Don’t tell Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich that Jews are a bunch of uncoordinated klutzes. The Israeli tennis duo — the No. 6 ranked doubles team in the world — is determined to prove that Jewish athleticism is no contradiction in terms. Earlier this week, the pair announced the formation of the Jewish Sports Foundation, an organization that will provide scholarships to young American Jewish athletes in need of financial assistance, allowing them to pursue and excel in sports.
Erlich and Ram, who formed their partnership in 2003 and are set to hit the courts in New York this week for the U.S. Open, have been a top-10 doubles team since 2005. Ram is the first Israeli in history to win a Grand Slam title, and both players have received support from American tennis programs in Israel.
“We wanted to give back to the Jewish community in the States,” Erlich told The Shmooze. “We’re starting in the States, and maybe [someday] we’ll be worldwide.”
In the beginning, the program will focus on providing scholarships to younger kids who seek to play on teams in schools, youth groups and summer camps, but as the program grows, Erlich and Ram hope to expand their reach to athletes in college. And the program isn’t exclusively for tennis players.
“We’re starting with tennis because… we know many coaches [and] people” in the tennis world, but “we want to include… all different sports. Definitely not only tennis,” Erlich said.
“As sportsmen traveling around the world, we don’t find many Jewish athletes,” Ram noted. “I want to see more Jews in the future doing sports and getting to the top.”