import it to South Africa three months later.

“From the minute you arrive at LaunchPad, you’re thrown into the deep-end of connection, both with yourself and those around you. Each of the ice breakers, workshops, and challenges make you think about who you are, what you stand for, and why,” Levitan says.

“Whatever you’re passionate about, from sustainability, to reconnecting the youth to Judaism, women’s rights, mental health and wellness, and so much more, people are there to listen and learn, and, if possible, solve.

“It was three days with innovators, change-makers, creators, and thinkers – strangers who become friends. We were inspired, motivated, and challenged. We worked together to build each other up, to challenge the norm, and look for better ways of doing things.”

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