23 December 2009

Leah Biteolin: The Living Bridge

Smart, outgoing, stunning and accomplished, Leah Biteolin has made the best of the opportunity the Israeli government granted her family in 1984 by absorbing them amongst 100,000+ other Ethiopians since the early 1980's. Currently, she works on her law degree from Ono College in Israel, but her vocation has her serving as the "living bridge", executing city to city partnerships with Toronto & Switzerland to provide overwhelming support to vulnerable Ethiopian communities in Israel, Kiryat Moshe & Bat Yam.

Leah speaking at the General Assembly in Washington (2009)

Leah with soon-to-be Ethiopian-Israelis at an absorption centre in Ethiopia (2008)

Hoops 4 Israel has been fortunate enough to have benefited from the dedicated work of Leah since 2007. She has been intimately involved in introducing Canadian Birthright Israel groups to the situation of Ethiopian Israeli at-risk youth, to mentoring Jewish Hillel students in long-term volunteer programs in such communities for more than 3 years now.

“My first toothbrush was a gift from Americans who came to visit the absorption center in Kiryat Gat where we were living. It was very exciting,” remembers Leah Biteolin.

Her family risked everything to realize their dream of making aliyah from Ethiopia in 1984. Leah was three years old. Leah integrated quickly into Israeli society. She did her national service as a medic with Magen David Adom and later received her degree in political science and public communications from Bar Ilan University.

Leah with colleague and mentor, Laura Kindler (Representative of Partnership Communities)

Leah carries herself with a Mediterranean flare and zest for life, living each day to its fullest. Her dedication to her services with the Jewish agency and her partnership communities is astounding. “My work is really meaningful. We are creating a living link between Jewish communities everywhere and Israel,” says Leah.

The Bat-Yam - Toronto Partnership is already making the city a national example of successful integration through intensive investment in educational programs for Ethiopian-Israeli elementary and high school students, and vocational and professional training programs for their parents. “One example is the Youth Futures program,” says Leah, “which is helping children bridge critical educational, social and extracurricular gaps.”

Leah has been instrumental in acting as this bridge, connecting Federations from other cities, volunteers, Birthright Israel Participants and the Hoops 4 Israel project with the communities of Kiryat Moshe & Bat Yam. This blog post is just a little tribute to the great work Leah does for Israel, but to learn more or to get in touch with her, please contact dave@hoops4israel.com.

RioCan: Putting Community on their back

"With great power comes great responsibility" -Batman

RioCan REIT personifies this notion through the corporate social responsibility they have demonstrated since their inception. Founder and CEO, Ed Sonshine, along with his team at RioCan lead by COO, Fred Waks, have continually put Jewish based fundraising efforts and community-building events at the forefront of their CSR strategy.

As we embark on our 4th year of operating Hoops 4 Israel in Toronto, we are proud and grateful for the overwhelming support and encouragement of RioCan and their corporate leadership of Eddy & Freddy. Two avid sports-fans and proven leaders in business and community, RioCan is a perfect fit as a title sponsor to H4I four years running!!

Ed Sonshine, past UJA Chair, has a long-standing and inspiring commitment to the Jewish community in Canada and Israel. His leadership roles span a variety of Jewish-based causes such as: United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, and Yad Vashem. Ed's amazing wife Fran has used her background in teaching to have significant influence and leadership responsibilities amongst these institutions as well. The willingness to publicly position RioCan as a title sponsor for so many Jewish and Israel-based causes, demonstrates a pride that we hope, will influence more Jewish business leaders to follow in regards to corporate social responsibility of the Jewish community.

Fred Waks, a current Chair of Koffler Centre of the Arts, past-Chair of the 2006 Israel-Canada Emergency Campaign and past-UJA Chair, Fred has followed Ed's lead in becoming one of Toronto's elite Jewish leaders. His commitment to the Jewish community has even had a trickle down affect to other Jewish employees of RioCan. A staunch supporter of Israel and a myriad of Jewish causes such as: UJA of Greater Toronto, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Yad Vashem, the Koffler Centre for the Arts; Fred is continually pushed by his dynamic wife Linda to give back to the Jewish community in unique and powerful ways.

