Ari Strasburg, CEO
Ronen Moralli, Professional Director
National Office – USA – New York
Jacqueline Glodstein, Vice President of Global Development
Bruce Appel, CFO
Yael Schneiderman, Global Marketing Director
Yoni Yair, Development Director
Cathy Mullin, Data Base Administrator
Amy Harrington, Associate Director[/accordion-title]
Shaya Azar, Marjorie Sherman Israel Tennis Center – Ashkelon
The Israel Tennis Centers helped change the course of my life. It acted as an island of tranquility in a neighborhood that had seen its share of crime. Looking back today, I owe my success to the love and support I received at the ITC in Jaffa. I learned to play tennis and had the opportunity to travel and meet new people. I was exposed to a culture of sports, fair play, respect and tolerance. At the Center I made friends for life.
I played tennis at a high performance level and for a short time was among the top ranked players in Israel. I competed in national junior and adult league matches. At 17 I completed a coach’s course at the Wingate Institute and began my coaching career. After serving in the IDF for three years, I returned to the Nussdorf-Mark Families Israel Tennis Center- Jaffa to become a coach in the High Performance Program. Two years later, I became the first manager of the ITC in Ofakim.
In 1998 I became the manager of the Israel Tennis Center in Jaffa. The opportunity to manage the center where I had grown up was a dream come true. After seven years in Jaffa and three years as the manager of the ITC – Ramat Hasharon, I became the manager of the Marjorie Sherman ITC – Ashkelon, a position that I hold to this day.
Since 2003 I have also been coaching children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities and directing these programs. I have worked closely with the Special Olympics organization, and traveled all around the world with the Israeli special tennis delegation.
Tennis and the ITC have given me more than I could have ever imagined. I am forever grateful to my coaches, the staff and the Center, who have contributed to my success. Their dedication and love has made me who I am today.
Lilo Tzarfati, Selma & Irving Ettenberg Israel Tennis Center – Haifa
Growing up in Kiryat Motzkin in the Northern part of Israel, surrounded by violence, drugs and alcohol wasn’t easy. I didn’t know if and how I would ever become a successful and productive member of Israeli society.
I started playing tennis when I was 11, following in the footsteps of my older brother who had started playing at a small club next to our house. I have never stopped loving the sport which has guided me my entire life. I travelled to tournaments all around Israel, learned about our country, and became determined to succeed.
At the age of 18 I enlisted in the IDF and served three years as a combatant in the Givati Brigade. I spent a year in Gaza and a year in Southern Lebanon, and was a part of many different operations during my reserve duty, as well. There is no doubt that tennis gave me the tools to become a great soldier. Tennis taught me discipline, as well as great decision making skills and the desire to always strive for excellence. After three years of service, I was asked to stay as a commander but my heart was longing to be back on the tennis courts, teaching and educating.
At 23 I became a coach at ITC-Haifa after completing a coach’s course at the Wingate Institute. Very soon after I became a high performance coach and then the head coach. My journey at the ITC – Haifa came full circle 10 years ago in 2003, when I became the Manager of the Center.
When I look back on my journey, I know that tennis saved me and that the ITC gave me the opportunity to make something of myself. I have dedicated my life to educating children and improving their lives, and I am determined to give back and to pass on the values that I learned. It is my goal to give children from underprivileged backgrounds opportunities to create a better future. I am determined to shape champions on and off the court. These are my goals and I will continue to work hard every day to achieve them.
Eyal Taoz, Israel Tennis Center – Ramat Hasharon
From the moment I held a tennis racket as a child, I knew I never wanted to let it go. Born and raised in Jerusalem, I fell in love with tennis at a young age, playing on two courts which were located next to my house in Katamon.
I remember playing for hours with my friends from the neighborhood. When the ITC opened its first tennis center in 1976 in Ramat Hasharon, I decided I wanted to go and see how Israel’s top players practiced. I used to travel many hours by bus once a week to Ramat Hasharon.
When the ITC – Jerusalem opened, I was serving as a paratrooper in the Army. I fought in the First Lebanon War in 1982, in which Yossi Zeituni, an iconic tennis coach at the ITC, was killed. During the war I dreamed of being released so I could finally hit balls on the courts of the new center, minutes away from the tough neighborhood I grew up in.
As soon as I was released I started to work as a coach at the ITC – Jerusalem under the leadership of Danny Fraiman, who was the manager, and Danny Gelley, the head coach. Morris Ohayon, the current manager of the center, was also a part of our team. My time as a coach in Jerusalem was very memorable and from then on I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to tennis and to children.
