Two men who grew up in the Jewish Center in Princeton were named to Israel’s national lacrosse team, which will travel to Denver this July for the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships.
Daniel Devery and Jonathan Rathauser won their spots on the 46-man travel roster during tryouts last summer at the Wingate Institute, Israel’s Olympic training compound located south of Netanya.
Both played lacrosse in college, both are studying in Israel, and both have played in the Israel Lacrosse Premier League.
Taking part in the world championships is also a chance for the two defensemen to raise money for the team and a charity of their choosing.
Devery, the son of Jack and Robby Devery, chose Special Olympics Israel. “I’ve been volunteering with special-needs children since I was fairly young,” he said. “I feel like sports has played such a significant role in my life it shouldn’t matter if you have physical or mental limitations — everyone should be able to enjoy healthy competition and exercise.”
Rathauser, son of Drs. Robert and Debra Rathauser, chose Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; his brother Benjamin is serving in the IDF.
The young men followed different paths to the Israeli national lacrosse team. For Devery, it started with growing up in Princeton and being taught that “as Jews in the States we had a responsibility to connect with Israel.” During his freshman and sophomore years of college, he spent summers in Israel working on archeological excavations.
“It was a bit of culture shock when I first got here because the majority of people I met were gruff and to the point, but also very warm and welcoming once I got to know them,” Devery said.
Not only did he learn about the history of ancient Israel that summer, but he learned a lot about himself. “I realized I loved working outdoors, loved getting dirty, loved the physical aspect of things, but also enjoyed the duality of archeology, where I needed to be intellectually sound but also needed to be physically strong,” he said, noting that he is now finishing a degree in coastal and underwater archeology at the University of Haifa.
Devery was drawn to lacrosse in eighth grade. “It is considered the fastest game on two feet. You need strength, agility, speed, and stamina all together, and physical and mental toughness,” he said. He played varsity lacrosse all four years at West Windsor-Plainsboro North High School and then played for a year in Division 3 at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. When he transferred to the University of South Carolina, where he earned a degree in history, he dropped lacrosse.
In May 2013 he joined the Tel Aviv team.
Rathauser’s family has strong ties to Israel — they have visited once a year since he was very young — but he traces his personal attachment to three years ago when he first got involved with the Israel Lacrosse Program.
He started playing lacrosse in fourth grade, after his father told him football was too dangerous. At that age, he thought the big metal sticks were pretty cool. “You got to hit people with them,” he said. “I tried it and loved it.”
Rathauser played while a student at the Lawrenceville School, which he had applied to specifically because of its strong lacrosse program.
At McGill University in Montreal, Rathauser was captain in his junior year when the team made it to the Canadian semifinals (they lost). The next year he was voted captain again, and his team won the national championships for the first time in McGill’s history. That was a tough year for Rathauser; he broke his collarbone in the first game of the season and had to lead from the sidelines. He managed to get back on the field in time for all the playoff games.
Rathauser first heard about Israeli lacrosse from a McGill teammate, and played in the Hanukkah Bowl in Jerusalem three years ago, while on a family trip in December of his junior year in college.
The next summer, he arranged an internship at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and represented Israel on the team playing in Turkey and then in the European Lacrosse Championship in Amsterdam. He was also helping on the development side of Israel Lacrosse by coaching clinics.
After graduating in May 2013, Rathauser played in the summer with the Israeli team. He enrolled in the startup MBA program at the Technion, which focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation. “I am very motivated,” he said. “I have a bunch of ideas, some of which I am pursuing at this time, and others are on the back burner.”
Both players said the team is taking this summer’s competition seriously. Players are expected to train five to six days a week. “We are going to go as far as we can, and we are going to turn some heads,” said Devery. “Our women’s team in its first-ever appearance in a world championship placed eighth in the world, which is a huge accomplishment. We are aiming to be in the top 10 and to match the women’s team or better.”
Devery called his making the Israel Lacrosse Team “the single greatest honor that I have yet had.”
“It is a phenomenal feeling to be able to represent both the Jewish people and the State of Israel. It is a phenomenal feeling to be able to run out on the field with the Israeli flag on my chest and sing “Hatikva” before a huge crowd under the lights — it is pure magic!”