Sophomore Spencer Krelitz reflects on his mission trip to Israel

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Sophomore Spencer Krelitz reflects on his mission trip to Israel

During his time in Israel, Krelitz played for the U19 National Lacrosse Team.

During his time in Israel, Krelitz played for the U19 National Lacrosse Team.

Photo Courtesy of Spencer Krelitz

During his time in Israel, Krelitz played for the U19 National Lacrosse Team.

Photo Courtesy of Spencer Krelitz

Photo Courtesy of Spencer Krelitz

During his time in Israel, Krelitz played for the U19 National Lacrosse Team.

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A year and a half ago, current sophomore Spencer Krelitz signed up for a mission trip that would take him all the way to Israel to play for the Israeli U19 National Lacrosse Team, and to help teach kids to play lacrosse. Now, after his trip has come to a close, Krelitz reflects on his experiences as a lacrosse player and as a person of Jewish faith.

In preparation for this trip, Krelitz raised money by working three jobs. “I was a lacrosse referee for 50 games this past summer, I worked at Lund’s and have been a babysitter to a few families with boys for the last few years,” Krelitz said. The trip was run by the Sticks for Kids organization, which strives to make lacrosse the top sport in Israel. In line with the mission of the trip, Krelitz was also required to bring 50 pounds of lacrosse gear to donate to kids living in at-risk neighborhoods there. “A lot of [the donated equipment] came from the support of the kids around me, and I can’t thank them enough for that. Without it, the trip would have gone haywire, because the kids wouldn’t have had stuff to play with,” Krelitz said.

Krelitz departed on his trip December 22, meeting up with the other American lacrosse players he would be serving with at JFK airport in New York. This trip to Israel was not Krelitz’s first, as he had traveled previously with his family to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah a few years ago, but it was his first time traveling without his parents abroad. “I was a little bit anxious going in, as most people would be. I mean, I’m fifteen years old, going to one of the places that all the news networks say is this war-torn area… even though I had been there before and knew that wasn’t true, there’s always that element of fear,” Krelitz said.

After a combined 17 hours of travel, the group arrived where they would be staying in Netanya, Israel, a suburb outside of Tel Aviv which Krelitz describes as “Miami Beach-esque.” Although this area would serve as their home base for the duration of their stay in Israel, it was by no means the area they spent most of their time in.  “We’d get up around six in the morning and drive out to a city, near or far. We’d be holding these clinics for about 2 or 3 hours every day, we’d sometimes run multiple clinics a day, so they were very long days. Mix in touring, and our own playing… it was very jam-packed. We’d leave and probably be gone for over 12 hours a day,” Krelitz said.

A large part of the trip was the clinics that Krelitz help run. These would be run for local youth, with the ultimate goal of making lacrosse the national sport of Israel by 2025. Not only did Krelitz connect with the mission of “spreading the sport,” but he found a fulfillment in getting kids into the sport. “The kids were really loving it; that was definitely one of the most enjoyable parts. Seeing when you give them their first stick, or their first pair of gloves, their faces just light up. That was definitely really important for us,” Krelitz said.

Another important aspect of the trip was playing for the U19 National Team, an experience Krelitz called “a once in a lifetime opportunity.” The team faced a lot of high-level competition, including the Polish National Team, the European All Star Team, and even Israel’s own Men’s National Team. The group came out with great results, suffering just one loss to the Israeli Men’s National Team, which is ranked 6th in the world. “It went as expected, we kinda got kicked. It was definitely a fun experience, though. The guys weren’t terrible about it, they tried to get in our heads at the beginning. I’m fifteen, so I tried to block it out as much as I could, but when you’re down by 20 goals to some grown men, it’s pretty tough,” Krelitz said. 

Even with a busy schedule of games and clinics, the group made touring and seeing different areas a priority. Near the end of their trip, they had the chance to visit Auschwitz concentration camp, an experience that hit close to home for Krelitz, who has family roots in this tragedy. “It was very tough for me personally, the first thing I did was I went to the bathroom and threw up. It was really nerve-wracking, thirteen of my family members died in the Holocaust, so it hits really close to home… I’m very connected with that side of my family heritage, and when you can really see the effects of it in your own family, it just makes it that much tougher,” Krelitz said.

In spite of the fact that this was not Krelitz’s first time in Israel, he felt that this trip had provided his with a very different set of experiences. “This visit was more culturally based, and more assimilating yourself with them rather than being the tourist going around and seeing everything. This was more of getting into that Israeli culture and making yourself feel like you’re a part of it,” Krelitz said. In addition to this, Krelitz cited his personal growth as part of why his experiences this time around were all the more unique. “Seeing it now, from a more mature understanding of my religion and how the Middle East is working right now, was really beneficial to my experience,” Krelitz said.

From the way he speaks of the experiences he had, it is clear that this culturally-rich trip is one that Krelitz will never forget. “It’s definitely a special experience, getting to go anywhere internationally, but going with a bunch of [high school] guys who all play lacrosse and are Jewish is something that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and something that I’m very grateful for,” Krelitz said.

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