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The Spodek Family

 
The Spodek family: What Happens When Hockey and Philanthropy Collide?

Jan 24, 2013

What Happens When Hockey and Philanthropy Collide?

When Danny Spodek, a self-confessed hockey fiend and die hard Leafs fan, made aliyah with his family, where they would live was a serious consideration.  In addition to the usual decisions related to schools, religious temperament, other English speakers and job opportunities, proximity to ice was a factor.  The Spodeks chose Zichron Yaacov, a community originally founded by Baron Rothschild in the 19th century, which happens to be only an hour or so from the Lebanese border.  And Metulla, where the Canada Centre and the only regulation size ice rink in Israel, is located. Their home has an attached garage, which was converted to a hockey shrine.

Eager to combine his love of hockey and his love of Israel, Danny founded the Israel Recreational Hockey Association (IRHA) with other North American olim to encourage the development of ice hockey in Israel, and to provide opportunities for players of all ages and abilities to play in a friendly atmosphere.

The IRHA, run by volunteers as a not for profit organization, has grown quickly over the years and has an email database numbering in the thousands. It organizes weekly ice hockey games at the Canada Centre as well as roller hockey and ice hockey programs and games for children throughout the year. Their comprehensive website explains the program in full detail: israelhockeyassociation.org

The IRHA also organizes an international recreational ice hockey tournament in February for players from Canada, the U.S., Europe and Israel. 100 or so players will converge on Metulla for a fun , no-contact tournament that promotes sportsmanship and Israel.  When asked what makes this tournament so unusual, other than the location, Ornat Spodek, Danny’s wife and tournament communications director, replied that this is the only ice hockey tournament in the world that offers a daily minyan, daf yomi class, and tikkun olam options including making sandwiches for disadvantaged children in the North or collecting produce in the fields for soup kitchens around the country.

Danny and Ornat, expat North Americans who grew up in philanthropic households, have chosen hockey as their platform to “give back”. The tournament generates positive Israel-Disapora relations by encouraging Jewish and non Jewish players to visit; these players become goodwill ambassadors for Israel.  The tournament helps raise awareness and funds for Israel’s national food bank, Leket Israel. And the tournament helps generate support for hockey through the collection of new and gently used hockey equipment which is very expensive and hard to find in Israel.

In 2010, Darryl Sittler and Paul Henderson went to Israel to promote hockey.  These superstars returned to Canada with wonderful experiences of Israel that they shared with the media, friends, family and other players. The tournament brings people to Israel who may not otherwise visit.  In fact, one participant timed his Aliyah to Israel with the hockey tournament. Being able to play hockey in Israel cemented his decision to immigrate. An unaffiliated Jewish participant came for the hockey tournament and cried when he went to the Kotel, his first tangible connection to Judaism.  Players who had visited Israel previously had an opportunity to interact with Israeli team mates, and were amazed at the impact Israel had on first time visitors.

While Ornat and Danny’s success at promoting and leveraging hockey in Israel is remarkable, the IRHA is always looking for help.  Bar and Bat Mitzvah families have supported the IRHA through sponsorship of children’s hockey camps or ice time, giving players of limited means a chance to play the game they love. And, as Ornat says, “you can help us help others less fortunate by supporting Leket”. For more information, visit http://bsimchas.leket.org/en/page/2013%20irha%20hockey%20tournament.aspx.

 




 

 
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