A Winning Combination
by Max Kleinman
They were certainly overmatched in terms of height, weight and talent, but, at least, during the first half, the Maccabi Haifa players were fairly competitive with the New Jersey Nets.
But Maccabi Haifa and the Israeli Basketball League are winners because they displayed to the American public another aspect of Israeli society: its diversity and passion for sports. The team’s roster is international in scope including players from the U.S., Serbia, Bosnia and Israel. Fifty percent of the team are either American or Israeli Jews. This international assemblage of players was not lost on the crowd of 5,200 spectators.
The game with the Nets was the springboard for engagement with our youth as the team’s visit will include a basketball clinic with our three classes of Diller Teens, who spent quality time in Israel with their peers and vice versa. The clinic will be held in Newark with students from the Network Youth Development Program.
The next evening will be a full scrimmage with the team and Birthright Israel alumni and prospects for Masa Israel Journey, which offers programs for six months to a year of study in Israel. I want to thank Drew University for hosting the scrimmage.
In addition, proceeds from corporate philanthropy and fees related to the Maccabi Haifa appearances here in the United States will benefit the Haifa Hoops for Kids program, a joint venture between the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and Maccabi Haifa. Haifa Hoops has brought over 4,500 underprivileged and special needs children in Northern Israel to a Maccabi Haifa game over the last two seasons. Another beneficiary of these proceeds will be Masa.
Our Israel Program Center, led by Noga Maliniak, helped coordinate all of the activities with assistance from our Community Relations Associate Director, Melanie Gorelick, former Shlicha, Orli Dudaie, Chief Marketing Officer, Shelley Labiner, JCC MetroWest, Gold’s Gym in Whippany, and others too numerous to mention. None of this could have come to fruition without the support of the indefatigable owner of the Maccabi Haifa team, Jeff Rosen, and Andrew Wilson, Marketing Director for the team and, of course, the Nets.
So, even though Maccabi Haifa lost the game with the Nets, it was a winning combination benefiting Israel, Haifa Hoops for Kids, Masa Israel Journey, Birthright Israel Alumni, teenagers in both Newark and MetroWest and others to understand the importance that sports can play in bridging different cultures and helping to create a love for Israel and the Jewish community.
Max Kleinman is Executive Vice President, United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, New Jersey.