Saturday, March 12, 2011 - Go Above & Go Beyond

Written by: Dave Goodman

I recently heard a saying: 'A camel is a horse built by a committee'.  I thought about it and realized, you know what, that's usually pretty accurate.  Then I attended a committee meeting one week before the inaugural Joel Schwartz Memorial Hockey Tournament on March 13th, 2011 at Chesswood and thought, this couldn't be farther from the truth, especially if you have witnessed what transpired in the past 7 months in preparation for tomorrow.

12 teams, over 150 players, over 40 gameday volunteers and over a dozen hands on volunteer committee members, chairs and co-founders, primarily under the age of 30....who said the next generation of Jews were apathetic in giving back to community?  

The story behind Joel Schwartz (z"l) for me, is a story of transformation.  Transformation of a young man.  And now, transformation of our community towards greater acceptance of those with Autism.  Only having known Joel for just over 3 months and seeing his transformation as my Birthright Israel participant, I know what we did for him, we being my co-staff, Jodi Katzeff, Emanuel Flatt (Joel's shadow from Reena), Adam Miller (our trip medic), Mo Sirhan (Bus Operator), Yossi Mamon (Israeli Tour Guide) and the incredible participants of that Toronto 1 - CIE Birthright Israel trip changed his life.

The trip introduced Joel to a world of acceptance, all the excitement that travelling brings, a new world-view, a deep connection to his Jewish identity and Jewish homeland; and best of all, to new Jewish friends he had been longing to meet.

Joel's passing was a tragedy.  Life is so strange to see how you can experience the most intense grief and now just two years and 10 days later, we have picked up the pieces and are in a position to celebrate his life and his new legacy for the Toronto Jewish community.  

The JSMHT Committee
The following people have my utmost respect and admiration for taking on such effective leadership to make this initiative not just succeed, but inspire.  We have truly built a horse, not a camel.  Last summer, when I sat down with the JSMHT Co-Founders: Jesse, Jon and Zack, there was an apprehension about the prospect of raising more than $10,000, or getting enough volunteer participants to fill a 12 team tournament.

8 months later, we are stone's throw from breaking $90,000 and have Jewish hockey players desperate to get in on the action.  I've turned away at least 8 from my team (Notables) and can't wait to strap them up in honour of Joel tomorrow morning.

Without further ado - our all star volunteer JSMHT Committee:

Jesse Abrams, JSMHT Co-Founder
Jon Schwartz, JSMHT Co-Founder
Zack Belzberg, JSMHT Co-Founder
Carly Bardikoff, JSMHT Team Management Chair & Gameday Operations Co-Chair
Asher Kirshenbaum, JSMHT Sponsorship Chair
2011 JSMHT Team & Organization Sponsors - THANK YOU!

Jason Finestone, JSMHT Public Relations Chair

A small sample of some of the Joel Schwartz coverage online in the past two months
Lauren Wyman, JSMHT Co-Chair of Gameday Operations 
Ari Diamond, JSMHT Co-Chair of In-Kind Sponsorship

Jodi Solomon, JSMHT Co-Chair of In-Kind Sponsorship
Josh Rotman, JSMHT Co-Chair of In Kind Sponsorship

Mel Little, JSMHT Co-Chair of Gameday Operations (seen here teaching Joel how to skate)
Zach Grosz, JSMHT Volunteer Committee Member and pro-bono Consultant
Other JSMHT Committee Members:
  • Julie & Larry Schwartz
  • Ali Rendely
  • Ryan Turkienicz
  • Sam Banks
  • Luke Slan
  • Sarah Kraftchuk
  • Sherri Becker
  • Corrie Pollock
  • Esther Benarroch
  • Jodi Katzeff
Top 10 Fundraisers as of March 12, 2011 at 1pm:
  1. Jonathan Schwartz
  2. Anton Jivov
  3. Eric Sherkin
  4. David Rubin
  5. Jodi Solomon
  6. Adam Gurza
  7. Jason Finestone
  8. Daniel Pearlstein
  9. Ari Diamond
  10. Zack Belzberg
Top 3 Fundraising Teams:
  1. The Mighty Ducks
  2. Kanes Cab Co.
  3. Notables
Please come join us for our main event on Sunday at 6pm to 9pm for networking, raffle and contest prize opportunities, photo opps with the Honourable, Ken Dryden, M.P. a free pleasure skate and the finals of the tourny at 7:30pm!

I would be remiss not to mention the incredible support that the JSMHT received in its first year from the community organization's that provided the support and non-profit infrastructure to help facilitate this endeavour.  Reena Foundation's dynamic staff of the project: Gary Sim (CEO of Reena Foundation), Michelle Primus & Jessica Kassabian were instrumental and unbelievable to work with.  We are so admirable of the important and effective work you do to help Reena thrive!

I must also recognize the important role that UJA Federation of Greater Toronto has enabled through its two in-house agencies: Canada Israel Experience (CIE) & UJA's Community Connect.  CIE will be executing the Birthright Israel trips that will bring Reena clients like Joel and a Reena shadow to Israel.
As well, my team with UJA's Community Connect could not be more pleased with this partnership to help lend support to young Jewish adults that want to make a difference in the Jewish community, while also helping to support a UJA agency in Reena Foundation.  Creating a legacy for Joel Schwartz (z"l) and his amazing family and friends who have been with him every step of the way was a powerful experience both personally and professionally.  We have ensured the CIE Birthright Israel - Reena Program will have continuity and support for years to come.

The Joel Schwartz Memorial Hockey Tournament is a legacy in the truest sense of the word.  All organizing members and organizations can take pride in what has been created.  Although our $85,000 is an incredible feat for a inagural grassroots fundraising event, the message that illustrates how our community is dedicated to the inclusivity of those with developmental disorders was a primary objective of this project.

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