By Zack Itzkovitz
The European Youth Ultimate Championships featured some of the best young ultimate Frisbee teams in the world Aug. 3 to 8, including three teams representing Israel.
Three young Jewish women from Atlanta and the Paideia School traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, to play for Israel’s under-20 women’s team: Kyra Bronfman, Syd Taylor-Klaus and Helen Samuel.
Bronfman is a junior at Paideia. Taylor-Klaus and Samuel graduated in the spring.
Before the European championships, the three played for Groove, Paideia’s varsity women’s ultimate team, leading it through an undefeated 2015 season with Taylor-Klaus as a team captain.
For Samuel, like many American Jews, Israel doesn’t seem like her homeland.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Samuel said of representing Israel. “I only feel distantly connected to Israel, so in the beginning it was difficult to rile up the same national pride that the Israelis have, but as the tournament continues, it has become much easier and more natural.”
Miranda Knowles, who coaches Groove, commended the girls’ courage in traveling to Europe to represent Israel.
“It takes bravery to travel abroad, play with new teammates who speak a different language, and learn a new team’s system,” Knowles said. “They’ve done this all in a few days, and I know they’re doing so with grace, humility and strength.”
The girls’ competition proved formidable. Israel’s under-20 women’s team went winless in eight tournament games, coming closest in a 9-6 loss to Ireland. The under-17 co-ed teams went 0-6, while the under-20 co-ed team had some success, finishing 4-6.
Grateful for the opportunity to learn from others, the Israeli teams showed strength, perseverance and support for one another.
“Whenever one team can support another, they are always there,” Samuel said from Germany. “We cheer so much, and our cheers are so catchy, that many other players from other countries will walk around yelling, ‘El el el el el el el el el el el el el, go, Israel!’ ”