Many organizations and charities hold various events to help raise needed funds to continue their operations. Typical fundraisers include benefit dinners, Chinese auctions, and raffles – all worthy and enjoyable affairs. But few organizations have sponsored an inventive activity such as the one by Migdal Ohr Educational Center, Israel’s largest orphanage, founded by Rabbi Yitzchak Grossman. In October 2007, the organization held a basketball game between the New York Knicks and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv.
It was the first time that the Knicks had hosted an international team at Madison Square Garden, and over 18,000 people made it their business to witness it. And while it was merely an exhibition game, it counted where it aimed to: tickets were sold out and it raised $1.2 million, with all net proceeds going towards Migdal Ohr activities and programs.
Now, the organization hopes to surpass that amount when it presents another game between the Knicks and Maccabi Tel Aviv on October 18. Another game between Maccabi and the Los Angeles Clippers is also planned for October 20 at Staples Center in LA.
Robert Katz, executive vice president of the American Friends of Migdal Ohr, explained, “The first game between the Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Knicks set the bar so high we knew we’d have to offer something extra this time, now with two games only days apart. Based on feedback and enthusiasm for the game, I have full confidence that both games will be sold out as well.”
Migdal Ohr was founded in 1972 by Rabbi Grossman with the goal of providing educational opportunities and social guidance for children from impoverished or underprivileged backgrounds. In Migdal Ha’Emek, the development town where Rabbi Grossman moved to in 1968 at age 22, children were living with problems most people only see on television: family drug problems, abuse in the home, parents in jail, and poverty, all due to the rapid growth in population size before the socio-economic infrastructure could be firmly established.
Feeling compelled to take action and help these kids have a fighting chance at a normal and productive life, Rabbi Grossman began visiting local discos and hangouts to engage these kids in dialogue. Intrigued by “the Disco rabbi,” as Rabbi Grossman came to be called, youngsters and adolescents eventually made their way over towards a Torah way of life.
Rabbi Grossman, who had been elected chief rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek (at age 23, the youngest person to become a municipal chief rabbi in Israel), saw results right away: criminal activity was reduced which, in turn, encouraged businesses to set up factories and supply the area’s many unemployed residents with jobs.
Despite societal improvements within Migdal Ha’Emek, poverty, unemployment, and criminal activity are still rampant, and there are families throughout Israel in similar impoverished circumstances. It is these families, especially the children, who Rabbi Grossman hopes to reach through one of Migdal Ohr’s many initiatives.
Migdal Ohr sponsors a number of services, including a day care center for infants to toddlers up to age three; kindergarten school; elementary school equipped with dorms, youth centers, and computer and library facilities; community activities; and a teacher’s seminary to train future rabbis and teachers. Other programs include one for prisoner rehabilitation and one for orphans from the former Soviet Union, who are placed with families specially trained to accommodate them and give them a new lease on life.
The remarkable range of services currently provides for over 6,000 children; the lives Migdal Ohr has touched and positively impacted are countless.
Perhaps Mr. Katz summed up the charity basketball game best when he said, “Sure, you can pay hundreds of dollars to go to a dinner and eat rubbery chicken to raise money for a worthy cause. But thanks to the more original idea of an action-packed exhibition basketball game, you can have an exhilarating experience for a fairly low price.”
Tickets for the event went on sale in May, and are available through Ticketmaster, nyknicks.com, and the Madison Square Garden box office. Those who wish to purchase courtside or lower-level seats should contact 212-397-3700 or email [email protected].
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv took on the New York Knicks at MSG in 2007. The two will face off again October 18.