BERLIN, GERMANY – The World Jewish Congress, together with German-football club TuS Makkabi Berlin, held an event at the team’s home-ground on Friday to honor and discuss the critical role of Jewish sporting clubs in Europe before the Holocaust and the impact of their resurgence in the modern-era. The event, attended by club members, the Jewish community, and key stakeholders from the sporting world, took place ahead of the club’s German Cup (DFL Pokal) match against Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg.
The match, taking place on Sunday, marks the first time that a historically-Jewish club has returned to national-level competition in Germany since before the Holocaust. Makkabi traces its lineage back to the Bar Kochba Berlin and Hakoah Berlin clubs that were both founded around the turn of the 20th century and disbanded amid the rise of Nazi ideology. Despite its roots, team members today come from a variety of religious and national backgrounds.
Among those who took part in the event were WJC senior advisor on sporting issues Daniel Loercher, Israel Hayom reporter and historian Adi Rubenstein, VfL Wolfsburg’s Head of Club Media Thorsten Grunow, and TuS Makkabi Berlin board member Michael Koblenz.
Representing the club, Koblenz shared his sense of excitement that Makkabi Berlin had reach new heights. “For us, as a club, the fact that we are playing at this high level for the first time is a source of pride for all of our members. Our historic roots continue to motivate us to serve as motivating force for Jewish clubs globally and a source of pride to all those who thought that Jewish life would cease to exist after the Holocaust,” he said.
Speaking at the event, Loercher, who also serves as special envoy for antisemitism for the Bundesliga’s Borussia Dortmund, explained, “Sporting clubs have a clear obligation to ensure that all supporters, regardless of religion or race, feel included within stadiums and other forums. Across Germany, teams have been successfully working to elevate the voices of Jewish fans and create new programming that strengthen their bonds with member of their broader local community.”
Rubenstein, in his comments, spoke about the importance of Jewish clubs to the history of the diaspora and modern-day Jewish state. “During the rise of National Socialism in Germany many of the Jewish clubs and their members emigrated to the land of Israel, bringing with them their traditions, and providing the foundation of the country’s sporting community. This week’s match shows us Jewish clubs around the world will always tell a story that is bigger than sport.”
As part of the partnership between TuS Makkabi Berlin and the World Jewish Congress, the team’s pre-match shirts on Sunday will feature WJC branding.
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