Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Tale of Two Teams- Have we learned all the lessons of the Holocaust?

It feels strange to write about soccer on Yom Hashoah, and yet that is part of what has been on my mind since this morning, when I attended an excellent Yom Hashoah program. Sandy Rubenstein addressed our students, and spoke powerfully and passionately about her father, Joseph Horn ob”m, who was a survivor, and the memoir that he wrote about his experiences before, during, and after the Holocaust, Mark It With a Stone.

As part of her presentation, Ms. Rubenstein read a story from the memoir about a soccer game her father, then a young boy, attended in pre-war Poland. A Jewish team, Hapoel, was playing a against a local  Polish team. From the moment Hapoel took the field, the opposing fans booed them mercilessly, in a manner that showed that their opposition was about a lot more than just soccer. At the half, with Hapoel up 2-0, Joseph excitedly  went over to give some treats to the team, which included two of his cousins. One cousin told him to go home, as Hapoel was going to lose. At first, Joseph did not understand. When his cousin again told him to go home Joseph realized that Hapoel was going to let the other team win, in order to avert a massacre, and his cousin didn’t want him to see them lose.

As I  heard this story, I thought of another soccer team, Beitar Yerushalayim. They are known to have fans who strongly and vocally oppose having Muslim players play for their team. These fans have also been known to show extreme hostility to Muslim players, Arab and non-Arab alike, including a particularly awful way they treated two Muslim players who briefly played for Beitar.

As the thought of these teams and their fans came to mind, I couldn’t help but think about how far we have to go in learning some of the lessons of the Holocaust. We are rightfully offended when we see antisemitism, and I have no doubt that Beitar fans, and other Israeli soccer fans who have also mistreated Muslim players, share in that opposition. Still, these Jewish fans demonstrate hateful behavior in a way that is not dissimilar to the way the Hapoel players were treated approximately 80 years ago.The lesson of the Holocaust cannot be limited to opposing antisemitism. If we do not stand up in  opposition to all forms of hatred, we fail to live up to our responsibility to teach the lessons of the Shoah.

1 comment:

  1. One tiny distinction: The Muslims don't have to throw the game to avert a massacre. For the Polish fans, the booing was the Opening Gambit, for the Israelis, the booing was their End Game.