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How a youth hockey league is accommodating Shabbat-observant players



This article was produced as part of JTA’s Teen Journalism Fellowship, a program that works with Jewish teens around the world to report on issues that affect their lives.

(JTA) — Six hours of hockey games squeezed in between Saturday night and Sunday may seem like suboptimal scheduling, but for Alex Ottensoser, a forward on the North Jersey Avalanche 16U travel ice hockey team, it’s the main reason he signed up.

As a Sabbath-observant Jew, Ottensosser would have to miss many of the games on most other hockey teams, and that’s if a team would be willing to take a player who would miss Saturday games in the first place. That all changed when his mother’s friend mentioned the idea of forming a team for players who similarly observe Shabbat.

That idea came seven years ago, when several parents from New Jersey’s Bergen County approached the Avalanche, a competitive youth ice hockey program based out of Hackensack, New Jersey, about starting a Sabbath-observant team. Up to that point, Robert Rudman, one of those parents, says his son, now a junior in high school, would have had to miss at least one game every weekend because of his family’s Sabbath observance.  

After some discussion with the Avalanche organization, Rudman says they offered to make a parallel team that was similarly competitive with the organization’s existing teams but also accommodate their religious practices. 

Since then, the Avalanche have been attracting Sabbath observant players from the New York metropolitan area. “We’ve grown so much that this past year we had four teams made up of at least 15 players, so about 60-65 kids,” said Rudman. Now, “if you come to The Icehouse [in Hackensack] – which is where the Avalanche play their games – after Shabbat, you’re going to see four different age groups all playing.” 

Rudman estimates that 95% of the players on these teams are Sabbath observant, although they have also attracted a small number of nonreligious players who simply want to keep their Saturdays free. The Avalanche teams are open to boys and girls, although the vast majority of current players are boys. 

 Jews who observe Shabbat have been accommodated in a wide array of fields. Former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was the first observant Jew to hold a cabinet position. Former senator and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman managed to make it work. And Ryan Turell, the former Yeshiva University star now playing in the NBA’s G League, hopes to become the first Orthodox player in the NBA.

Yet, for practical reasons, youth ice hockey has remained hard to access for Sabbath-observant Jews. Competitive youth ice hockey requires large time commitments from players and their families, including on weekends. Teams from the age of 6 and up typically have multiple weekly practices, and games Saturdays and Sundays, from September through March. Because of this intense schedule and competition for limited rink time, Saturday games are built into the culture of youth hockey, perhaps more than most other sports. 

Sabbath-observant Avalanche teams have had their share of success on the ice, including winning state championships at the A and AA levels. (Courtesy of the Avalanche)

Jewish students in the New York metropolitan area have filled this void, compensating for their schools’ lack of ice rinks, with floor hockey. The yeshiva league currently stands at 15 teams and has developed into its own subculture, complete with local youth leagues and a summer camp. Still, the pull of ice hockey remains strong, and a small number of Jewish high schools now field ice hockey teams. 

For Ottensoser, fitting in two weeknight practices and multiple weekend games with his Ramaz Upper School workload, and commuting from the city to practices and games, requires efficiency. “I find a way to do work in the car and make use of the time,” he said.

While hockey teams that accommodate Sabbath observant players may be uncommon, it’s not without precedent. The Avenue Road Hockey Association has fielded Toronto-area teams with similar accommodations, and the NY Icecats, a hockey program based out of rinks in New York and Hackensack, also fields teams “arranged to accommodate Sabbath observant families.” In addition, some Sabbath-observant players do manage to play on competitive teams without these accommodations, including on several teams in Long Island.

“[W]e are in an era where the schedule is much more fungible. It’s much easier to create specialized schedules for people,” said Judith Shulevitz, journalist and author of “The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time.” “So I think it’s easier to accommodate schedules for particular means.” 

That said, she also sees a broader appreciation for a day of rest, citing the players from non-observant backgrounds who have joined the Sabbath-observant Avalanche teams. In her view, kids are too driven and scheduled, with not enough down time. “As soon as you begin to grasp the importance of a day of rest, you will begin to grasp the idea of a day of rest with others and begin to structure your time in such a way that it becomes possible,” Shulevitz said. “That’s what they’ve done. They want the day of rest. They’ve joined a [Sabbath-observant team] so they’ve created a structure for themselves.That’s a social good in and of itself.”

Ultimately, while the Sabbath-observant Avalanche teams have had their share of success on the ice, including winning state championships at the competitive A and AA levels, Rudman says the goal is not to get players to the NHL. (The league currently features a small but historically strong group of Jewish players, including Edmonton Oiler Zach Hyman who wears the number 18 for chai, or life in Hebrew.)

“It’s so they can be kids and play the game they love, without having to sacrifice anything in terms of their religion,” he said.

The post How a youth hockey league is accommodating Shabbat-observant players appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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