Hi! My name is Jessica Reiser, and I recently joined the PPI – Middle East Team. I am super excited to be working closely with many teams in Jerusalem as a coach and field coordinator.
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. Sports was always a big part of life. My brother, sisters, and I grew up going to Cincinnati baseball, football, and basketball games. Basketball, in particular, has always held significance in my life. I’ve been playing ever since I can remember, whether it was shooting hoops in our backyard, trying out for the school team, or playing pickup games in the park. I was the kid at summer camp you could find on the courts during every second of free time.
After high school, I spent nine months in Israel studying and volunteering. By the end of the year, I knew this was the place for me. After that year, I went back to Ohio to study before making plans to return to Israel, majoring in International Relations with a concentration in the Middle East at Ohio State University.
I moved to Israel in August 2011 with a group of 25 other new immigrants. We lived on Kibbutz Saad in the south of Israel and were soon drafted to the Israeli army, where I served in a Public Relations unit in the Air Force for two years.
After the army, I got a job in customer support at a high-tech company in Tel Aviv. Within a few months of adjusting back into civilian life, I realized something was missing. I hadn’t had much time to play basketball while I was in the army, and I wanted to get back into the swing of things. I saw a post on Facebook for a women’s league called “Basketball with Love,” and I emailed them immediately. I started practice that week, and I have to say it has been one of the best decisions of my life.
By the beginning of 2016, I had been working in high-tech for two years. It was time
for a change. My coach suggested that I look into the Wingate Institute’s Basketball Coaching Course. The course was fascinating and made me think how important the game was to me when I was growing up and how much I wanted to help show the next generation how beautiful the game of basketball can be. If I could help kids develop skills on and off the court, then I would be happy.
I always wanted to move to nonprofit work and make a real difference in people’s lives. For me, it has been really challenging to live in Israel during times of war and feel scared and helpless. I believe that most people just want to live their lives in peace. I think education is the key ingredient to move forward in the peace process. I especially like the idea of using sports education as a tool for social change.
I heard about PeacePlayers International through being in the basketball world in Israel and thought it was a perfect match for me. I’ve always wanted to be part of the peace building process. Building peace from the ground up, from personal relationships like we do in PPI, in my opinion, is the best way to change the situation for the better, and I’m proud that I can now say I’m a part of it.