In 1985, I left Jerusalem to start my first degree in physical education at the Wingate Institute. It was during that time that I returned to Ramat Hasharon, and became a fitness coach for tennis players at the ITC. The work became my life, and I gained enjoyment from working with Israel’s top tennis talent.
I came back to the ITC in Ramat Hasharon as the head of the Fitness Department. It was a homecoming for me, and I was received with open arms by the staff and management. I was quickly offered the manager position which was a dream come true. The ITC has been, and still is my family and home. The work is hard and challenging, but it’s the most satisfying thing I have ever done.
Sharon Hauzer, Israel Tennis Center – Yokneam
Born in 1975 in Tel Aviv and raised in Haifa, I started playing tennis at a very young age.
When I was 7 years old I went with my school to the Selma & Irving Ettenberg Israel Tennis Center in Haifa for some lessons. The professional staff saw my athletic potential and called my parents to ask if I could come back to join the afternoon groups. I started playing twice a week at the ITC – Haifa, which at the time in 1982 consisted of seven tennis courts and a small office in a trailer.
From the age of 10 I started to compete in national tournaments, and I remember spending hours upon hours training at the ITC – Haifa. I was spending so much time there that one summer my mother took an assistant coaching job, just so she could spend some time with me. Tennis was my whole life for around six years, but when I was 16 I decided to stop playing altogether.
After serving in the Navy for three years and working at odd jobs in my early twenties, I was wondering what I was going to do with my life. I knew that I loved children and sports, so I completed a coach’s course at the Wingate Institute. I returned to the ITC – Haifa, but this time as a coach, and it was such an emotional homecoming for me. As soon as I started coaching, I found myself in love with tennis like I had never been before. I became fully enthralled by the combination of education and tennis.
In 2002 I made the move to the ITC – Yokneam as a high performance coach, and three years later I was made the manager. The city of Yokneam has 20,000 residents, and the tennis center stands at the heart of this community. The ITC – Yokneam has a warm family atmosphere, and despite its small size it is bursting with positive energy. There is a great connection between the competitiveness of our successful high performance program and our work with the members of our city’s disadvantaged populations.
Tal Amsalem, Elizabeth & Lawrence Krulik Israel Tennis Center – Tiberias
Born and raised in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona, I started playing tennis when I was 8 years old. Growing up I don’t remember many days when I wasn’t forced to run into the shelters in order to avoid the rockets being fired at us from Lebanon. Kiryat Shmona was a tough place to grow up, but at the Tennis Center I always felt safe and it is where I spent most of my time as a child.
I joined the achievement program after ITC coaches came to my school to recruit new children. Very quickly I discovered my athletic abilities and my competitiveness, so I joined the High Performance Program in a group which included future tennis star Dudi Sela. I spent most of my teenage years playing tennis and discovering the country through my participation in tournaments.
After completing my military service, a chance encounter would go on to change everything. Shaul Zohar, my childhood coach, came into the caf├® where I worked to buy a drink. He convinced me to complete a coach’s course and to join his team of coaches. I stayed for four years as a senior coach before I was offered the opportunity to become the manager of the ITC in Tiberias in 2009, and it has been my home ever since. It is located in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Israel, and children have little opportunity to escape the negative cycle they are in.
During my childhood the tennis center was my safe haven. At a time when the situation in Kiryat Shmona was very tough, it was the only place I could go to escape. The ITC – Kiryat Shmona empowered me and taught me values and skills that have shaped my life. I have seen first-hand the impact the centers have on children from all walks of life. Through education and acceptance, the ITC is a place which makes the dreams of children come true.
Haim Zion, Israel Tennis Center – Ofakim
I was born and raised in Jaffa just outside of Tel-Aviv, and started playing tennis at the age of eight at the ITC – Jaffa. At an early age the coaches at the Center identified my athletic abilities and I began to train on the High Performance Program. Soon I was competing in international tournaments in Europe, Asia and the US. I was ranked 10th in the world for the U-14 boys, and at the age of 16 I became the number one junior in Israel.
The ITC – Jaffa helped to structure my life. Not only did it allow me to pursue my dream of becoming a professional player, but it gave me the opportunity to develop, gain confidence and become a person who knows how to deal with success and failure. The ITC definitely shaped my life and made me who I am today.
