Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

“I am from an Arab family. It’s a privilege for me to interact with my Jewish friends and build new friendships through the years,” Haifa native Rand Najjar, 15, said.

NEW YORK – Monday’s crowd of 68,059 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, was the largest to attend an opening day in US Open history. But those in attendance did not see any Israelis in action. For the first time in many years, there were no Israelis in the men’s, women’s or juniors draws for singles or doubles at the US Open.

That may change in the future if recent efforts of the newly renamed Israel Tennis & Education Centers (ITEC) are successful. But even if the ITEC never produces world class tennis players, they are already producing thousands of tolerant, inclusive citizens who will serve as important ambassadors in of Israel and around the world.

Four promising young Israel tennis players – from diverse backgrounds, home towns and tennis centers across Israel – attended the US Open opening matches to see their heroes in action and to celebrate the conclusion of participating in five tennis exhibitions in eight days in New York, Boston and Cleveland.

Haifa native Rand Najjar, 15, takes part in the High Performance Coexistence Program in Haifa which serves Jewish, Muslim and Christian players. Najjar, who has been playing tennis for 10 years and is considered one of the top players in her age group in Israel, spoke with The Jerusalem Post this week about her experience.

“I am from an Arab family. It’s a privilege for me to interact with my Jewish friends and build new friendships through the years,” she said. “We don’t feel that there are any differences between us. We are all equal. And we feel that the tennis center is such a peaceful place.”

Eden Eneli, also from Haifa and currently a student at Tel Aviv University, coaches in the High Performance program and works with Israel’s national tennis team. While he is pleased to coach players with diverse backgrounds in the city where he grew up, he stressed the much larger role of the Israel Tennis & Education Centers in the lives of the participants.

“My first goal is to educate the next generation. My second goal is to be their tennis coach.”

Nir Skolotsky, 15, who lives in Beersheba and participates in the High Performance program, has played in international tournaments.  He dreams of receiving a full scholarship to study and play tennis n a Division 1 university in the United States.

Tel Avivian Noa Hamenoo, 11, dreams of becoming a professional tennis player and competing in Wimbledon like her idol, Serena Williams.

“I love Serena,” gushed Hamenoo.

Noa Hamenoo – from Tel Aviv – dreams of becoming the next Serena Williams (Credit: Howard Blas)

“[Noa] calls herself the Serena of Israel,” quipped Jacqueline Glodstein, the ITEC Executive Vice President for Global Development.

Hamenoo has not had an easy life and appreciates the opportunities tennis offers.

“I live in an underprivileged neighborhood in South Tel Aviv,” she said. “My parents came to Israel from Ghana, West Africa. I have two sisters and one of them was born prematurely resulting in her having cerebral palsy; she is my inspiration.”

Hamenoo feels the tennis centers are “a safe place where I can come and be with my many friends.”

The youngest, and perhaps liveliest, member of the group was Ariel Kolandarov. The 10-year-old from Tel Aviv, and the top-ranked player in his age group, confidently proclaimed that “I want to be No. 1, like [Novak] Djokovic!” as he playfully signed an autograph.

According to Yoni Yair, ITEC’s Vice President of Development, Kolandarov’s aspirations may not be too far off.

“Ariel is one of the most talented we have ever brought for an exhibition. He has great promise for Israel tennis,” said Yair.

Kolandarov lives with his parents – immigrants in 2002 from Uzbekistan – and his tennis playing sister, Sabrina.

“My parents were both orphans, from the same orphanage in Tashkent, where they met and fell in love. After they married, they made the very difficult move to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv, where we now live. It’s a very poor area, but it’s home. My mom works as a cleaning lady and my dad is a driver. My sister and I receive full scholarships which allows us to benefit from the social services and English language tutoring at the ITEC.”

Over the last 43 years the Israel Tennis & Education Centers has grown and evolved into a social service organization that teaches tennis, offers academic enrichment and mentoring and in the process and empowers thousands of vulnerable children from diverse backgrounds. The foundation started with one center in 1976 and now features 14 centers throughout Israel.

