June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Icecats Score Big in Boston

It can be tough for Jewish kids who are a part of a travel team. Leagues are not always accommodating to teams unable to play on Shabbos, and some may require them to outright forfeit games that are held then.

Icecats, a not-for-profit, youth travel ice hockey team, aims to change that. They offer an accommodating program run and managed by Jewish parents, allowing members to compete with other teams. Nearly 80 kids are involved in the program, and they recently attended and competed in the Central Massachusetts Winter Classic held in Boston.

Icecats was created in 1999 and is currently run by Morris Dabah. The program is open to boys and girls between the ages of 4 to 12, though in the coming season they will be extending the program to 13 and 14 year olds. For the Boston tournament, accommodations were made to ensure that the teams were able to play in every game involved.

“How the tournament works is that there are games held throughout the weekend,” Dabah shared with The Jewish Link. “But since the league accommodates us, our games are held on Friday morning and the early afternoon, then again on Saturday night after Havdala. For those teams that advance to the playoffs, those final games are then held on Sunday.”

As for how the weekend went, Dabah has nothing but positive things to say.

“It was incredible,” Dabah continued. “Between the kids and their families we had about 180 people joining us. We had our Friday games, then returned to the hotel for an amazing Shabbat. We had catered kosher food, and then afterwards the kids played knee hockey in the conference rooms we rented.”

Dabah describes the weekend as being part tournament, part shabbaton. For Shacharit the following morning, services were held in another conference room and most of the Torah reading was actually done by the kids themselves.

“My favorite part of the weekend actually took place off the ice,” Dabah continued. “It was watching little interactions between the kids. There was a lot of ruach in the air, and the bonding that goes on between kids who otherwise never would have met is just incredible. Strong friendships are fostered here, and it means the world to me to watch them grow.”

Dabah and all staff members are volunteers. Dabah especially enjoys teaching the kids, giving them a strong sense of character to serve as a positive example to others.

“Before every trip, I always gather the kids together and have a talk with them,” he continued. “I speak to them about being an example, and what that means. Because when we go to a tournament, many of the people we’ll meet have never met an Orthodox Jew before. And so if we set a bad example, that is a perception these people may carry with them for the rest of their lives. This is obviously the last thing we want to do, so I want the kids to be aware of the gravity of their actions.”

Dabah said he also makes a point of teaching the kids respect—not just for their coaches and teammates, but for the hotel staff and the teams they play against too. All of it comes back to the idea of making a Kiddush Hashem and setting a positive example for others.

“I’m happy to report that I have never had an issue,” Dabah continued. “The kids have always been on their best behavior and shown true grace and kindness, regardless of whether they win or lose their games. There have been some true gems that I have witnessed between teams, and it goes to show the type of kids we’re teaching here.”

Jessica Yunger’s two sons—Murray and George Yunger—are in the program. She reports that they have been having an absolute blast being a part of it. They attended the recent Boston tournament, and competed with their respective teams.

“It’s a great group for the boys to be a part of,” Yunger shared. “They’re always excited for practice and have made good friends with their teammates. It’s a little community the Icecats have built, and there’s a sense of camaraderie among everyone involved. I also like that it gives my boys a chance to interact with kids in the secular world, and learn about respect and having kindness for all.”

Similarly, Adam Tantleff, whose sons Ariel and Eli are players in the program, said, “Being part of a shomer Shabbos hockey program teaches my children how to balance and live in the modern world while at the same time living an observant lifestyle.” His sons report that their favorite part of the program is the competitiveness of the games, and getting to compete alongside their friends.

Marc Sutton and Jonah Spier are also participants in the Icecats, and they report that their favorite parts of the tournament were playing knee hockey on Shabbos, and getting to meet people outside of their respective schools.

If you would like to learn more about the Icecats hockey program, you can do so by visiting their website, www.nyicecats.org. Additionally, you can also email [email protected]. Registration for the upcoming season, which will begin after Labor Day, is currently open.

Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com.

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