Jewish soccer fans from around the world who go to the World Cup in Brazil will have a support network waiting for them there.
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While most Americans either do not know or do not care, billions of people around the world are restlessly awaiting this summer’s World Cup soccer championships to be held in Brazil. Countless travelers, fans and professionals such as journalists, will fill the South American country.
More than 1.5 million people from around the world are expected to fill a dozen cities across Brazil, which will be hosting the global soccer tournament, from June 12 to July 13. Among them will be thousands of Jewish soccer fans from many nations including Israel. Many of the Jewish fans will be those who observe the Jewish commandments.
This is why the Argentinian soccer loving Jewish couple, Mariano Schlez and his wife Paola Salem of Buenos Aries, have made plans to team up Jewish soccer fans from around the world while connecting them to local Jewish culture and to each other. The two are organizing a series of special activities for Jews attending the World Cup.
Mariano, a physical education teacher who works with Jewish children through local chapters of World ORT (a Jewish education organization) and the Maccabi sports organization (a Jewish organization for athletes from around the world), and Paola, who operates a new company called Judaic Tourism, saw the World Cup as a once-in-a-lifetime sports event and a powerful way to engage Jews from around the world in Latin America.
“If even 1 percent of all the visitors to the World Cup are Jewish, this will be an incredible opportunity to connect to each other, ” said Schlez.
The Shucterman Foundation is a global enterprise that supports and creates innovative initiatives for the purpose of encouraging young people to generate positive change for themselves, the Jewish community and the broader world. With the support of its MakeitHappen micro grant program, Mariano and Paola formed “Jewish Connect at the World Cup 2014.” The group, which can be found on Facebook and Twitter as Jewish Football Fans (Judíos fanáticos Del Fútbol in Spanish and Metailim Israelim vamundial in Hebrew), share information about World Cup venues, while creating a meeting place for ticket seekers, host families, medical care and more.
More than just an online soccer fan meeting place, the group also details local Shabbat candle-lighting times, places to secure kosher food, synagogues, community centers, Jewish attractions, and details about special Jewish events the group is organizing for the World Cup.
Jewish Connect at the World Cup also strives to bring volunteers from Jewish communities in all the Brazilian World Cup cities to form “committees of young Jewish sports enthusiasts, ” who will act as “connectors” for visiting Jews. Local Jewish groups from all over Brazil will help organize activities like Shabbat celebrations dinners, pickup soccer games, beach soccer matches, Havdalah ceremonies, and more.
Mr. Schlez added, “This is a big challenge, it’s never happened before. The idea is not only to participate in cool events, but also to strengthen Jewish identity by getting to know the local Jewish communities in Brazil and to connect with Brazilian Jews and Jewish travelers from around the world in a fun setting.”
People going to Brazil for the World Cup who want a Jewish experience and who want to participate in these events are can contact the group via Twitter: @mundialjudaico, and Facebook: JFF-Judíos Fanáticos Del fútbol que viajan a Brasil.