David Lasday of Maplewood is combining his three favorite things: Judaism, Israel, and sports.
As the recipient of a fellowship for up-and-coming Jewish “social entrepreneurs,” the University of Maryland graduate has created Bring It In Israel, an Israel-based program to train young Jews to use sports to foster “life skills” and Jewish values. (www.bringitinisrael.com)
The goal is to create a cadre of people with the skills to use sports to engage, educate, and connect Jewish youth to Israel and Judaism.
“Through hands-on learning and sports volunteering with Israeli disadvantaged youth, fellows will develop coaching skills, deepen their understanding of Jewish values, and strengthen their connection to Israel,” he explained in an e-mail from Israel to NJJN.
To launch the project, he applied for, and was awarded, a PresenTense summer fellowship in Israel. Launched in 2007, the fellowship is a kind of entrepreneurs’ boot camp that provides mentors, skills, and tools to help participants develop Jewish identity and educational initiatives. Lasday is among 16 PresenTense 2010 summer fellows. The program began June 10 and runs through July 25.
Lasday, 27, said his interest in sports is a family inheritance from “my great-grandfather, a basketball player, and my grandfather Stanley Lasday, olav hashalom, who was a big Pittsburgh sports fan and passed his love for sports on to me.”
His interest in Judaism he gets from his parents. “Blessed with two dynamic Jewish educators as parents it was not hard to identify the Jewish values in sports,” he said.
Combining his interests is nothing new for Lasday. He worked as assistant general manager for the Maryland NightHawks, a minor league basketball team, after he graduated in 2005 from the University of Maryland with a degree in Jewish studies. At the same time, he was teaching at a local religious school. He said he found that “the children were the most engaged when I used sports games to teach.” He also worked briefly for a basketball organization and then delved into the not-for-profit world at an organization known as PeacePlayers International, which uses sports to unite children in divided communities and conflict zones.
The PresenTense fellowship is spinoff of a magazine and media nonprofit that encourages innovations in Jewish life.
“I applied to PresenTense because I had an idea and wanted to gain the tools to get it off the ground,” he wrote. “They have provided excellent guidance on how to build a successful business from creating a value proposition, to doing an environmental scan, prototyping, and pitching to funders. They are also on the cutting edge of new technology in the field, teaching us how to build a website in an afternoon, and the latest tools in social media.”
As for his own future, Lasday said he wants to continue to work in sports-based youth programs in the Jewish and non-Jewish world.
“I have seen the power of sports to unite communities, develop leaders, change lives, and teach life skills.” And on the Jewish side of things, he wrote, “I look forward to training and working with a network of young Jewish sports educators who are running Jewish sports days in Hebrew schools, Sunday schools, Jewish youth groups, and camps across the country, teaching Israel and Judaism through sports, and sharing their experience of sports volunteering in Israel.”