Glodstein noted that people continue to respond positively to the name change—from Israel Tennis Centers to Israel Tennis & Education Centers.

“It is an affirmation of what we do,” she said. “Tennis is just one part of our mission, teaching values and life skills is even more important.”

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Original Article Published On The Enlace Judío

Enlace Judío México e Israel.- “Soy de familia árabe. Es un privilegio para mí interactuar con mis amigos judíos y construir nuevas amistades a lo largo de los años“, dijo la nativa de Haifa, Rand Najjar, de 15 años.

Una multitud de 68,059 personas el lunes en el Centro Nacional de Tenis Billie Jean King de la USTA en Flushing Meadows, Nueva York, fue la más grande que asistió a un día inaugural en la historia del Abierto de Estados Unidos. Pero los asistentes no vieron a ningún israelí en acción. Por primera vez en muchos años, no hubo israelíes entre los hombres, mujeres o jóvenes para singles o dobles en el Abierto de Estados Unidos.

Eso puede cambiar en el futuro si los esfuerzos recientes de los recién nombrados Centros de Tenis y Educación de Israel (ITEC) tienen éxito. Pero incluso si el ITEC nunca produce tenistas de clase mundial, ya están produciendo miles de ciudadanos tolerantes e inclusivos que servirán como embajadores importantes en Israel y en todo el mundo.

Cuatro prometedores jóvenes tenistas israelíes, de diversos orígenes, ciudades natales y centros de tenis en todo Israel, asistieron a los partidos de apertura del US Open para ver a sus héroes en acción y celebrar la conclusión de participar en cinco exhibiciones de tenis en ocho días en Nueva York, Boston. y Cleveland

Nativa de Haifa, Rand Najjar, de 15 años, participa en el Programa de Convivencia de Alto Rendimiento en Haifa, que atrae a jugadores judíos, musulmanes y cristianos. Najjar, quien ha jugado tenis durante 10 años y es considerada una de las mejores jugadoras de su grupo de edad en Israel, habló con The Jerusalem Post esta semana sobre su experiencia.

Soy de familia árabe. Es un privilegio para mí interactuar con mis amigos judíos y construir nuevas amistades a lo largo de los años“, dijo. “No sentimos que haya diferencias entre nosotros. Todos somos iguales. Y sentimos que el centro de tenis es un lugar tan tranquilo“.

Eden Eneli, también de Haifa y actualmente estudiante de la Universidad de Tel Aviv, entrena en el programa de alto rendimiento y trabaja con el equipo nacional de tenis de Israel. Si bien se complace en entrenar a jugadores con diversos antecedentes en la ciudad donde creció, hizo hincapié en el papel mucho más importante de los Centros de Tenis y Educación de Israel en la vida de los participantes.

Mi primer objetivo es educar a la próxima generación. Mi segundo objetivo es ser su entrenadora de tenis “.

Nir Skolotsky, de 15 años, que vive en Beersheba y participa en el programa High Performance, ha jugado en torneos internacionales. Sueña con recibir una beca completa para estudiar y jugar tenis en una universidad de la División 1 en los Estados Unidos.

Tel Avivian Noa Hamenoo, de 11 años, sueña con convertirse en tenista profesional y competir en Wimbledon como su ídolo, Serena Williams.

Amo a Serena“, dijo Hamenoo.

Noa Hamenoo, de Tel Aviv, sueña con convertirse en la proxima Serena Williams (Credito: Howard Blas)

[Noa] se llama a sí misma la Serena de Israel“, bromeó Jacqueline Glodstein, vicepresidenta ejecutiva de ITEC para el Desarrollo Global.

Hamenoo no ha tenido una vida fácil y aprecia las oportunidades que ofrece el tenis.

