Joe Teplow and Netanel Shafier, two teenagers from Teaneck, don’t know anyone who lives in the southern Israel town of Sderot. Nonetheless, the town is much on their minds these days. "It’s really important to show the people of Sderot that we care," says Netanel.
Sderot has been struck by thousands of Qassam rockets, killing and injuring many people. That’s why Joe, 16, and Netanel, 17, and their friend, Zev Hait, have chosen it as the beneficiary of the charity roller hockey tournament they’re organizing at Joe’s school, SAR High School in Riverdale. Netanel attends Torah Academy of Bergen County, and Zev also attends SAR.
The poster promoting the upcoming roller hockey tournament.
The Skate for Sderot 3-on-3 Roller Hockey Tournament is scheduled for Jan. 6. "The way the tournament works, the teams go out and raise money themselves," says Joe. It costs each three-person team $’00 to enter, and then they can also raise more money from parents, grandparents, and friends. All proceeds from the tournament will go to Connections Israel, a non-profit organization that sponsors multiple programs to aid Sderot’s citizens financially and psychologically. In September, the group gave out holiday gift baskets donated by communities from around the world to 10,000 families in Sderot in a show of solidarity, care, and support.
The idea came up after Joe attended a benefit concert for Sderot a few months ago. He felt at the time that no one was getting the message about the need for help. "I wanted to do something that kids would enjoy, and yeshiva kids like roller hockey," he says. There will be a maximum of 16 junior varsity (grades nine and 10) and 16 varsity (grades 11 and 1′) teams who play. With the help of flyers, a Facebook site, and a Website designed by Joe, www.skateforsderot.blogspot.com, the tournament has generated a lot of advance excitement. Sammy’s New York Bagels in Teaneck has signed on as a sponsor, but the three boys are still working on finding more sponsors and getting prizes donated.
What do they hope to accomplish? "We want to raise awareness of Sderot," says Netanel. "We also want to show that kids can start their own thing that can grow into something big."
Joe, Zev, and Netanel acknowledge the help of their relatives and friends with their efforts. Their parents are contributing refreshments, and their siblings and friends are posting fliers at different schools and shuls.
They are not speculating on how much money they’ll be able to raise. "We just want to show that teens can make an impact," says Joe.