Original Article at JNS

The Jewish Tennis Project is a nonprofit foundation that seeks to provide participants with the opportunity to train and reach a world-class, competitive level of play, combining tennis instruction with education to instill a connection to Jewish culture and Israel.

Israeli tennis legends Shlomo Glickstein and Shahar Peer continue to represent Israel and the Jewish people on and off the court. The two top players were honored at a series of events in mid-March in South Florida marking the launch of the Jewish Tennis Project (JTP).

The JTP is a nonprofit foundation that seeks to provide Jewish tennis players an opportunity to train and reach a world-class, competitive level of play. The program combines tennis instruction with high-quality education geared to instill a deep connection to Jewish culture and Israel.

The idea grew out of a four-week visit to Hungary by Assaf Ingber, Israeli high-performance coach and former coach of Israeli tennis player Julia Glushko. Ingber spent a summer teaching tennis at Szarvas, a summer-camp program in Hungary that serves 1,600 children from 30 countries in a series of 12-day sessions.

“I heard the kids say what it means to them and how it changed their lives,” reports Ingber, referring to the sense of Jewish identity the participants gained at the camp, immersed in Jewish living and learning. Ingber reflected on his own experience as a child athlete: “When I was a player, all I did was play tennis, only hitting the ball.” He had little time to focus on Jewish culture and identity.

Ingber notes that “the JTP program combines top-level tennis, including the best facilities, atmosphere and tournaments, with a secular and Jewish education.” He is realistic in also noting the need to provide an education for the aspiring tennis players. “Just in case their children don’t become [Roger] Federer or Serena [Williams], they will have a tennis education, and a general and Jewish education.”

Israeli tennis pros Shahar Peer and Shlomo Glickstein with chairman Ian Halperin and founder Assaf Ingber at the Pro-AM event in Aventura, Fla. Credit: Jewish Tennis Project.

The program is part of the David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Fla. “It is such a good educational environment with great courts and gyms—and their Jewish identity won’t suffer,” says Ingber. “They won’t have to feel shy, scared or insecure to say they are Jewish.”

The program will initially support five or six students, including two Israelis, which Ingber feels will “help integration and make the program great.” The American students will also hear Hebrew and develop a connection with Israel. The goal of the program is to train 20 to 30 students into high-performance players in the first two years at bases in both Davie and Aventura, Fla. Programs will also take place in Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Brazil, serving a total of 500 young players at all levels. Participants will share Jewish experiences and travel to Israel.

‘Very positive, professional, educational project’

Shlomo Glickstein, who retired from professional tennis in 1988, reached a career-high singles’ ranking of World No. 22, played in all four tennis Grand Slams and reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 1981, was on hand in Florida to play in a number of exhibition matches, as well as coach local children and greet supporters.

Glickstein served until recently as CEO of the Israel Tennis Association. He was approached by Ingber about potentially getting involved in a number of tennis-related projects. “I thought the JTP program was a very positive, professional, educational project, so I got involved,” he reports. He reiterates the goals of the program: “to give mainly Jewish American kids a chance to get to the top of the tennis world, to get a Jewish education and to connect to Israel. It will also give them an opportunity to connect to all of the Jewish people in Florida and elsewhere.”

Shahar Peer, 31 and five months pregnant, enjoyed participating in the JTP kickoff. “It was an honor to join the JTP at their event last weekend in Florida. I enjoyed sharing the court with Shlomo and coming out to support this important new program to develop Jewish tennis players. It is exciting that there is a program to focus on tennis skills, Jewish identity and connection to Israel.”

Peer reached the highest ranking of any Israeli tennis player in history: Her best singles’ ranking was No. 11; she reached No. 14 in doubles. She won five career singles and three doubles titles on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour. Peer retired from professional tennis in February 2017

Fans were impressed with Glickstein and Peer’s commitment to the new organization—and, of course, with their skills on the court. In a phone interview with JNS in Israel, Glickstein says he “plays sometimes,” noting that “you never forget how to play; it is still in your blood.”

He adds, “I can still hit the ball,” though concedes that it’s “a little harder on the legs. I don’t move as well as I used to!”

Canadian documentary filmmaker, writer and investigative journalist Ian Halperin was one of the honored guests at the March 16 weekend tennis event. He is the author and/or co-author of nine books about such celebrities as Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, James Taylor and Kurt Cobain. He recently served as executive producer of the movie, “Wish You Weren’t Here: The Dark Side of Roger Waters.”

Halperin shares that his father, a Holocaust survivor, had to hide in a hole when he was 6 years old to survive. “When Roger Waters said that Israel is worse than Nazi Germany, I couldn’t stand it.” He made the film about Waters, following him all over North America in the attempt to get “under his skin.”

But the weekend in South Florida was not at controversial. An elated Halperin tweeted a picture with himself, Peer and Glickstein and wrote, “Honored to have played this weekend with top two Israeli players ever, Shahar Peer and Shlomo Glickstein. Jewish Tennis Project #saynotobds.”

Halperin states that “Glickstein is to Israeli and Jewish athletes what Jackie Robinson was to the African-American community!” He was impressed that both sports stars played three hours a day “and didn’t miss a ball.” Halpern describes Peer as “the best volleyer in the game, even at five months pregnant.”

He says the “weekend was monumental and historic,” as it not only brought the top two Israeli tennis legends on the same court, but more importantly, put smiles on the kids’ faces.

