Out of Africa: Networking for Impact

Johannesburg – February 6, 2012 – At a time when South Africa is emerging as a regional economic powerhouse that continues to gain global visibility as a center of new ideas and energy, the first South African Young Jewish Innovators Gathering will bring together 50 trailblazing social entrepreneurs, business pacesetters, activists and thought leaders to create a strategic network that will deepen their impact on their communities, the Jewish world and beyond.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and South Africa’s Sasfin Bank Limited are partnering to shine a spotlight on these dynamic young innovators and help them connect with each other and, where possible, create partnerships that will engage large numbers of young Jews in Jewish life. The invitation-only event will open at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, on Saturday night, February 11, and continue at the Sasfin Bank on Sunday, February 12.

“We came to South Africa because it is a vital hub of the global Jewish community, and we are engaging with these young people because they are writing the next chapter of South Africa’s Jewish life,” said Lynn Schusterman, Chair of the Schusterman Family Foundation. “For the Jewish community to thrive in the 21st century, we must facilitate stronger connections and relationships between the individuals, organizations and networks that comprise Jewish life. We believe this gathering is an important step toward achieving that goal.”

Opening keynoter, Shaka Sisulu, scion of the renowned Sisulu political dynasty who founded and heads Cheesekids, the 8,500-strong volunteer community service organization, will share how he leverages access to decision-makers and resources to benefit African society at large. At 32, he is one of South Africa’s most prominent social activists.

Closing keynoter Helen Lieberman, founder and honorary president of Ikamva Labantu (The Future of our Nation), will address how Jewish values helped build the largest community-based, non-profit, non-governmental organization of its kind in South Africa, assisting more than 70,000 people of all ages, including 45,000 children.

Other speakers, including Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein and Lynn Schusterman, will provide their unique visions for the Jewish future.

“We are connecting South Africa’s social entrepreneurs, with their strong moral consciousness and grassroots activism, to the global Jewish innovation world,” said Jonathan Newfield, Head of Group Strategy at Sasfin Bank, known as the bank for entrepreneurs. “This is also a great opportunity to showcase our special community, characterized by unity and mutual respect, and our impact on general society – which vastly exceeds our numbers but where so much remains to be done.”

At the heart of the program are formal and informal network-building activities, including an innovation plenary by PresenTense European Programs Director Michael Podberezin of Israel, as well as master classes taught by some of South Africa’s leading business and social action luminaries, including Raizcorp’s Allon Raiz, Draftfcb’s Brett Morris, Wilderness Safari’s Ilana Stein and Innovation Shack Creator Charles Maisel. Rabbi Ramon Widmonte will lead the entire group in Jewish text study.

“The Gathering’s synergetic mix is a brilliant setting for the social activist to learn from the marketing genius, the serial entrepreneur from biblical texts, and the green consultant from the banker,” said Conference Director Guy Lieberman.

The gathering is the brainchild of Guy Lieberman, an ROI Community member, and Seth Cohen, Director of Network Initiatives at the Schusterman Family Foundation.

“We are drawing the world’s attention to South Africa, where an inspirational network of young adults is creating a vibrant community on a historic continent rife with challenges and ripe with opportunities,” said Cohen. “We’re here to empower them and their peers to take risks, to experiment, to use and build on the tools and skills they gain at this gathering and, most important, to know they are part of a global Jewish network that is changing the Jewish constellation and improving the world.”