Fred has said: "I see the next generation taking responsibility. As a parent and someone in the Jewish community, there's nothing more important than that continuum".

Most recently, RioCan has titled or been a major sponsor the following Toronto Fundraising events:
  • UJA's 'Walk with Israel'
  • Baycrest's 'Dancing with our Stars'
  • Canadian Friends of Yad Vashem's 'Dinner of Miracles'
  • BAC & UJA's 'Hoops 4 Israel'

Ed & Fred's values and commitment to the Jewish community have set a standard for Jewish business professionals and young Jewish adults to strive for. It is no surprise their success in business has carried over to the success they have had in Jewish community building both here and Israel. Their lead is inspiring for the next generation to follow and their support for us brings great confidence that we have met their standard of excellence in Jewish philanthropy.

19 December 2009

Time for some Indoor Ball in KM Town!

After the 2007 redevelopment of the outdoor sports court in April, the H4I committee set its sights on something bigger to leave their mark on the town of Kiryat Moshe. The structure next to the sports-court had been left vacant for years, and was an ideal location to create an indoor sporting outlet for the community's youth to use during hot or rainy times of year.

The inside of this building was in bad need of a facelift, with broken windows, infestation, and no amenities of a sports facility; the contractors had their work cut out for them.

The project was to be complete by summer 2009, and we are happy to announce that with the great work of the Rashi Foundation and the municipality of Rehovot (The capital city in Israel to which Kiryat Moshe is a suburb to), the building went through the following transformation...

The reconstructed entrance to the indoor sports hall

The sports hall can also be converted for a variety of indoor sports and has the possibility of hosting bar/bat mitzvah's and town hall meetings. Other amenities that the building has are:
  • a new roof
  • new windows and bars
  • acoustic ceiling
  • a sports court surface
  • coed change rooms and washrooms
  • a myriad of sports equipment to stock the hall courtesy of H4I 2008
  • A new main entrance
  • Basketball nets

Over $80,000 was taken from the Hoops 4 Israel 2008 campaign to help fund the redevelopment of this amazing space. The remaining funds went to fund an extensive social rec program called 'Yuvalim', in the vulnerable Ethiopian community in Bat Yam.

Friend to the Ethiopians: Cabbie on the Street

On a media mission to Israel in July 2007, the Score crew of 'Cabbie on the Street', lead by Cabral Richards and Dave Krikst (Cabbie's Manager & former Birthright Israel leader), joined the Sun sports writer Steve Simmons and Jordan Kerbel of CJC to stop through Kiryat Moshe to learn about the Hoops 4 Israel project. Cabbie & crew were on a mission throughout Israel to cover Israeli sports, but their stop in Kiryat Moshe opened Cabbie's eyes to the social divide amongst the Ethiopian population from many other neighbourhood's in Israel.

Cabbie in the Golan Heights

Kiryat Moshe's outdoor sports court, redeveloped by H4I funding from 2007

Cabbie & crew made it to KM town just after the outdoor sports court was introduced to the community. The sports court was redeveloped with the funds from Hoops 4 Israel 2007 in partnership with the Municipality of Rehovot & the Rashi Foundation. Its flood lights enable night balling and in turn, keeps kids off the streets and engaged in soccer and basketball.

Because Cabbie is known for his charismatic and intriguing interviews of the 'whose who' in the sports world, it was a real treat to have him show the same love for the youth of Kiryat Moshe
and the Hoops 4 Israel project that summer. He even made an effort to come the 2008 event and host the shootout contest during half-time. What a guy!

Cabbie interviewing the Lakers, Kobe Bryant later that year

Cabbie interviewing David Goodman, co-founder of Hoops 4 Israel in July 2007

Cabbie's compassion to the Ethiopian-Israeli youth did not end after this brief visit to Kiryat Moshe. Since July 2007, Cabral has sent several boxes of sports apparel to a social worker he met during the visit. Hoops 4 Israel discovered this by chance, but when we learned of his incredible altruism and his desire to give back, we knew the youth of Kiryat Moshe found a new friend in Canada. The Hoops committee invited Cabbie to host the shootout at H4I 2008 and Cabbie brought his energy and humor to lift the event to the next level.