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Original Article on The OKClarity

Passover is known in our tradition as the holiday of freedom and liberation. Yet, the Pesach season is often muddled with anxiety and family stress. This time of year is especially difficult for individuals and families dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues, and in today’s world who isn’t dealing with something?

“The Jewish holidays and Pesach in particular can be festive and meaningful,” observes Rabbi Elie Weinstock of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “But Pesach can be very stressful, especially for those with mental health issues. Whether it be the obsessive cleaning or the ingathering of family, the Pesach infrastructure tends to increase family stress and anxiety.”

Additionally, students are on break from their studies. This means a long period of time with little structure. Structure tends to be a positive thing for most people. The lack of structure during the Passover season tends to increase anxiety and create more space for individual & family stress to surface.

Veteran therapists working with the Orthodox Jewish community offer insights and suggestions for better managing this pre-Passover and Passover stress and anxiety. The first step is always understanding what Pesach represents and brings up for each of us as we prepare to be with nuclear and extend families.

Your expectations and their connection to Pesach anxiety and family stress

Michelle Halle, a licensed clinical social worker in Lakewood, New Jersey, acknowledges that Passover stress “has a lot to do with expectations and self-care.” She reports, “A lot of people don’t think about giving themselves what they need.” We tend to swamp ourselves with the needs, wants, and expectations of others and ignore the most vital person, ourselves.

She goes further to highlight how “Passover often serves as a measuring stick,” which only increases pre-Passover stress and anxiety. People often have expectations of where they will be by the time Pesach rolls around. They hoped they would be married, have a child, or find a dream job before the upcoming Passover. “When these things didn’t happen, they get down, blame themselves, and add to the anxiety and family stress that already exists.”

What can we do to reduce Passover anxiety and family stress?

1- Identify expectations, feelings, and practice sitting with discomfort

Halle encourages her clients to spend time working to understand what is contributing to Passover anxiety and family stress.

Acknowledge the sadness and disappointment. Sit with the thoughts and acknowledge them.

Halle notes that, “People aren’t in the habit of doing this. However, once they develop this important life skill, they can use it all year long. Ultimately, we need replace self-judgment with compassion and add meaning to our lives so we feel empowered instead of disappointed and discouraged.”

2- Avoid regressing along with family members

Halle encourages her clients to be aware of possible triggers and regressive pulls which are often at play when people get together with families of origin. She notes a common phenomenon, during the holidays people often regress to the family dynamics of an earlier stage in life. Staying mindful of this tendency ensures you respond verses react to sudden changes in family dynamics. This of course will diffuse much family stress and tension.

3- Take advantage of support groups

Rabbi Weinstock notes an additional area of family stress and anxiety. “The seder is a reminder of who is NOT around the table.”

He has noticed a preponderance of support groups for bereaved individuals before holidays – especially Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, and Pesach. He encourages people to take advantage of these supports so they are reminded they are not alone in their pain and loss.

4- Watch out for obsessive tendencies

“Mitzvah observance has the potential to increase obsessive tendencies”, observes Rabbi Weinstock. This is not necessarily a bad thing if done in moderation. However, when it spirals out of control, it is very unhealthy and extra stressful.”

Since there are so many Mitzvos associated with Pesach, those who are prone to obsessive tendencies need to watch that they don’t spiral out of control. Keep your therapist and Rabbi close by!

5- Be proactive and communicative

Menachem Kiwak, LMHC and adjunct professor in the clinical mental health counselor program of Touro College, observes increased stress levels in nearly all of his private clients in the weeks leading up to Passover. “The time before Pesach is literally crazy. People expect so much from themselves!”

Kiwak suggests using communication in the pre-Passover time to effectively reduce family stress, tension, and anxiety. When spouses and families sit down together to jointly devise a plan which may include “where family members can help, when to have a cleaning lady, and where we can settle,” the holiday will be more relaxing and joyous. If you can’t do this with your spouse, do it with a trusted friend, relative, therapist, or mentor.

6- Avoid going to extremes in your Pesach preparation

Kiwak feels that many in his practice “tend to go overboard” with their Passover expectations and preparations. Remember the distinction between what is required by Halacha (Jewish law), and extra strictures individuals place on themselves.

Kiwak recommends that people remember to make a distinction between Pesach cleaning and spring cleaning. “Be realistic and honest with yourself about what you want to do, and what you need to do, and what you cando.”

Kiwak observes the wisdom of the rabbis who came up with a formula for nullifying chametz—as a way of assuring we don’t go to extremes. “If we have this formula, why not use it?” Halacha is giving us permission to not go overboard.

7- Remember the goal is Simchas Yom Tov, not Passover anxiety and family stress

Kiwak further reminds clients, “Simchas yom tov  – the joy of the holiday – is also a mitzvah!” He tells his clients, “Don’t be so hard on yourself–and don’t compare yourselves to others.”

Passover preparation and the seders can induce anxiety and family stress. However, careful preparation and honest conversations will maximize your chances for a joyous Yom Tov.

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I will be speaking and participating in the following event on 25 March.

Presentation will be for Establishing Trust and Getting What You Need Through The Intake Process.

To attend fill this form

FJC Yashar Training
The Yashar Training Days will take place on:
Monday, March 25 in New York
Thursday, April 4 in Chicago
Monday, April 15 in Los Angeles

If you have any questions, please contact marissa.becker@jewishcamp.org, or646-278-4512.

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