Uniforms worn by the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team will be auctioned off this month, as part of an online fundraiser to support youth sports programs in underprivileged Israeli towns.
This auction is the result of an unlikely connection between 76ers owner, Jewish billionaire Josh Harris, and an Israeli charity known as The Equalizer in English, or Sha’ar Shivion (literally, The Equalizer ). in Hebrewwhich was founded in 2009 by Liran Gerassi.
The organization works to reduce socio-economic inequalities in Israeli society through sports programs for young people that combine academics and physical activity in disadvantaged areas. It currently operates 410 teams in cities across the country.
One of its newer programs, established in 2016, is known as the 48ers and blends basketball and STEM education. The Equalizer created the program in conjunction with Harris, who had called Gerassi asking for his help in running underprivileged youth basketball teams in Israel. The program began modestly in a single Jerusalem neighborhood with a donation that was made in honor of the bar mitzvah of Harris’s son, Stuart, more than a decade ago.
The 48ers started in the working-class neighborhood of Talpiot with a focus on integrating Ethiopian-Israeli youth, but now has 25 teams across Israel. The name of the program is, of course, a nod to the Harris 76ers, which are named after the year the United States was founded (1776).
“We deeply believe in the power of sport to transform lives, and it is gratifying and humbling to see the positive impact the 48ers have had on young people in Israel, especially those in underserved communities. From Philadelphia to Israel, we we are thrilled to be part of this campaign that provides children with resources and support to help them thrive,” Harris told The Times of Israel.
This month, the organization will auction valuable sporting goods on Facebook, from the Philadelphia 76ers and various Israeli teams, to reach its goal of NIS 100,000 ($28,000). This money will fund the formation of additional soccer and basketball teams in Israel’s underserved communities, sometimes referred to collectively as the “periphery.” He is looking to recruit 200 more children into his programs with the money raised.
The beginnings of Jerusalem
Gerassi started the organization while studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During his studies, he volunteered in a community center in Talpiot and decided to set up a soccer team for neighborhood youth.
“I saw them [children in the neighborhood] one day sitting outside on benches and on the sidewalk, drinking vodka and smoking things, and I gathered them,” Gerassi said. “I told them, ‘Let’s make a football team’ and I managed to get them a sponsor for shirts and cleats, goals and everything.”
Three times a week, Gerassi and his friend held soccer practices at the Talpiot community center, helping students with homework along the way. Eventually, the students’ teachers noticed that they were doing better in their homework and contacted Gerassi, asking that his program be implemented in the school curriculum. It wasn’t long before other schools in the area began to follow suit.
Today, the program involves its participants in extracurricular activities four times a week – twice a week is football practice, while the other two times are what the organization calls “study center “, the time for students to get help from tutors for their school work.
In addition to its main eponymous program, the Equalizer organization runs a number of other programs. His most recent, Safe Swimmers, aims to tackle the problem of drowning among Israeli Arabs by teaching Arab children to swim. The organization also runs girls’ soccer teams, to promote female empowerment in male-dominated sports, and for young people with special needs.
Once a month, The Equalizer soccer and basketball teams compete in regional tournaments that aim to build respect among young people of different backgrounds, religions, and cultures. The most important prize awarded in the tournament is the “fair play cup”, which is awarded to the team that has shown the greatest goodwill towards other teams, whether it is to tighten the hand of the winning team, cheering from the bench or helping someone up. after their fall.
Following the May 2021 ethnic clashes in mixed cities such as Lod, Haifa and Acre, The Equalizer began to focus more of its energy on organizing initiatives in these communities to help ease tensions between Jewish residents. and Arabs, but also to help improve the socio-economic status of cities.
“Every time something like this happens, it lowers the socio-economic status of the city. People who can afford to escape do so, and that leaves behind those who can’t afford to escape from those kinds of cities. But we still want them to have a good life,” Gerassi said.
In addition to 76ers uniforms, The Equalizer is auctioning off a number of Israeli athlete uniforms, including those of Shon Weissman of Spanish soccer club Real Valladolid and now-retired Omri Casspi of basketball powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv. .
The organization began auctioning items on July 1 and will continue until the end of August. During the week, two auctions take place per day, one in the morning, one in the evening. Apart from the 48-hour auctions held on Shabbat, each auction period lasts 24 hours.