Ofra Abramovich at the net.
Still, the thought of having some time for exercise and socialization was enticing. So she finally gave it a try.
“I really enjoyed the game; it’s similar to volleyball except you throw and catch the ball instead of hitting it,” Ofra says. “I thought if this makes me feel better, other mothers would probably feel the same as I do.”
Before long, Ofra created Mamanet, a league for mothers, in her hometown of Kfar Saba, a Tel Aviv suburb.
Then Mamanet took off in a big way.
Today, 15 years after its launch, Mamanet is an international sports league with over 1,500 teams throughout Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Israel, Italy, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States.
In Israel, Mamanet brings together secular, Orthodox, and Arab mothers to meet, train, and play in regionwide tournaments. The women become role models for their children by showing the importance of physical activity and teamwork. Mamanet leagues have also helped raise awareness about health issues like breast cancer, bringing publicity to these issues at many tournaments.
Co.Lab Makes the Connection
Ofra’s visionary work made her a perfect candidate for a Co.Lab fellowship, an initiative created by UJA-Federation to bring together a diverse group of driven individuals who share similar values. Learning together and from one another, they shatter stereotypes, share insights, and introduce new solutions to achieve sustainable change for the good of Israeli society. As a Co.Lab fellow, Ofra is able to exchange ideas with other changemakers, including people she wouldn’t normally interact with in a meaningful way.
“What’s unusual about Co.Lab is that it brings different people together and we learn about our similarities,” Ofra says. “We already know our differences. It’s unique to see what we share.”
Ofra had a dream of bringing Mamanet to mothers in the Haredi community, but till Co.Lab she didn’t have an “in” to that community.
Then she met Co.Lab fellow Shaindy Sadovsky, who is Haredi.
Shaindy is not only ready to learn the game, she’s also leading the way in sharing it with Haredi mothers and daughters. She’s dedicated to integrating awareness of health issues into the league, such as the prevention of diabetes and early detection of breast cancer.
In a happy twist of fate, as Shaindy and Ofra began making their plans, a contact from the Sports Division of the Municipality of Jerusalem reached out to Ofra with a request: the contact had heard about Mamanet and wanted to bring a league to the Haredi community. That collaboration set the wheels in motion to have a sports hall available for trainings and games.
To date, 30 Haredi women have signed up to start Mamanet trainings in Jerusalem and the first team just began training.
“Physical exercise can be challenging to include in mothers’ busy lives,” Ofra says. “Mamanet develops leagues that benefit moms by strengthening their bodies and creating a social network. But moms touch so many people — when they become involved, the whole community benefits.”