Growing up in south coast Massachusetts, I rarely ran into another Jewish kid in town. I’d usually tell someone I’m Jewish and get a weird or surprised look in response. I knew very little about my Jewish heritage, and even less about Israel. After graduating high school, I wanted all that to change.

Sports, specifically lacrosse, had historically been a driving force for me all my life. When I found out about Israel Lacrosse, it sounded like an opportunity I’d be sorry to overlook. To play the game I love in a place I was looking to connect with was an easy choice.

Choosing to move to Israel having never visited the country, not knowing anyone there and never living on my own in the past, for that matter, was something that was met with a lot of uncertainty by some of my close friends and family. I took the leap of faith fully knowing I’d be out of my comfort zone and in a very different environment. I was open-minded and I knew, if nothing else, I would learn something. To this day, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made was taking that leap of faith.

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(Courtesy photo)

I spend most of my time in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon with my teammates, friends and roommates, most of whom are college-aged men’s and women’s athletes like myself. In Ashkelon we have our national training center and the first lacrosse-specific-lined field in the Middle East. As well as training and playing competitive lacrosse daily, we are also given the shot to try our hand at coaching youth teams all across the country multiple times per week. This is my favorite part of living in Israel. Although coaching did not come naturally to me at first, I worked at it and realized there are few things more rewarding than seeing a kid fall in love with the game just as you had at that age. Whether it’s teaching them a stick trick or just being present at practice, it means something to these kids and you can see it in their faces. In return, sometimes they’ll invite us to Shabbat dinner or teach us Hebrew. I’ll take all the help I can get!

Aside from lacrosse, we are also given the resources to develop professionally while aiding in the internal aspects of running a nonprofit. Whether it be fundraising, graphic design, leadership development, you name it, we’re learning it. We also get to hear from and interact with some very influential people in sports and the Jewish community at large in our guest speaker Zooms. Building those connections continues to open doors and provide invaluable opportunities for us.

Another great part of living here is the time we get to explore the country, it’s history and our interests. We often do day or overnight trips, which help bring everyone closer together, and we get plenty of time throughout the week to try new things like surfing, Krav Maga or whatever it is we may be interested in.

Sam Trojano
Sam Trojano (Courtesy photo)

From the moment I first arrived in Israel, it’s felt like home. To go from barely having any Jewish friends to having a whole group of young Jewish lacrosse players that I now consider to be family is something I’m eternally grateful for. In being part of a mission bigger than myself, my sense of Jewish pride has grown exponentially, and the stories, lessons and relationships we’ve built here will be something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.