Cabbie with Yitzhak & Moshe during filming in July 2007

Cabbie with Yisrael Desta after he miraculously wins the 3-Point shootout contest

Cabbie with Kirsten Menkes at Hoops 4 Israel 2008 after she wins the womens shootout

Cabbie and Dave Krikst with a crew from Bat Yam with Laura Kindler (Partner of Hoops 4 Israel) in July 2007

Cabral with Leah Biteolin (partner of Hoops 4 Israel)

17 December 2009

Yitzhak Adgo: A Champion of Kiryat Moshe

In 2008 we had the great pleasure of meeting a young gentleman from the Ethiopian-Israeli community of Kiryat Moshe. Yitzhak (Takelle), defines Leadership. His diligence and success stems from the classroom to the basketball court, setting an example to his peers and family at the age of 19. Yitzhak recently joined the IDF, patrolling the Israeli north at the border with Lebanon.

Yitzhak was one of two Ethiopian boys selected to fly to Canada and join us to roll out Hoops 4 Israel 2008 at the Hoopdome. Yitzhak and his close friend Yisrael Desta were selected for their excellence in school and leadership in the community. Their Toronto trip was whirlwind, hitting major tour sites across the GTA, chilling with Cabbie on the Street of the Score, experiencing Canadian shabbat dinner and other fine cuisine and most importantly, participating and speaking at Hoops 4 Israel.

These boys were basketball fanatics and knew everything about the NBA, so this was a real thrill. The Hoops Committee was able to get them great seats in the ACC for the Raps vs. Nuggets to see their boy, Allen Iverson.

With UJA past-Chair, Fran Sonshine at the event.

Truly an experience of a lifetime for Yitzhak & Y'Israel

Yitzhak represents a success story of the Ethiopian-Israeli Olim (immigrants) that have been assimilating into Israeli society since the 1980's. Although he was raised in a low socio-economic neighbourhood, Kiryat Moshe, Yitzhak has leveraged the social services and education system to rise up and succeed. He also has some serious game on the ball court! A devoted member of the community-based Yechalal basketball program that was sponsored by Hoops 4 Israel with the 2007 funds, Yitzhak's growing success is now a piece of our success as well!

Keep up the great work protecting our Jewish homeland Yitzhak!! You are a true Champion!

Taking it to the next level: Ari Ditkofsky

Ari Ditkofsky, a 26 year old volunteer participant of Hoops 4 Israel 2009 lead the charge placing first in personal fundraising, second in team fundraising, and finished as runner's up in bball competitive play in the one-day tourney. Ditkofsky recruited his entire team of 6 to pitch in and make contributions for the at-risk youth of Bat Yam, Israel and set an H4I record sporting the tallest collective H4I team since our inception tourney in 2007.

Ditkofsky taking it to the cup in the semi-finals Vs. the RioCan team (captained by Joseph Wise)

Team Ditkofsky Boys (L-R): Brandon Kaplan, Ari Ditkofsky, J.R. Bailey, Mark Ditkofsky, Kevin Shand, Dave Jankovic

What blew us away was Ari’s determined effort to help long after the charity event ended in late March. After his Birthright Israel trip to the Holy Land in late July 2009, Ari met up with social workers, Laura Kindler & Leah Biteolin to work with some of the at-risk youth to facilitate a mini basketball camp in early August 2009.

Ditkofsky teaching clinics in Bat Yam, Israel (August 2009)

Ari has joined the H4I volunteer committee and is now an active member of our team management division. The spirit of volunteerism and tikun olam runs deep with Ari. He’s a prime example of an H4I volunteer participant who not only wants to raise as much money as possible to support a variety of social infrastructure for these youth; but he wanted to have a hands on influence and experience with the kids themselves. To discuss with Ari further, reach out to him at arid@hoops4israel.com.