Vivo en un barrio desfavorecido en el sur de Tel Aviv“, dijo. “Mis padres vinieron a Israel desde Ghana, África occidental. Tengo dos hermanas y una de ellas nació prematuramente, lo que la llevó a tener parálisis cerebral; ella es mi inspiración“.

Hamenoo siente que los centros de tenis son “un lugar seguro donde puedo venir y estar con mis muchos amigos“.

El miembro más joven y quizás más animado del grupo fue Ariel Kolandarov. El niño de 10 años de Tel Aviv, y el jugador mejor clasificado en su grupo de edad, proclamó con confianza que “¡Quiero ser el número 1, como [Novak] Djokovic!“, mientras juguetonamente firmaba un autógrafo.

Según Yoni Yair, vicepresidente de desarrollo del ITEC, las aspiraciones de Kolandarov pueden no estar muy lejos.

Ariel es uno de los más talentosos que hemos traído para una exhibición. Es una gran promesa para el tenis de Israel“, dijo Yair.

Kolandarov vive con sus padres, inmigrantes en Uzbekistán en 2002, y su hermana tenista, Sabrina.

Mis padres eran huérfanos, del mismo orfanato en Tashkent, donde se conocieron y enamoraron. Después de casarse, se mudaron a Israel y se establecieron en Tel Aviv, donde ahora vivimos. Es un área muy pobre, pero es el hogar. Mi mamá trabaja como señora de la limpieza y mi papá es conductor. Mi hermana y yo recibimos becas completas que nos permiten beneficiarnos de los servicios sociales y la tutoría en inglés en el ITEC“.

Durante los últimos 43 años, los Centros de Educación y Tenis de Israel han crecido y evolucionado hasta convertirse en una organización de servicio social que enseña tenis, ofrece enriquecimiento académico y tutoría, y en el proceso, empodera a miles de niños vulnerables de diversos orígenes. La fundación comenzó con un centro en 1976 y ahora cuenta con 14 centros en todo Israel.

Glodstein señaló que las personas continúan respondiendo positivamente.

Read It in English in Jerusalem Post

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

Leading up to the US Open, Schwarzman spent August competing in the ATP Master’s 1000 in Canada, where he lost in the second round.

Diego Schwartzman was bolstered by the Spanish-chanting crowd on Tuesday night as he cruised to a relatively easy 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-0 victory in his first-round US Open match versus Robin Haase of the Netherlands.

The win was the 20th-seeded Schwartzman’s first in six meetings with Haase.

“We last played more than two years ago,” said the 27-year-old Jew from Argentina. “The time is different and I think I have improved a lot. I am a different player than two years ago. So I think that was the key.”

Schwartzman currently holds an ATP ranking of 21 in singles and 40 in doubles. He has been a regular at the US Open since 2014, reaching the quarterfinals in 2017 and the third round last year. Despite his past success in New York, he knew a win against Haase was not guaranteed.

“I knew already before the match that it is difficult when you play a guy you have never beat. So it was a little tough. Sometimes I was nervous. Sometimes I didn’t play my best. But I won in three sets so I am very happy.”

Schwartzman’s 2019 highlights include capturing his third ATP title in Los Cabos, reaching the finals in a tournament in Buenos Aires and beating Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, where he lost in three sets to No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.

“The most important tournament this year was Rome,” noted Schwartzman. “I was not playing my best tennis at that time. The clay season didn’t start in the best way and then in Rome I started playing really, really well again.”

Earlier in the year, he reached the third round at the Australian Open, while also making the French Open doubles semifinals with partner Guido Pella.

In June, he reached the quarterfinals in the London/Queen’s Club grass.  He lost in a tough five-setter in Wimbledon’s third round against Matteo Berrettini.

Schwartzman’s most impressive tournament of the year was last month in Los Cabos where he defeated Taylor Fritz in a two-set final.

Leading up to the US Open, Schwarzman spent August competing in the ATP Master’s 1000 in Canada, where he lost in the second round, and at the ATP Master’s 1000 in Cincinnati, where he lost to Richard Gasquet in the third round.

