Just before leaving for Israel, when other recent high school graduates preparing for a gap year might have been focused on packing or seeing friends, Eli Schwartz of West Orange was busy planning a benefit involving his favorite sport, hockey.
On Sunday, Sept. 21, the floor hockey tournament he organized will be held at Torah Academy of Bergen County, with proceeds going to Yad Ezra v’Shulamit, a Jerusalem-based association focused on poverty issues.
Schwartz, the son of Simi and Esther Zebede Schwartz, attended the first two years of high school at the academy in Teaneck before switching to Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, from which he graduated.
But Schwartz won’t be at the tournament; he plans to watch from his home-away-from-home for the upcoming school year, Yeshivat Torat Shraga in Jerusalem. (TABC has the capacity to stream events live.)
“My mother wanted to do something for Israel, and she suggested selling [rubber] bracelets,” Schwartz said in a phone call before his Sept. 1 flight. “I wasn’t sure that would be effective — I didn’t think enough people would buy them.”
Instead, he recalled that a friend of his brother ran a sports tournament several years ago for the embattled Israeli town of Sderot. “Yeshiva hockey is a big thing for people at schools like TABC, Frisch [School in Paramus], and Kushner,” he said. “There’s a big fan base to pull from.”
He pulled in his friend, fellow hockey enthusiast, West Orange resident, and TABC senior Alex Malech, the son of Sally and Steven Malech, to manage the event locally while he is in Israel. Together they launched Score in Solidarity with a Facebook site on Aug. 18.
The three-on-three tournament is open to high school players, who can sign up for either the varsity or junior varsity division. Each team is required to donate $150 to enter.
Asked how he was able to manage the planning and launching while getting ready to leave the country for a year, Schwartz quipped, “I guess I was born with time management skills.”
He hopes to use them during his year of study in Israel so that he can find time to volunteer with Yad Ezra v’Shulamit. The organization provides food, clothing, kids’ and teen programs, and job support and offers emergency relief to people trapped in bomb shelters during hostilities.