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Flag-football raises funds for Israeli victims of terror

An all-day flag football tournament for young professionals held in Waldwick earlier this month raised some $30,000 for One Family Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial, legal, and emotional assistance to victims of terrorism in Israel.

Close to 200 men attended the event at Super Dome Sports, said organizer Ari Ashkenas, 23, One Family’s associate manager based in Teaneck. Last October, he worked with local residents including Bergenfield resident Benjy Hyman and Englewood resident Joseph Skydell to plan a One Family Fund casino night for young professionals in Manhattan. The success of that event, which raised money toward a prosthetic arm for an Israeli soldier injured during the Gaza military operation last year, encouraged Ashkenas to stage another for the same age cohort.

“After speaking to a couple of friends, we thought of flag football,” said Ashkenas. In this version of the sport, the defensive team must remove a flag (“deflag”) from the ball carrier instead of tackling him in order to end a down.

Through Facebook, e-mail blasts, and word of mouth, Ashkenas and a committee of volunteers got teams to sign up from across the tri-state area, including Manhattan, Long Island, central New Jersey, and Connecticut, in addition to several from Bergen County. Each team contributed at least $1,800.

Skydell, 21, a senior at Yeshiva University, was a member of the committee. “I suggested a sports event would probably be the most successful venue,” he said. “I play a lot of sports and everybody likes flag football.”

“The whole day, from beginning to end, was unbelievable,” said Ashkenas, who also joined one of the 15 teams of eight to 12 players ranging from 20 to 35 years old. “People felt so good about what they were doing that it made it all the more special. We started at 8:30 in the morning and intended to end at 5, but it kept going till 7:30.”

Marty Radnor of Wayne, a One Family official, said participants gave generously. “To be honest, it was the most expensive flag football tournament any of them had ever been to,” said Radnor. “You can go do the same thing for a third of the price, but these young people chose to spend the entire day playing for the sake of charity.”

Radnor expressed gratitude to three area businessmen who donated goods and services: Mitch Krevat, owner of Teaneck’s Burgers Bar, who “sat there the entire afternoon, serving every person who came in personally, and then stayed and cleaned up”; Richie Heisler, owner of Teaneck’s Butterflake Bakery; and physical therapist Charles Swinkin of Progressive Sports Rehabilitation in Rochelle Park, who led a pre-game stretching clinic. Many others volunteered to set up, clean up, and organize the day.

Between games, Radnor and Ashkenas spoke with participants about where their money was going. Among other victims of terror, the proceeds will offset the costs of multiple therapies and private tutoring for Tzur Kuzick, now 15. A few years ago, Tzur was driving with his family when a terrorist opened fire on their car, shooting him in the forehead. “Nobody thought he was going to live, let alone walk and talk,” said Radnor.

Over the past eight years, One Family Fund has distributed more than $20 million in direct aid to hundreds of terror victims and wounded soldiers.

Skydell said the benefit appealed to him because he knows Israeli soldiers as well as people who have lost relatives and friends in terrorist attacks. “To me it’s an unbelievable cause,” he said of One Family Fund. “When Israelis are attacked, they have to deal with emotional as well as physical damage.”

Moshe Rosenberg, 25, an attorney from Teaneck, participated on a 10-man team. “I run a flag football league in Teaneck every fall, and I played in Israel,” he said. “I helped put the tournament together and I knew it would be a chance to compete with a lot of different teams while raising money for tzedakah for those less fortunate than we are. It was well worth it. We had a great time — although we didn’t win.”

“I’ve gotten dozens of e-mails from players saying it was one of the best events they’ve ever been to,” said Radnor the day after the tournament. “You might think: A bunch of Jewish kids — how athletic are they going to be? But there were many terrific football players and many great athletes who joined us, as one of the refs commented. We plan on doing it again next year, and we hope to get even more participants.”

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