30 March 2010

Touched by Bat Yam on Birthright Israel (January 2010)

By: Vanessa Bloomfield (Banff, Alberta)

I recently went on Taglit-Birthright trip to Israel with Canada Israel Experience. I am extremely grateful to Canada Israel Experience and my madrachim (trip leaders)for this incredible opportunity. While it was eye opening in many respects regarding my personal beliefs about Judaism—the most eye opening experience came on the final day of the trip.
We went to Bat Yam, a small, poor Ethiopian immigrant community on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. While in Tel Aviv you can feel the wealth and capitalism. There are shops, markets, hair salons and modern apartment buildings strung in rows upon each other. The people walking the streets speak English and Hebrew; there are tourist attractions, local pubs, and advertisements for businesses. Tel Aviv, is, in every sense, a modern city.

As we drove to Bat Yam the apartments became more run down, smaller. The streets became different. Maybe it was my imagination, but it felt darker. We were told that these children have come to Israel with nothing, usually only the clothes on their backs. They are, literally, starting from scratch.
We went to an after school program where the children are given a positive space to play and learn after school. We made boxes for soldiers and pom-poms out of tissue paper to cheer on the basketball game that was to occur.

The kids were shy at first, but despite the language barrier were obviously excited and pleased. Underneath the excitement the sense of poverty was apparent. The play room was a former bunker, and the school heavily relied on charity to create this space for the children of Bat Yam. This place could be the difference between a life of crime on the streets or a life of bettering the world with whatever contribution the children choose to make. And choice is the key, here in the slums of Tel Aviv. These people have all chosen to come to Israel; to make a better life for their families. They choose to pursue their dreams in a place of hope surrounded by enemies and prejudice. Yet still the children are faced with a choice of right and wrong in a very real sense of defining their entire lives.

The positive after-school space helps provide an escape, a warm meal, and the ability to define themselves in terms of sports or dance. We, our bus, took them ballet gear and basketballs for their sports program. The children were thrilled! Have you ever felt that sense of poverty, and the fire of the will from the people in this situation?

The capitalism is apparent in Tel Aviv; and these children want what everyone else has. The will of the children to learn and grow is only topped by their pursuit of fun. A girl shouts “Sit down” to a participant. He sits. She shouts “Sit Down” again. Now he's confused. He tells her “I'm already sitting”. She shouts “Sit down” with a gigantic smile on her face. So he lays down. “Sit down” she yells. Now everyone is confused and he stands up again. A teacher wanders over and speaks in Hebrew with the girl; apparently she does not know what “sit down” means, but she knows how to say it. The teacher explains in Hebrew and the girl giggles. I look over and another participant is playing a game of chase with two girls, much like any dad would do at the park with his daughters. He runs, slowly, letting the girls 'escape' then runs after them roaring while the girls shriek with laughter.

I am touched by the love and laughter of this place; in the place of abject poverty I feel no sadness, but a love of life. I found out that even in the poorest of circumstances, money does not dictate laughter and love. The richest may not be the happiest and that even the simplest activities like playing a game of chase or laughing over a shared language barrier may bring the greatest joy.

We should all look to our children for inspiration of positive and simple ways to laugh. It eases the heart of an adult and gives children such a sense of accomplishment that we find value in their ways and thoughts. This alone creates a positivity that can change the world. Even though we were in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv,we were amazed at what generosity from Canadians can do for a few children’s futures. We all agreed that was one of the most incredible moments of the trip. For many of us, it even topped floating in the Dead Sea! Which was great! I would love to go back and volunteer, but in the meantime, I will volunteer in my own community to increase the laughter and positivity of children, give back to the world, and strive to create positive space wherever I go.

20 March 2010

H4I UWO Edition 2010 - BIG SPLASH!!!

On Saturday, March 13th, 2010, over 90 volunteer participants joined Evan Silver and Kevin Treger (Co-Chairs) of the first UWO edition of Hoops 4 Israel presented by Israel on Campus. Over $2,400 net proceeds were raised for at-risk youth living in vulnerable situations in Bat Yam, Israel. Mazel tov to the H4I UWO volunteer committee for pulling off a great fundraiser and making a huge contribution to the 2010 Hoops 4 Israel fundraising campaign.

Some pictures from their event last week...

(L to R): Ryan Kroll, Alyse Gilboord, Evan Silver, Rachel Levitsky, Harrison Notkin
Arizona: David Kepecs, Wesley Brown, Dean Zoran

'3 Point Contest Champion': Evan Silver, Jake Simon (Winner of a Canada Goose Jacket), Kevin Treger

Volunteer Committee

On behalf of the Hoops 4 Israel committee of Toronto - we thank you for your hard efforts to make this student fundraising event a reality!!

15 March 2010

Hoops 4 Israel's 'sister-project' > JAM 4 ISRAEL!!

