SA Maccabi delegation off to Berlin Games
Maccabi South Africa will be sending a small delegation to the European Maccabi Games which will be staged in Berlin for the first time.
The opening ceremony will take place on Monday at a site constructed by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics. The European Maccabi Games end on August 5.
Maccabi SA has regularly taken part in the Pan American Games, but attending the 14th European Maccabi Games will be a first. “It’s momentous stuff,” said Cliff Garrun, Maccabi SA chairman on Monday night. “It’s highly symbolic and I’m quite caught up in the whole thing.”
Garrun explained that outside of Europe, countries specifically have to be invited. “Ronen Cohen, who is our futsal convener, has been organising this for about 18 months. As a result we have a junior, senior and masters futsal team at the Games, as well as two swimmers.
“We also know the Americans and Australians will be there.”
Futsal is a modified form of soccer with five players per side, on a smaller, typically indoor pitch, usually 25m x 16m. Its name comes from the Portuguese Futebol de salão, which can be translated as “room football”. It was developed in Brazil in the 1930s and 1940s and is still very popular there.
According to organiser Alon Meyer, president of Maccabi Germany, the decision to host the European Maccabi Games in Berlin was a difficult one but he wanted it to be seen as a “signal of reconciliation” 70 years after the end of the Second World War.
“There were a lot of people who said that they would never in their lives step again on German soil and we have to respect that,” Meyer told a group of foreign reporters on Monday.
But, he added: “We are a new generation… and the question of guilt is long resolved.”
The German government is openly supporting the event and German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it sent a strong message to hold the event on the site of the 1936 Olympic Games held under the Nazi regime.
“This is the stadium where the Olympic Games were exploited by Hitler,” he said on RBB radio. “To hold on that spot a Jewish sporting event like the Maccabi Games, is an important and nice message.”
The European Maccabi Games take place every four years and were last held in Vienna. This year some 2 300 athletes from 38 countries are expected. Though only Jewish athletes can compete in events, “let’s play together” matches are also being staged with non-Jewish professional and celebrity teams.
Daniel Botmann, managing director of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said the hope was that a peaceful and successful sporting event would show to a wider public that Jewish life in Germany and Europe was about more than the debate over anti-Semitism or protection of synagogues.
“The European Maccabi Games show that Jews are a part of society – an important part,” he said.
As part of the whole exercise, junior athletes are to be educated on the Holocaust and Jewish history in Germany.
Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi
More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.
Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.
Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.
UJW Sewing School graduates model creations
The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.
They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.
UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.
The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.
Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke
The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.
Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.
The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.
“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.
Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.
Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.
“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).
Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”
Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.
“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”
Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.
“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.
The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”
Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.
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