Schwartzman’s busy tournament schedule leaves little time for personal travel. He has spoken in the past of wanting to visit Israel. When asked in the press conference if he has visited Israel, he reports, “Not yet.”

Up next for Schwartzman in the second round is a match against Egor Gerasimov of Belarus.  He will play in the doubles draw with countryman Pella.

Other Jewish players in action on Tuesday included American Madison Brengle, who lost her first-round match 6-3, 6-3 to Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

“Althea Gibson’s talent, strength and unrelenting desire to achieve made her a great champion,She made tennis a better place. By opening doors and opening minds, doing so with grace and dignity”

NEW YORK – As the players were warming up to kick off Day 1 at US Open, a massive crowd of fans and tennis legends assembled outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the long-awaited unveiling of a sculpture honoring tennis great Althea Gibson.

Gibson broke the color barrier in tennis in 1950, and was the first African- American to win singles titles at the French Championships (1956), Wimbledon (1957) and the US Nationals (1957, now the US Open). In 1958, she repeated both her Wimbledon and US Open wins.

The trailblazing Gibson – who passed away in 2003 at 76 – won 11 Grand Slam titles (five in singles, six in doubles) and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971 and to the US Open Court of Champions in 2007.

“Althea Gibson’s talent, strength and unrelenting desire to achieve made her a great champion,” said Patrick Galbraith, President and Chairman of the Board, USTA. “She made tennis a better place, by opening doors and opening minds, doing so with grace and dignity. She is receiving a recognition she richly deserves.

In 1956, Jewish tennis player Angela Buxton, who was a finalist in the 1956 Wimbledon singles tournament, teamed up with Gibson to win the Wimbledon doubles event. Buxton, now 85, addressed the crowd from her wheelchair at Monday dedication ceremony and later, along with tennis legend Billie Jean King, shared memories of Gibson in a post-unveiling press conference.

Buxton, was born in Liverpool, England in 1934, where her father owned a chain of movie theaters. He sent his wife and children to South Africa as World War II approached. Angela’s experiences in Johannesburg and Cape Town helped sensitize her to racial differences. She attended a convent school and developed a friendship with a black girl in her neighborhood. Angela played games with this “daughter of servants next door” until she was met with disapproval of neighbors, who said “we don’t mix with blacks.” The landlord threatened to evict the Buxton family when they offered a job cleaning houses to a black woman.

“This incident stayed in my mind until I met Althea,” said Buxton. Yet, Buxton, who encountered antisemitism in both South Africa and Los Angeles, and herself felt like an outsider, noted that she never discussed with Gibson the outsider status she felt they shared. When asked on Monday what this shared experience meant for the two of them, Buxton elicited laughter from the media when she replied, “it signifies that people who are kicked out probably play better.”

“[Seriously, though] it was a rude awaking getting kicked out of a tennis club in Los Angeles when somebody told them I was Jewish,” Buxton reflected.

King also offered insight in to the meaning of two tennis outsiders coming together to play doubles. “It’s really good in the book, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody, this Jew and black playing together. I thought it was great when I read it.”
King remembered being inspired by Gibson when she was a 13-year-old girl.

“I obviously have not had to deal with the challenges that my sisters of color and brothers of color. But I think for young people, the more you know about history, the more you know about yourself. It helps you shape the future. That’s the most important thing I try to pass along to kids: History is not about the past. It is living history. Every single thing you do during the day is history. Everything we all do, each one of us is accumulating history.

Buxton’s rich history included returning to England in 1953 after a stint in South Africa.
While she considered quitting tennis after a devastating loss at that year’s Bournesmouth Hardcourt Championships, she traveled to Israel in October 1953 – by ship, with 100 Jewish athletes – to participate in the Maccabiah Games. Buxton won two gold medals in Israel, was ready to return to playing competitive tennis, and would return to Israel many times including winning Maccabiah tennis again in 1957, and a stint volunteering on a kibbutz during the 1967 Six Day War.

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