More than $100,000 was donated to Israel Tennis & Education Centers in less than 90 minutes at its exhibition Aug. 15 at Beechmont Country Club in Orange.
Israel Tennis & Education Centers was founded 47 years ago by six men, including Dr. Bill Lippy of Warren. When it was founded, Yoni Yair, vice president of development for Israel Tennis & Education Centers, said he was one of the children who participated. Now, he is a graduate.
There are 23 locations in Israel and a donation of $1,000 is equal to one scholarship to send a child to one of the locations.
“Most of the centers are located internationally in underprivileged neighborhoods and the idea is to create an island of stability,” Yair told the Cleveland Jewish News. “A place that will help keep children off the streets and provide them the right values and life skills and opportunities for a brighter future.”
Through tennis, they are able to give children these skills and the best shot at a successful life, said Amy Hendricks, president of Israel Tennis & Education Centers.
The ambassadors include Arina Diatlenko 11, of Kiev, Ukraine, who immigrated when the Russia-Ukraine war started; Wisam Abu Sheban 12, of Beer Sheva; Bar Even, 23, of Jaffa; Rotem Ashkenazy, 24, of Ramat Hasharon; Shadi Al Tori, 23, of Rahat, and Eden Ein Eli, 29, who is the Tayeh Center manager from Haifa.
Orange was the first stop for the six ambassadors on their 2½-week American tour, ambassador Bar Even said. They have multiple stops in New York and then they will go to Boston to complete the trip.
The ambassadors include Arina Diatlenko 11, of Kiev, Ukraine, who immigrated when the Russia-Ukraine war started; Wisam Abu Sheban 12,of Beer Sheva; Bar Even, 23, of Jaffa; Rotem Ashkenazy, 24, of Ramat Hasharon; Shadi Al Tori, 23, of Rahat, and Eden Ein Eli, 29, who is the Tayeh Center manager from Haifa.
Even joined ITEC a decade ago when the center opened in Jaffa, and it is a part of the ITEC Girls’ Empowerment Program.
“We had meetings with the gender specialist, and she helped us really gain confidence in ourselves and raise our self-esteem,” Even told the CJN. “We always talked about the importance of women in leading roles in today’s society and she gave us tools to how to be great leaders ourselves.”
Even used the skills from the center and program when she served for Israel Defense Forces for five years, but now she wants to give back for everything she got from it, she said.
“I had at least 10 that were my soldiers, my own private soldiers and they were like my children, and I had the same feeling with the girls in the group in the ITEC and it just really helped me get my confidence to be able to commander,” Even said.
Al Tori has been a part of ITEC since he was 10 years old, but his parents found a center in Beer Sheva for him to attend because it was a better environment and a safer place than Rahat, he said.
As an Arab, Al Tori said he felt pressure growing up in a place where he heard bad things and not interacting with Jews because of the conflicts. But being at the center made him feel less alone and changed his mind, he said.
“We need this organization because this organization is like a bridge for that conflict where they can actually solve that, and we need it alive,” Al Tori told the CJN.
The co-chairs for the event were: Adam and Stacey Berebitsky, Dr. Marcy Schwartz and Dr. Dan Simon, and Carmie and Todd Stein.
Adam Berebitsky, a Solon resident, has been playing tennis since he was 6 years old, so when he found out about ITEC eight years ago, he became involved.
“Two interests of mine, helping out children in need and also a sport that I love very dearly came together and amazing it’s in Israel,” Berebitsky, a congregant of Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike, told the CJN.
Simon, a Moreland hills resident originally from Chicago, learned about the organization originally from the Ury Family, specifically Burt Ury, who were early supporters and they had exhibitions in Chicago, he said.
“Thirty-six percent of the kids (in Israel) are in poverty and this is the No. 1 social service organization for children in Israel,” said Simon, president of academic and external affairs and chief scientific officer at University Hospitals and a Park Synagogue congregant. “They have 20,000 kids coming to their 23 tennis centers every year and it’s all about really empowering children for the future to make better lives for themselves.”
The goal for the night was to raise awareness and raise funds, he said.
“Six-million dollars of their operating budget is dependent on fundraising,” Simon said. “… Our goal tonight is going to be specifically try to come up with as many scholarships because each kid that can’t afford to go is 1,000 bucks.”
The goal for Todd Stein of Moreland Hills, who learned about the organization six years ago, was to save the children and get them out of whatever crisis they are in, he said.
“Get them to a safe environment that allows them to use their God-given brains and use tennis as a crutch, if you want to call it, as the thing that brings everybody together,” said Stein, a congregant of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike.