Akiva Klein and Maor Glickman, both in middle school, now play on elite youth lacrosse travel teams after starting their journey on a Passaic Park field at Chevra Lacrosse (CL18) in the second grade. CL18 was founded by Marc Goldfarb as the first formal lacrosse program that brings the sport to New Jersey yeshiva day schools, providing hundreds of children with the opportunity to play the once-inaccessible sport.
Akiva, an incoming seventh grader from Passaic, attends yeshiva at the Clifton Cheder and fell in love with lacrosse when introduced to it as a second grader. “He loved to compete, he loved the drills, he loved the structure and he loved competing against older boys,” Goldfarb said, and called Akiva’s development “a milestone” because he got onto the national Israeli U-13 team as a sixth grader—an impressive feat. “He was competing against some very elite youth lacrosse teams,” Goldfarb elaborated, while Akiva’s father, Avrohom Klein, speculated that no kid had ever played at a world series for three consecutive years. “I’m proud of the fact that he’s good, and I’m probably more proud of the fact that he’s an unselfish teammate,” he said. “He led the team, not only in goals, but assists on his rec team … he made a lot of passes and he was always generous and wanted to give kids the ball.”
Maor, an incoming eighth grader at Noam, also began learning lacrosse in the second grade through CL18. “He fell in love with the helmet and gloves,” Goldfarb said. “He just loved putting them on and he fell in love with learning about lacrosse.” Maor, like Akiva, mastered the basics of lacrosse at CL18, which inspired a passion for the sport and also taught him important lessons about sportsmanship and being a team player; this past season, he played an instrumental role in his rec team’s success with his goals and assists.
“We were certainly aware of the sport,” said Maor’s father, Dov, “but no one we knew had ever played or participated. Chevra was a great place to learn the basics of the game in an atmosphere that emphasized sportsmanship and was very supportive.”
Goldfarb started Chevra Lacrosse in 2012 because he wanted to give kids the opportunities he’d had in his own youth: “I grew up on Long Island with Italian and Irish kids, and lacrosse was the spring sport in which we all participated.” When he grew religiously and relocated to the Passaic/Clifton community, he decided that he “wanted to bring the magic of the sport to New Jersey yeshiva boys,” saying, “There’s something unique about lacrosse that really bonds teammates and allows players to flourish both on the field and in their lives everywhere else, whether in the classroom or in social settings.”
This past June, the U-13 World Championship Series took place in Maryland for its seventh consecutive year, and Akiva played in the days-long tournament on Israel’s national youth lacrosse team. Avrohom Klein said that the tournament is a “great experience” and an “incredible opportunity.” “They get the swag, they get to represent Israel, and they’re playing literally the best kids in the world at that age in youth lacrosse.”
Goldfarb said that the boys in the CL18 program have worked hard to get to where they are now. “It’s really a story about motivation, possibilities and unlimited potential. These boys can’t play lacrosse on Shabbos, and yet they’re competing in a very high level of youth lacrosse.” He added that the resources and support of US Lacrosse Regional Manager Harry Jacobs were a critical factor in his ability to develop this grassroots program so that boys like Akiva and Maor will have the opportunity to play and learn, as Jacobs supplied Goldfarb with early-stage used equipment grants to kickstart the program.
Goldfarb said that sports are valuable for yeshiva students because children can build qualities such as “teamwork, confidence, self-esteem and sportsmanship” that can complement the more mainstream education they receive at school. Klein added that lacrosse is “another way to develop a kid [and] their self-esteem,” as well as an opportunity to meet kids who are “outside of his bubble,” explaining, “Akiva’s been playing for several years where he’s always the only Orthodox kid … It forces a kid to think about who he is and why they do it, at an earlier age, to flex your own brain muscles and think about the bigger world.”
By Brooke Schwartz