David Goodman and Hoops4Israel

The Canadian Jewish News – April 10, 2008

ACTIVIST FOUNDS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT TO HELP ETHIOPIAN JEWS

By Shlomit Kriger
Special to the CJN

While he is only 25, David Goodman has already become an innovative leader within the Jewish community, both in Toronto and abroad.

Goodman, a University of Western Ontario and George Brown College graduate, has always been active in the community. He has volunteered for the Birthright Alumni Community (BAC) in conjunction with Canada Israel Experience (CIE), the leading Israel tour organizer in Canada.

He also volunteered to deliver food packages to people living below the poverty line on some of the High Holy Days through Jewish Family & Child of Toronto.

But his largest contribution to date came last year when he founded Hoops 4 Israel, a charity basketball tournament that has transformed the lives of Ethiopian-Israeli at-risk youth in Kiryat Moshe, Israel.

Having grown up in a Reform family, Goodman had visited Israel when celebrating both his and his brother’s Bar Mitzvah. Yet it was his first Taglit-birthright Israel trip in February 2006 that deepened his connection to the Holy Land.

“The experience was phenomenal,” he said. “I went on the trip with some of my closest friends. We took in a lot from the culture and the people – especially the soldiers on our trip with whom we bonded,” he said.

“Our tour guide, Yael Goodman, was Israeli and made the experience deep for me. That made a huge difference in me becoming more passionate about the land and ready to give back when I returned to Canada.”

Following the trip, although he had a full-time job in marketing, Goodman sought a volunteer opportunity that would allow him to manage a large-scale initiative. He volunteered for CIE and decided to contribute to the UJA Federation of Toronto’s project of fundraising for the community in Kiryat Moshe.

Most of the 10,000 residents of Kiryat Moshe are Ethiopian immigrants. About 95 per cent of them live below the poverty line, and in some cases, there are eight or nine children in one family.

“The investment that the Israeli government has made to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel and help them integrate into the society is huge, but we also have to provide help from the Diaspora,” said Goodman. “We don’t want a black social underclass to go on for another generation, especially in a place like Israel that has a great democracy. We can’t let that happen to our own people – it’s part of our Jewish morals.”

The idea for Hoops 4 Israel, which is held in conjunction with the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and BAC, was inspired by Goodman’s love of sports and his desire to get his friends and other young Jewish adults involved in a fun social advocacy program that could benefit Israel.

For further assistance, he formed an event committee comprising more than 15 Birthright alumni.

“I love basketball and play it with my friends,” said Goodman. “So I thought, ‘Why not use that toward something more purposeful?’

“My close friends had not been advocating for Israel on a public scale. They might be Zionists, but they don’t necessarily express that to their networks and friends. My event committee and I made it a policy that each participating team would do some fundraising,” he said, adding that he hoped that would help influence other people to involve themselves in events that support Israel.

The event began to grow in popularity, so Goodman decided to quit his marketing job, and since February 2007, he has been working full time on the development of Hoops 4 Israel.

In its first year, with the help of more than 90 participants and numerous corporate sponsors, Hoops 4 Israel raised over $100,000. The proceeds were used to fund the building of an outdoor sports court at a community centre in Kiryat Moshe that is a popular hangout for the residents.

Funds were also used to sponsor youth soccer and track teams, a performing arts program, a computer comprehension program and a cognitive skills education program. The soccer team is now among the top youth soccer teams in Israel.

“The youth in Kiryat Moshe don’t have the same privileges that we do,” said Goodman. “Some resort to crime or drugs, because they don’t have a sense of purpose, coupled with nothing to do after the regular school day or on weekends,” Goodman said.

“The sports programs help instil confidence, purpose, and leadership skills in the youth. As a result, their learning curve also grows tremendously, and the youth know they have to do well in school in order to stay on the sports teams.”

Last July, Goodman received a Charlie Award for his efforts with Hoops 4 Israel. Named after late philanthropist Charles Schusterman, the award annually recognizes the achievements and innovative leadership of birthright alumni from around the world.

Goodman and the 14 other award recipients that year enjoyed a weeklong leadership seminar in Israel, where they interacted with high-ranking leaders from the business and non-profit sectors and refined their managerial and strategic skills.

Last September, Goodman was hired full-time as the outreach co-ordinator for the BAC. He has so far led two birthright trips, and he took the participants to Kiryat Moshe to see how the community has benefited from the contributions. He also brought along some donated goods for the underprivileged youth, including basketballs.

The second annual Hoops 4 Israel tournament, held in Toronto last month at HoopDome, a multicourt basketball facility, attracted 132 volunteer participants.

Two teenagers from Kiryat Moshe, 17-year-old Yisrael Desta and 19-year-old Yitzhak Adgo, who have excelled at school and the sports programs, were brought to Toronto to participate in the tournament. Goodman also took them to various tourist sites across the city.

The tournament raised more than $130,000. In addition to funding the ongoing sports programs in the northern town, the proceeds will go toward the renovation of a community centre for indoor sports and possibly weddings and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

For more information visit www.Hoops4Israel.com.

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