Finding Comfort on the Field
I feel lost. Like many people during this horrific time, I feel heartbroken, guilty, shocked and enraged. I feel as if I do not have energy for the mundane. I ask myself, why am I sitting in class, listening to my psychology lecture, when my brothers and sisters are fighting for our homeland, fighting for the lives of Am Yisrael? How can I go on with my life as normal, while the lives of the Jewish people have come to a halt, or for many, have come to an end?
My teammates and I on the Yeshiva University women’s soccer team contemplated these questions while we were on the bus to a recent soccer game. On Thursday, just days after we all heard the news of the tragedy in Israel, we had our first game back since before Rosh Hashanah and the attacks on Israel. It was clear from the atmosphere on the bus that soccer was the last thing we wanted to be doing. On the bus, there was no music. There was no chatter, laughter or excitement. As a captain, I tried my best to uplift my team and put them at ease, but nothing I could say would have as great an impact as what we experienced on our opponent’s field.
We arrived at Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) in Newburgh, NY, and began to warm up for the game. I tried to encourage the team to use this time as a mental break to let off some tension and told them that the score didn’t matter. What mattered was that we would be there as a team, supporting each other. I tried to convince myself just as much as I tried to convince my team.
After warm-ups, the formalities began. As per standard Skyline Conference practice, both teams walked out to the middle of the field to announce the starting players. As usual, we lined up in front of the spectators and cameras and waited for our roll call. The MSMC announcer then began speaking, introducing both teams.
What happened next was unexpected and unprecedented. The announcer called up Father Gregoire Fluet, the interim president, campus chaplain, director of campus ministry and adjunct instructor of history and religious studies at MSMC, to speak. Fr. Gregoire said that MSMC and YU have been supporters, competitors and friends for years, and announced that MSMC sympathizes with us and shares in our community’s sorrows. Following this powerful speech, both teams and the crowd shared a moment of silence for the victims and hostages.
This moment of connection touched me deeply. Before this game, I knew that Jews were hurting, I knew Israelis were hurting, I knew Zionists were hurting. What I didn’t know was that a Catholic school, which was meant to be my team’s opponent, was thinking about us and about the Jewish people.
When I arrived at the field, I was expecting to sleepwalk through a game of soccer. Perhaps I could have a distraction from the constant newsfeed. Maybe I would be able to release some tension. I was not expecting to feel love and support from the other team.
Throughout our time at MSMC, players from the other team spoke to us individually. They complimented us on our strength and offered their support. They cheered and encouraged us. After the game, as we left the field, we were met with applause from the MSMC parents and spectators, showing us support, kindness and love.
Never in my 14 years of playing soccer have I felt such warmth and compassion from my opponent. The actions from MSMC were uplifting, comforting and impactful for the women’s soccer team and showed that the Jewish people have support in our broader community. So while at first I felt lost and questioned how I could be engaging in a routine soccer game while everything else in the Jewish world has lost its normalcy, MSMC taught me that I was not alone. It was specifically through acts of kindness within my regular schedule that I felt most comforted. For that, MSMC, thank you.
Photo Caption: Players from the women’s soccer team stand with the Israeli flag before competing in a match against Mount Saint Mary College
Photo Credit: Jose Maria Aberasturi