Cincinnati is home to a thriving sports scene--on both the professional level and amateur level. Yet, when you think of Cincinnati the international sports scene rarely comes up in conversation. The focus is always on the Reds and Bengals it seems. However, the Jewish community is doing its best to change that conversation. Last summer, the Partnership 2000 (P2K) program at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati who partner's with Jewish teenagers and young adults from Netanya, Israel to foster people-to-people connections, decided to hold a basketball tournament.
The idea was to bring in a team from Netanya (Ort High School) to Cincinnati to play against local high school teams and to get both teenagers interacting with one another. It turned out the tournament was a huge hit in the community and was well attended at Tim McGee's (former Bengal) Courts4Sports. McGee thought the concept was fabulous and approached Co-Chairs Hirsch Wise and David Gershuny about the idea of expanding the tournament to include more Israeli teams. After meeting at the beginning of the year, Gershuny and Wise thought it would be fitting to bring in 60 Israelis (4 teams) with Israel celebrating its 60th Birthday in 2008. In addition to Israeli teams, basketball squads from Croatia and the Bahamas will also participate. This year's tournament will be July 21-25, 2008 at Courts4Sports in Mason.
"I believe that this will give exposure to the Cincinnati Jewish community. Last year we received such great exposure with just one team," said Gershuny. Part of that exposure was a 10-minute segment on Channel 19 WXIX, which showed the Cincinnati Jewish community in a positive light. This time around, Gershuny is trying to bring the national spotlight to the tournament with ESPN. "It is such a wonderful way to work on the rebranding of Israel and to show the diversity within the country," said Gershuny.
The P2K steering committees of Netanya and Cincinnati met late last year to come up with a new missison statement focused on getting teenagers and young adults to build living bridges. "Our goal and our mission as a committee as we see it is taking that into every venue we can--getting American kids and young adults matched up with Israelis," said Gershuny. As it turned out, sports was a good avenue to foster friendships between both groups.
Last summer, before the tournament began, many of the high schoolers didn't even know if Israeli teenagers lived in tents or houses. "They had no understanding of the way living in Israel is no different than living in Cincinnati," said Gershuny. By the end of the tournament, which Netanya won, the teens from Cincinnati began to take note that they both were in fact alike. Everyone had cell phones and iPods and the only real difference between the Israelis and the Cincinnatians was the language. Now, it seems, is the perfect time to start talking about the international sports community--because after all, it's in our own backyard.
The community support was incredible last year, but Cincinnati is going to have to step-up once again and be host families to the international athletes from Israel. We are looking for host families to house our Israeli's from Tuesday, July 15th to Sunday, July 20th and from Friday, July 25th through July 30 or July 31st. We need aprroximately 35 homes including 3-4 Kosher homes. Please contact Julie Brook at email@example.com or 513-891-3939.