In 2010 I achieved my dream of becoming the manager of the Israel Tennis Center in Ofakim. I saw my new role as the perfect way to give back to the ITC what I had received. The economic situation of most families in Ofakim is tough, and I strive to support those children and to give them opportunities to develop, play, learn and have fun. In recent years the situation in Israel has posed challenges on the southern communities, especially the youth. The ITC – Ofakim has become a place where kids can feel safe, express their fears, and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
Rakefet Binyamini, Nussdorf – Mark Families Israel Tennis Center – Jaffa
In 1976 when I was just nine years old, I joined the ITC – Ramat Hasharon which had just opened. Very quickly I fell in love with the game and started playing every day. Today, 36 years later, I am the manager of the Israel Tennis Center in Jaffa.
I played in the ITC’s High Performance Program and was a very successful junior player. In 1981 I won the Israeli Junior Championships in the U-16 and U-18 categories. That same year I also won the Israeli National Championships in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. After graduating high school I received a full scholarship to attend the U.S International University in San Diego, where I stayed for four years and graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Physical Education. After coming back to Israel I coached for four years at the ITC – Ramat Hasharon. I then left the ITC to manage a private tennis club for 11 years, before coming back four years ago.
As a single mother of two, I am very passionate about the ITC’s mission to empower children who experience a tough time growing up. When I see one of the girls at the center, I know she could just as easily be out on the street. More importantly, I know that the ITC and the game of tennis may prevent her from roaming the streets in the future. Toward this end I established the Girls at Risk Empowerment program.
My life came full circle when I got the opportunity to give back to the community what it had given to me for so many years as a child and adult. After earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I came to manage the Nussdorf – Mark Families Israel Tennis Center – Jaffa. Tennis gave me fame, glory and success. But what tennis and the ITC really gave me, and hundreds of other kids like me, were values and life skills such as responsibility, cooperation, self-confidence and an ability to solve problems and make decisions. Today I feel blessed that I can instill all those values and give as many kids as possible the opportunity to play and enjoy the game of tennis, while making a difference in their lives.
Igal Gipsh, Israel Tennis Center – Tel Aviv
Born and raised in Donetsk, Ukraine, tennis has always been a huge part of my life. It shaped me as a person and ultimately made me a success. I started playing when I was seven years old after a neighbor gave me a tennis ball as a gift. Very quickly I started playing competitively. At the age of 12 I was even ranked in the top 10 in my age group in the Soviet Union. After graduating high school I moved to Moscow where I completed an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in tennis coaching and physical education.
In search of a better future, I immigrated to Israel with my family in 1990. Life was challenging at best, and I didn’t speak a word of Hebrew, which made it even more difficult. Thankfully I got my lucky break soon after I arrived. I became a replacement coach at the ITC – Ramat Hasharon which, despite my lack of communication skills, gave me the opportunity I was desperate for. A few months later the ITC – Tel Aviv opened its doors and I became a permanent coach within its Achievement Program.
A short time after I joined, I was promoted to High Performance coach. One of my pupils was Shahar Peer, who I coached from the age of 6 to 14. After eight years at the ITC – Tel Aviv, I moved to the Nussdorf – Mark Families ITC – Jaffa to become head coach until 2004. In 2007, following a period away from the Israel Tennis Centers, my journey came full circle when I became the manager of the ITC – Tel Aviv.
The Tennis Center in Tel Aviv is my home, here I learned how to speak Hebrew and be an Israeli. I don’t know where I would be in my life without this place, which means the world to me. It made me who I am and I hope to give many more children the opportunities I received at the Israel Tennis Centers.
Shaul Zohar, Israel Tennis Center – Kiryat Shmona
Born to parents who immigrated in 1949 from Iran and settled in Kiryat Shmona, I have lived in this northern city my whole life. I was raised by pioneers and Zionists, who taught me to love my country. Today, through my work at the ITC – Kiryat Shmona, I believe I am continuing the journey that my parents started by educating and empowering the children in Northern Israel that society has left behind.
I first stepped onto a tennis court at the age of 14, when I came with my classmates from the Danziger School for a tennis activity. A few months later, all the children participating in the activity had their own tennis racket. I was the only one who had to continue borrowing a racket from my school, because my parents couldn’t afford to buy me one.The physical education teacher, Amos Neve noticed this, and when I was about to return the racket at the end of a class, he told me to keep it. This event is engraved in my memory as a special gesture. It has instilled in me the desire to help others.
After serving in the Air Force of the IDF, an old tennis coach of mine convinced me to start working at the new Tennis Center in Kiryat Shmona.
In 1988, five years after completing a coach’s course at the Wingate Institute and becoming a full-time employee at the ITC in Kiryat Shmona, I was appointed the new manager of the center. In my early years I was very focused on producing tennis champions who could represent Israel around the world. Indeed it was under my tutelage that future Davis Cup players Ofer and Dudi Sela started playing. As time went by I started to think about the other children in the city. Helping children who were in danger of being left behind by society, and who weren’t on the path to becoming successful adults became my main priority.
