Every time the horn sounds at the end of each period of play in this game, try to imagine it to be the sound of a red alert that the people in Sderot have heard thousands of times day and night."
This sobering message was delivered by Steve Fisher, coach of the Ashar Elementary School hockey team of Rockland County, to a capacity crowd at Torah Academy of Bergen County on March 6. Fisher and members of the Ashar team joined the Moriah School and Yavneh Academy hockey teams, of Englewood and Paramus, respectively, to present a check for $10,000 to the Israeli city of Sderot. The Hockey Association of Yeshiva Middle Schools (HAYMISH) championship game between Moriah and Yavneh followed.
Fisher and his team coordinated a joint effort of day school floor hockey teams from Rockland, Nassau, Westchester, Queens, and Bergen counties to raise money for Sderot. The city’s proximity to the volatile Gaza Strip has made it a constant target of rocket attacks.
Coaches Fisher and David KatzNelson and their Ashar team were motivated to raise money for Sderot after hearing of the efforts of Joe Teplow, Netanel Shafier, and Zev Hait, teenagers from Bergen County who organized the Skate for Sderot 3-on-3 Roller Hockey Tournament last year.
"They were our inspiration," said Fisher, whose team will raise close to $’0,000 for charity this year and was recently awarded an unsolicited grant by the Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago’s Office of Endowments.
Fisher began calling other teams in the Metropolitan Yeshiva Junior High Hockey League, composed of floor hockey teams from Hebrew day schools in Rockland, Nassau, Westchester, and Queens, to see if they’d want to participate. Everyone had the same reaction, he said: "Just tell us what we need to do."
Donations have begun to come in for $700 to $1,000 per team. The response has been so strong that Fisher reached out to yeshiva teams outside of their league.
"It’s a real brotherhood of hockey," Fisher said.
In a letter to Unite for Sderot participants, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal wrote, "What makes this Unite for Sderot hockey project unique is the concept of all these schools and communities united as one to show dedication and support toward Sderot."
"People know we’re doing a good thing and they want to help out," said Fisher. "Put yourself in [the citizens of Sderot] position. This is the least we could do." The money will be donated to a school and used to reinforce the roofing in order to shield students from rocket attacks.
Along with raising money, organizers hope Unite for Sderot will raise awareness of the city’s dire situation. Moriah Academy coach Yitzy Kolb believes the project "helps these kids relate to the situation [in Sderot]."
The teams’ efforts certainly haven’t gone unnoticed in Sderot. Moyal added in his letter that the "reflected beam of light from America, now concentrated, will shine so brightly toward our city of Sderot." He continued, "We in Sderot are encouraged and empowered knowing your communities are with us as one in our time of need."
With regard to the game on the floor, an undefeated Moriah team won the HAYMISH championship 3-‘ in a hard-fought battle. There were plenty of cheers throughout the game, but possibly none as loud as when Fisher addressed the crowd and put everything in perspective: "No matter how competitive we are, we know we are one. We all stand together for Israel."
For more information on the Unite for Sderot project, visit www.asharhockey.com