JERUSALEM – A joint U.S.-Israeli basketball initiative has been helping sick and underprivileged Israeli kids realize their hoop dreams.
Haifa Hoops for Kids is a joint project between the Maccabi Haifa professional basketball team of the Israel Super League and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey. Its mission is help lift the hearts of those far less fortunate.
Founded in October, 2008, the program has provided over 1,500 free basketball game tickets for Israel’s most needy children --some sick, disabled or from under-privileged backgrounds.
"North American and Israeli organizations, businesses, and individuals have supported the program over the past two seasons," says Andrew Wilson, director of marketing for Triangle Sports, a sports and entertainment investment firm based in Florida.
Triangle Sports works with Maccabi Haifa to acquire the rights to broadcast their basketball games to America on the Yes Network, and other networks throughout the season.
"Haifa Hoops for Kids has had a positive impact on the Israeli and North American community as many of the children have never had the opportunity to attend a professional sporting event, and are able to meet their sports heroes," Wilson said.
At the center of Haifa Hoops for Kids is Tamir Goodman, the 28-year-old was a standout high school player and an Orthodox Jew. He was on the Sports Illustrated cover a decade ago, being famously ordained as the "Jewish Jordan."
Over a decade ago, Goodman averaged 35.4 points a game in one high school year, and became the first player to play Division I Basketball without playing on Saturday, the Jewish day of rest. After serving in the Israeli Defense Force, earning the "Outstanding Soldier Award," he played for four Israeli teams in five years, including Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa.
Goodman always valued humility in the face of his success. "We knew Tamir was very talented on the court and we were inspired by his involvement throughout his career for assisting children in need both in Israel and in North America," says Wilson.
In his career, Goodman reached the Israeli Cup finals and Israeli Premier League Semifinals in 2003. Injuries plagued the latter stages of his career leading to his retirement in September, 2009. After Goodman’s professional basketball retirement, he was named Haifa Hoops for Kids Director, which includes responsibility for raising funds for the organization.
As a player with Maccabi Haifa, Goodman met Jeffrey Rosen, a meeting of "divine providence," he says. Rosen is Chairman of Triangle Financial Services and Maccabi Haifa’s basketball team owner. "To every physical thing, there is a spiritual side of basketball; what good can you do? How can we give back?" asks Goodman.
"The first part of my career, I experienced so much success, and [much of the 2nd part], I experienced injuries, setbacks, and realized that it’s more than just playing."
Just this past Valentine’s Day, Goodman organized a 3-on-3 tournament for Jewish and African-American kids in Cleveland to help raise funds for Haifa Hoops for Kids, exhibiting how the program has transformed since its inception.
Goodman arranges fundraising events throughout the United States, including charity exhibition games against NBA teams, 3-on-3 charity basketball tournaments on college campuses, and local basketball clinics both in Israel and in the U.S.
He also performs motivational speaking engagements.
"I am blessed with a personal story; I knew it was never about me. It was about what I could do for others. Since my second day as a basketball player in Israel, I went to visit victims of terror, to give attention to inspiring others. My mission is to love every single day—to pray hard, work and see how to help," said Goodman.
On a crisp February evening in northern Israel, the final outcome may have been the home team, Maccabi Haifa's defeat over Gilboa Galil 80-78, but for the over five hundred kids in attendance, many of whom are underprivileged and in some cases ill, and who had been given free VIP access and transportation to the game courtesy of Haifa Hoops for Kids, it became yet another special night.
"This is meant to give two hours of fun and excitement to those who are not as fortunate [as we are]," says Maccabi Haifa’s office and community relations manager, Merav Beeri.
"We invite 150-200 kids usually for each home game until yesterday's game. Yesterday we invited about 500 kids. Now that we received new donations, we can invite, on average, 200-250 for the next home game and home playoff games."
Corporate and personal donations made it possible for a chartered bus from a hospital in nearby Haifa, Maon Hod to attend the evening’s game. This bus carried children with Down Syndrome. Haifa Hoops for Kids ensured them a fun evening and free access to watch their favorite athletes in person.
Goodman actively communicates with his friends via Facebook and other social networking sites, as well as through speaking engagements and basketball programs with the intent "to give a light to the world, to have those better connect people with Israel," he says.
"It’s meaningful to take a kid, who may never have played basketball before and bring him on the court, with guidance, and [in terms of kids going to games in Haifa] give him or her instant fun. Its great fun to bring them to professional players, and to see their heroes take the time," said Goodman.