By Jeremy Appel, LJI Reporter, for Alberta Jewish News
Calgary-based Sloane Zenith decided to dedicate the mitzvah portion of her Bat Mitzvah towards helping Israeli youth engage in one of her passions — playing tennis. She raised $5,030 for the Israel Tennis and Education Centres (ITEC), which is enough money to fully-fund the experience of another child who shares her love of tennis. “We found this fundraiser that really relates to me because I am a tennis player and I want everyone to be able to have that opportunity,” Sloane told AJNews.
Her mother, Amber, said ITEC is a great organization because it is open to people of all religions and socioeconomic statuses, and isn’t bound by geography. “Of course, that’s always the way Israel is, but I feel like the general public doesn’t understand that,” Amber said. “I love that it really emphasizes that it’s [open to] anyone. It doesn’t matter. We will give them the opportunity [to play] tennis if they need it.” The fundraiser took place on Sept. 10 — the same day as Sloane’s Bat Mitzvah — at High Fitness, a gym Amber owns. “They do little fundraisers here, there and everywhere,” Amber explained.
For Sloane’s special day, Amber gave her a crash course in fitness training and then hosted a “family-oriented” fitness event to raise funds for ITEC. “We had kids, we had parents, we had dogs, we had everyone running around just having an amazing time and sweating,” Amber recalled. About 150 people attended the event, which incorporated the gym’s signature style of aerobics-based training that’s revamped so everyone can participate. “It’s kind of like a big party,” Amber explained.
Sloane, who is now a nationally-ranked tennis player, said she became familiar with ITEC when the organization came to Calgary a few years ago and she was given the opportunity to play with them at the tennis centre where she trains. Sloane’s grandmother, Helen, stayed in touch with members of ITEC and when it came time for her Bat Mitzvah project she suggested it would be a good cause to support.
Tennis tends to be a pricey sport to play, which highlights the importance of helping those who are economically disadvantaged participate. “It’s very expensive to get lessons. You need new shoes and rackets constantly. Breaking that barrier so that it’s not just an elite sport and more people can play was super important to us,” Amber explained. Sloane’s father was a tennis player, so she was raised on the court. “I was kind of just born into doing it, and I enjoyed it so much, and it’s just been in my life forever,” said Sloane. And Amber has watched her daughter grow throughout her years as a tennis player. For one, Sloane’s confidence is now “through the roof.”
“It’s an amazing sport, and it really helps with more things than just tennis. It’s about patience. It’s about perseverance, the friendships, the community,” Amber said. “You can be friends with someone and then you have to face them on the court. It’s very challenging to learn those kinds of social situations.” Sloane recognizes she’s in a fortunate position. “In Judaism, you do lots of mitzvahs, so when your Bat Mitzvah comes around, you need to give back. I’m so lucky to be able to do [a mitzvah],” she added. Her Bat Mitzvah speech included a famous quote from Rabbi Hillel, which encapsulates the spirit of giving. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?”