Monday , April 22 2024

German Football & Jewish leaders meet in Dortmund to better combat Antisemitism in sport!

More than 100 representatives of German professional football joined Jewish community leaders and experts Wednesday, March 30 to grapple with how professional soccer clubs can more effectively combat antisemitism.

The conference, “Antisemitism and Professional Football: Challenges, Opportunities & Network,” was organized by the German Football League (DFL), the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Central Council of Jews in Germany. It marked the first time that a national-level football league has engaged on such a large scale with the Jewish community on the topic of antisemitism within the wider context of sporting activities.

Held at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, the event offered insights into the current projects of Germany’s soccer clubs and the DFL, as well as potential opportunities for working with the Jewish community and others to develop sustainable and meaningful initiatives to fight hate.

Last year, the DFL Members Assembly, the 36 clubs of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, unanimously decided to adopt the working definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), opposing antisemitism in all its forms. A commonly accepted understanding of antisemitism is needed to fight it effectively, said several of the presenters at the conference.

The day began with keynote addresses by WJC Executive Vice President Dr. Maram Stern; President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Dr. Josef Schuster; and DFL Executive Committee Member Ansgar Schwenken.

“The fight against antisemitism in society is not decided by the words of politics, but by deeds and daily and sustainable work in all parts of society,” said Dr. Maram Stern, Executive Vice President of the World Jewish Congress.

Dr. Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said, “There are a plethora of initiatives, especially for the memory of athletes who were expelled during the Nazi era or murdered in the Shoah. With today’s symposium, we are taking a strong step to combat hate in the present.”

Ansgar Schwenken, DFL Executive Committee member, added: “Addressing antisemitism is a continuous process, not one that ends simply because you decide you know enough or because you believe you have talked or thought about it enough. That is what makes today’s conference exactly the right way for us to work together, standing united against the challenges in this area.”

Dr. Felix Klein, Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against antisemitism, and Mahmut Özdemir, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of the Interior and Homeland, also spoke.

“Sport has a unique ability to promote diversity and unite different facets of German society,” said Dr. Felix Klein. “This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Jewish sporting clubs such as Maccabi do not limit their membership solely to those within the Jewish community, but are open to all other religious and ethnic groups.”

Mahmut Özdemir, State Secretary, said in his welcoming address, “Unfortunately, antisemitism is an omnipresent problem in sports. Only by joining forces will it be possible to take action against it. Professional football, the World Jewish Congress and the Central Council of Jews are therefore sending an unmistakable signal with this event.”

After the morning session, a series of workshops, including “Conspiracy Myths: When Thoughts Become Dangerous” and “Hate on the Net: Antisemitic Posts and What to Do About Them,” sensitized conference participants to the issues affecting the Jewish community, both in Germany and around the globe.

Also delivering keynote remarks were literary scholar Dr. Yael Kupferberg; Managing Director of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Daniel Botmann; and antisemitism researcher Pavel Brunssen.

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