The Embrace Project for children at risk was born in 2003, and to this day the Tennis Center has helped hundreds of children attain normative patterns of behavior. I am determined that this should only be the start. I have made it my life’s mission to improve the quality of life of children and to teach them that they, too, can strive for excellence.
Elad Roth, Israel Tennis Center – Akko
I fell in love with tennis at a very young age, but I never imagined it would go on to become such a meaningful part of my life. I grew up in Nahariya in the North of Israel, and started playing tennis when I was six years old. From the age of 8 to 18, I was fully enthralled by the game. I played every day, competed in national tournaments around the country, and loved every minute of it.
After being released from the Army, I spent a number of years working in the technology sector. When the ITC – Akko was about to open its doors. I found myself yearning to be back on the tennis courts, and back doing something meaningful for the communities that I grew up in. A few months later I became the manager of the center, and I haven’t looked back since.
The Israel Tennis Centers is more than just a tennis facility. It is a home for thousands of children, a place to educate and bestow happiness. I am incredibly grateful that the ITC decided to open such a wonderful facility in the Western Galilee. Not many tennis players have gone on to succeed from this region, and I hope I can help create champions from a place which has often been forgotten.
Morris Ochayon, Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Israel Tennis Center – Jerusalem
I grew up in the Katamon neighborhood in Jerusalem. It was a poor neighborhood where many kids turned to violence, crime and drugs. Many of the kids I grew up with got in trouble with the police. Sports kept me positive and active. I played soccer for years, and became a counselor for younger kids.
After serving in the army as a paratrooper, I returned to my neighborhood at the same time as the opening of the Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Israel Tennis Center – Jerusalem. I knew nothing about tennis but I needed a job, so I became a guard at the Center. Being around the courts all the time, I became interested in the game. I was already an athlete, so I caught on fast. I started hitting balls and spending hours every day on the courts. I fell in love with tennis and with the atmosphere at the ITC. I quickly became an assistant coach.
When the First Lebanon War began in 1982 I was called up together with Yossi Zeituni, the most admired coach at the center. We were paratroopers in the same platoon, and in the same unit. We were sent to the front together and fought in combat. Tragically Yossi was killed and I was badly injured and almost lost my leg. I spent months in the hospital and in rehabilitation.
During those long months, I missed tennis and the ITC. After I left the hospital, I went back to the Center as soon as I could. From my wheelchair I worked at the front desk, ran tournaments and helped with the administration of the Center. As soon as I could manage to stand up, I got back on the court. Tennis gave me a purpose. It would have been easy to let my injury defeat me. But the ITC gave me a reason to work hard, and regain my mental and physical strength while getting my life back.
Over the years I’ve traveled for the ITC to the US and South Africa to help with fundraising efforts. I’ve worked my way up from assistant coach to coach, and then became the Head Coach and Assistant Manager of the center in Jerusalem. At last I was able to realize a lifelong dream by coming full circle to become the Manager at the place where my love of tennis began.
Yaniv Sakira, Samson Israel Tennis Center – Beer Sheva
My mother was born in Argentina and my father in Morocco. Together they immigrated to Israel with real values of Zionism, helping to build Southern Israel. Today I feel like I am a modern Zionist continuing what my parents started. The ITC has given me the tools to carry on developing, educating, building, and fighting for a better and safer Israel.
I started playing tennis when I was six years old in a local club in Beer Sheva after my mother encouraged me to take up the sport. A few years later the Tennis Center in Beer Sheva opened its doors, and I was amongst the lucky children to be able to play there. My coach was the legendary Alex Podolsky z’l, who became a very influential figure in my childhood.
In those early years, the ITC quickly become known to be a safe place for children to go in the afternoons. Beer Sheva was a very poor community back then. The tennis center kept many of us off the streets and in a very positive environment.
As I got older tennis became a serious part of my life. I competed in many national and international tournaments, but at age 18 I decided to retire and focus on my military career. I served six years in an elite IDF unit instead of pursuing a career in tennis. There is no doubt that the values I learned playing tennis at the ITC helped me to become a better soldier.
In 2008 while I was studying to obtain my university degree, I received a surprising call from the Israel Tennis Centers. They asked me to come back and become the manager of the center in Beer Sheva. I gladly accepted as it was a dream come true to be able to work in a place which shaped every part of who I am.
The ITC is about more than just tennis. It’s a second home to hundreds of children. It is a place which teaches children values, and bestows on them the tools they need to become successful adults.