Ethan Lasko admits there was some trepidation when he transferred to Manhattan College from Indiana University. And it had little to do with coming to the big city.
“I think in the beginning, the word ‘Catholic’ had me thinking, ‘What am I getting myself into?’” Lasko said. “But when I got here, I didn’t feel that at all. It felt like a normal college that allowed me to do what I needed to do religiously, academically and basketball-wise.”
Daniel Schreier had no such concerns arriving in Riverdale from his hometown of Santa Monica, California, via Vermont, where he spent a year at Vermont Academy.
“I’ve always felt welcomed since my (recruiting) visit here, and one of the big reasons why I wanted to come here is because it felt like a family,” Schreier said. “Nothing ever made me feel anything but welcome here.”
Lasko and Schreier are Jewish basketball teammates playing for Manhattan, a Catholic college. A little rare? You bet. But both Lasko and Schreier said they are both very happy with their collegiate choice.
“Once I came and met coach (Steve) Masiello and everyone else, I knew it was the place for me,” said Lasko, a junior guard currently recovering from foot surgery. “Just the energy, the atmosphere around here and how they do things, I just knew I wanted to be a part of it, and I knew I could succeed here.”
There are differences to Lasko and Schreier’s college experiences. Lasko is Modern Orthodox, while Schreier is Reform. As Schreier put it, it’s a little more difficult for Lasko than it is for him day-to-day.
“On a daily basis, it entails me praying three times a day — morning, evening and night,” Lasko said. “Not specific times, more like ballpark times. And I eat only kosher food, which in Riverdale is pretty easy to find.”
Schreier, a sophomore forward, says he has a much less stringent daily schedule.
“Ethan practices every day, and every day he’s keeping kosher and praying,” Schreier said. “But I grew up in a family where we’d only pray on Fridays and celebrate Shabbat. I never grew up keeping kosher, but I always celebrate the Jewish holidays. So the difference between me and Ethan is that it’s a more everyday thing for him than for me.”
Keeping kosher has its challenges, Lasko said, particularly in the school cafeteria where his choices are limited.
“I’ll eat a little bit of stuff in the cafeteria like the fruit and the cereal,” Lasko said. “But when it comes to the bigger, substantial things in the cafeteria, I don’t eat that.”
So to combat his lack of choices, Lasko has found a number of places around Riverdale to shop for kosher food. And these days he has company eager to join him on his excursions.
“There are four or five kosher restaurants around here, and a couple of kosher marketplaces that I go to, and I actually bring my teammates with me,” Lasko said. “They love a lot of the food. Some of them might be fully kosher by the time I’m out of here.”
One other adjustment Lasko has to contend with is during the Sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.
“It’s 24 hours of no electronics,” Lasko said.
And that situation once led to a rather funny encounter on a Jaspers’ road trip.
“I remember this one time we were all standing by the elevator at a hotel and just waiting for it, and Ethan said, ‘Are you going to push the button?’ And we said, ‘We thought you pushed it,’” Schreier said, laughing. “And he says, ‘It’s Saturday, I can’t!’ It was pretty funny.”
If any Manhattan games are scheduled for Friday night or Saturday afternoon, Lasko just does his best with the circumstances, but will not ask Masiello for special treatment.
“I just try and do the best I can,” said Lasko, who expects to be back playing by late January. “If it’s a Friday night game, of course I’m going to be there. I just do the best I can and thank God it’s worked out for me. But I would never ask Coach to excuse me. That’s not the type of person I am, even though I could based on my religion.”
Both Lasko and Schreier say they are loving their time at Manhattan, playing basketball and turning their teammates on to Jewish cuisine. Though to that end, Lasko’s conversion of the Jaspers is not yet complete.
“I haven’t gotten to the coaching staff yet, but almost every player has tried kosher food and have loved it,” Lasko said. “I’m pretty sure everyone is 50 percent kosher at this point.”