Erlich and Ram Share Dreams On and Off The Court
by James Buddell|
Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram are on a mission. They want to dispel popular stereotypes and show that the Jewish community can succeed at the top levels of sport, not just business. By launching the Jewish Sports Foundation, the Israeli duo hopes to encourage young American Jewish athletes to pursue sports activities in schools, colleges, youth groups and camps.
Erlich and Ram were both products of American support programs in Israel, which enabled them to take their tennis training seriously. Now, they are aiming to give something back to the people who helped them by offering young children scholarships and support to excel both academically and through sport with the Jewish Sports Foundation.
Having enjoyed immediate success when they reached the Wimbledon semifinals as qualifiers in 2003, Erlich and Ram have been ranked in the Top 10 of the Stanford ATP Doubles Race for the past two years. In August they won their first ATP Masters Series title in Cincinnati [see photo above]. They join the likes of Angela Buxton, Brad Gilbert, Brian Gottfried, Julie Heldman, Aaron Krickstein, Vic Seixas and Harold Solomon as Jewish players who have left their mark on the sport of tennis. In the future, Erlich and Ram want more Jews playing sport at the highest level. Below, they talk about their hopes.
Why did you create the Jewish Sports Foundation?
Erlich: What drove us to make this big foundation was after discussions with our manager and friends in how to unite the Jewish community in the United States and what ways we could promote Jewish sports. How we could give back to the Jewish community which has helped us so much over the years in our careers, our childhood and Israel in general. We had a few ideas and one of them was to build a big foundation, so we could develop Jewish sports in the United States and afterwards globally. Every Jewish person involved in tennis will tell you that there are not many athletes. Other people are asking, why? So we have tried to do something different and will try to find potential athletes, fund them and make them bigger than they are now.
Ram: As a kid I got a lot of support from Jewish people throughout the world, who would donate money to the tennis centers where I started to play at. We wanted to give something back to the Jewish community. Everyone thinks Jews are rich, they want to be doctors or lawyers but we want to change the stereotype. We keep hearing these thoughts. We wanted to show that Jewish people can be good athletes and reach the top level of sports.
What is the objective of the Jewish Sports Foundation?
Erlich: The main issue is to break the stereotype that Jewish people in the States are first of all rich and that they are doctors, lawyers or accountants - anything but a life in sport. We are trying to attract more people to come to the sport and influence the parents to give their children an opportunity to become professional sportsmen. We are also planning on creating a lot of scholarships for children, so they do not have to turn professional but can play and develop through education in sport.
Ram: We have started small, but targeted the United States as the country has the second-biggest Jewish community outside of Israel. The objective is to be the biggest foundation in the world, involving as many Jewish people in South America, Australasia and Europe… everywhere! We are trying to reach everyone, but for now the start point is the United States.
What type of support have you received from other sources for the Jewish Sports Foundation?
Ram: The reaction we have got has been very positive wherever we have gone in the States. When we have stayed with Jewish families, people in the tennis world and business people have told us they will support us. We have already got applications from people around the world and others who are interested to donate money to the foundation.
Has your experience playing tennis pushed you to develop this initiative?
Erlich: Definitely. As one of the leading athletes in Israel and one of the highest-ranked doubles teams in the world, we get a lot of publicity and follow-up. Without that we could not have started to push it. I think we are known throughout the Jewish communities in the world and their support has helped us create the foundation.
To learn more about the Jewish Sports Foundation, or to make a donation, go to www.jewishsportsfoundation.org/
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