Hoops 4 Israel - the charity basketball initiative launched by Birthright Israel Alumni Community in 2007 has been looking long and hard for an after-party to celebrate their annual success that enhances the lives of hundreds of Ethiopian-Israeli at-risk youth. Finally, we have found our esteemed volunteer in Elissa Grossman, an ambitious young woman with an incredible gift of connecting with others coupled with a heart of gold.

The idea of a charitable 'Jam' was conceived by Elissa, a York Student with desire to give back to the Jewish community and inspired by her late grandfather, Alexander Grossman z"l.

“To appreciate your community, you must give back to it.”
-Alexander Grossman z"l

Elissa's grandfather was a large member of UJA and a genuine pillar of support for the Jewish community. "He did more than talk the talk but he supported his words with tremendous vision and generosity. When he passed away, I was left with his foremost lesson to never let the spirit of giving die." says Elissa.

The Hoops 4 Israel team is thrilled to bring Elissa on in 2010 to help spearhead the charitable after-party fundraiser of H4I, where all proceeds go towards supporting the vulnerable community of Ethiopian Israeli immigrants living in Bat Yam.

On June 17th, 2010 at the Empire Lounge, the inaugural Jam 4 Israel event will take place with a $15 entrance fee before 11:45pm and $20 afterwards. For more information or to help enhance this event, please contact elissa@jam4israel.com.

09 March 2010

UWO & Israel on Campus take on Hoops 4 Israel!

On Saturday, March 13th, 2010, Evan Silver & Kevin Treger have decided to Co-Chair Hoops 4 Israel as the Israel on Campus charitable event this year at University of Western Ontario. Having already raised almost $2,000 to be directly contributed to the Hoops 4 Israel charitable project in Toronto; the UWO version of H4I is the second project in 2010 that will be contributed to the overall Hoops 4 Israel fundraising campaign.

"As a student at the Univeristy of Western Ontario two things have become apparent. Firstly, the best way to support a community, is by taking the initiative to develop infrastructure for development; schools, hospitals, recreation centers etc. Secondly, competition and sport consistently bring people together. These are the reasons our club, Israel on Campus, has chosen to support Hoops 4 Israel, a charity which builds basketball courts and recreation centers for at risk Israeli-Ethiopian Jews. Traditionally Hoops 4 Israel holds a basketball tournament in Toronto to bring young professionals together for a great cause. Israel on Campus followed their lead by creating a similar tournament in London for university students." -Evan Silver

Evan Silver

Evan is a third year honours History student. In his spare time he plays basketball, squash, writes for a campus newspaper and is intereted in politics.

Kevin Treger

Kevin has always been a competitive basketball player, the sport has been his favourite past time from a young age. Spending the summer of 2008 working as a volunteer medic in Israel, Hoops 4 Israel combines his loves of Basketball and Israel, which is why he believes it is such a worthy cause. Kevin is currently a fourth year Biology student.

H4I Volunteer Committee:

Sarah Brown

Sarah is an honours History student at the University of Western Ontario. She has always believed it is important for Jewish students to learn about Israel. Currently Sarah is the head of Israel on Campus' Education Committee.

Leore Zimner

Leore is in her fourth year at Western, finishing her BA, Honors Specialization in History. After spending one year post-high school in Israel, Leore became involved with Israel on Campus at Western in her third year as VP Communications. Leore is the president of Israel on Campus. An avid Israeli advocate and CJPAC fellow, Leore is an inspiration to her peers on and off campus.

Brittany Sud

Currently, Brittany Sud is an HBA student at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. Her interests include traveling around the world, playing tennis, and figure skating. Brittany has always been passionate about basketball and Israel and she is looking forward to be a part of an event that combines both.

Ryan Kroll

Ryan is a third year student at the Richard Ivey School of Business. He volunteered as a medic in Israel in the summer of 2008 with Kevin where they both developed a passion for Israel and helping others in need. In his spare time Ryan plays guitar, writes for a campus newspaper and keeps up with current events. Ryan hopes to go to medical school when he graduates from the Richard Ivey School of Business.

Alyse Gilboord

Alyse Gilboord is currently a 3rd year Psychology Honours student at Huron University College. She enjoys playing soccer, spending time with her family and friends and making a difference in others lives by volunteering for various organizations. Both sports and Israel are dear to Alyse’s heart and she feels honoured to be part of this wonderful event.

On behalf of the Hoops 4 Israel committee of Toronto, UJA Federation, and Birthright Israel Alumni Community, we thank you for your massive contribution of time, energy and significant funding that will go towards the vulnerable community of Bat Yam. The UWO edition will give approximately 8 at-risk children the opportunity to be immersed in social programming that will set them on a path towards success, rather than the alternative disadvantaged lifestyle that this disadvantaged community can offer without our funds. Kol Ha'kavod and keep up the good work UWO Jew Crew!