Growing up as the son of a doctor in the U.S. Army, giving back was in Oran Bendelstein’s blood. His family moved around a lot for his father’s work but one thing was always a constant: theirs was always an open home, his parents always eager to host a guest or help a person in need. “It gave us the opportunity to see what it’s like to be giving back, always looking out for others,” Bendelstein said.
As a child, Bendelstein always tried to make sure everyone felt included. As a teen he mentored at-risk Jewish teens the Five Towns-area nonprofit TOVA, and as a young adult he founded a camp that took at-risk Jewish teens from New York to California to learn how to surf. Following Hurricane Sandy, the father of four created ReSurf, combining his lifelong passion for surfing and for philanthropic work. ReSurf is a nonprofit that refurbishes used, donated surfboards and ships them to surf clubs they have created around the globe that service underprivileged youth.
ReSurf has opened three clubs in Israel — the first in 2012 in the Beit Yannai Youth Village — as well as in Mexico, San Diego, South Africa and New York. This summer, clubs launch in the Rockaways and Long Beach, L.I.
The clubs have evolved into micro-communities that don’t just teach youth confidence through surfing, but also provides mentoring and training in other marketable skills like filmmaking and oceanography.
“The best charity is the charity … [for which] you don’t feel like you’re working hard. You end up feeling like you’re getting back yourself.”
In addition to working full time for ReSurf, Bendelstein and his wife, who are Modern Orthodox and live in Hewlett, L.I., also own Lolli Bop, a children’s play/party space and kosher café in nearby Lawrence.
Bendelstein recently partnered with NCSY to grow his organization and introduce a global ReSurf ambassador program that teaches teen volunteers leadership and social entrepreneurship skills. There are now over 500 teen ambassadors and 350 youth participating.
“We’re looking for teens that want to be leaders,” he said. “They’re the satellites and we’re just trying to keep them powered up.” This summer ReSurf launches a program that will take teens to Israel to help build surf clubs, tour the country, participate in learning and leadership training and — of course — surf.
“It goes both ways,” Bendelstein said, “The best charity is the charity … [for which] you don’t feel like you’re working hard. You end up feeling like you’re getting back yourself.”
Go Big Blue: Oran is a staunch New York Giants fan and coaches his son’s football team in his spare time.