Shabbat shalom! I hope everyone had a chance to kick back, enjoy some family and football, and are now completely recovered from tryptophan turkey comas and any other side effects induced from over consumption.
I know when I mention football, most of us will immediately think NFL, Mac Jones and what the hell is wrong with the Patriots offense. But, the rest of the world is thinking Doha, Qatar and the World Cup, which is expected to draw over 3 billion viewers globally this year (the Super Bowl reaches about 100 million). Like the Olympics, the World Cup is held every four years in a different host country. And like the Olympics, politics are continuing to creep into the games at an increasing level. FIFA, the organizing body for the international game we Americans call “soccer”, has been under constant attack for bribery and corruption charges that usually involve countries paying large sums to “win” hosting bids.
I was in Qatar on business back in 2010 when they submitted their bid for the games and I recall a high level of excitement in the country at that time, and it was certainly a much discussed topic with many of the business executives I met with. Another recollection I have from that business trip was the number of migrant workers and ex pats vs natural Qataris. The population of Qatar is about 3 million people, but 90% of those are migrant workers and/or ex pats! For example, when you arrive at the airport in Doha, the first thing you notice is the hundreds of Asians attending to all the services, and sprinkled in amongst them you see a few white-robed Qataris, standing around, really not doing much at all. And that scene is typical across all elements of Qatar society. Kind of weird. But back to politics.
Leading up to the World Cup this year, due to Qatar’s well documented mistreatment of migrant workers and the Muslim country’s rules hostile to LGBTQ rights, there has been a significant rise in athlete activism in response to these and other issues. For example, many players, including those from Team USA, UK, Germany and others, donned “One Love” armbands in support of LGBTQ rights until FIFA silenced that act by threatening yellow cards to any player who continued to wear them. Then on Nov. 23, Germany players covered their mouths with their hands during a team photo before their World Cup opener, a match against Japan at Khalifa International Stadium. “It was a sign, a message that we wanted to send out. We wanted to convey the message that FIFA is silencing us,” said head coach Hansi Flick.
The Danish team has designed their kits (uniforms) to send a message as well. According to their kit designer Hummel, “….we’ve toned down all the details for Denmark’s new World Cup jerseys, including our logo and iconic chevrons. We don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives. We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation. We believe that sport should bring people together. And when it doesn’t, we want to make a statement.” In addition, Hummel described the all-black third kit as “the colour of mourning”, to honor the workers who reportedly died during stadium construction ahead of the tournament.
These actions may seem like trite responses but players feel that their uniforms offer the best method for sending messages since FIFA rules constrain other forms of protest. Personally, I support athlete activism and applaud the players for speaking out on this important world stage. But the real question is will this lead to any lasting change? Or are these actions mostly performative, and represent just a short political hiccup in one of the biggest money making sports events in the world? That question is still to be answered, but we have already seen changes take place that appear to be progress. For example, Qatar agreed to modify their labor laws to allow migrant workers to leave the country or change employers during their contract, and, they recently introduced a minimum wage. Qatar also agreed to suspend their Muslim rules regarding LGBTQ rights for same sex couples to hold hands in public! With billions watching, doesn’t this also send a message across the globe? All good stuff me thinks.
Final words on World Cup 2022: USA! USA! USA!
Now for the news of the Jews, carefully curated by yours truly from a pack of Jewy journals and podcasts including The Forward, JTA News, Two Jews on the News, Times of Israel, and others. Here is the weekly roundup:
- Terror bombings at Jerusalem bus stops – The seemingly well planned bombings resulted in the death of one Israeli teenager and spread angst across the city. Police suspected the explosions were caused by near-identical remotely detonated explosive devices hidden behind the bus stops in bushes. The devices were packed with nails to maximize casualties, according to police officials. The explosions came amid heightened tensions, following a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 29 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year. Ugh, not again. No organization has yet to claim responsibility, but Hamas has condoned the bombings. Click here for more.
- Chess cheat or whiz kid? American grandmaster Hans Niemann, appearing this week in Jerusalem in his first tournament since launching a $100 million lawsuit against the world chess champion who calls him a cheat, refused interviews and maintained an insistent silence as he played matches closely watched by spectators in person and online. But his US team captain at the FIDE World Team Championship being held till Friday in Jerusalem has spoken out in support of the 19-year-old player, who is currently embroiled in one of the most serious – and bizarre – scandals to rock the world of chess. “In the case of Hans in over-the-board play, I’ve not seen evidence [of cheating],” said international chess master John Donaldson, captain of the USA team, in an interview with The Times of Israel. Click here for more.
- My dinner with anti-semites – The former disgraced President and orange turd hosted Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, two figures who have made repeated antisemitic statements, at his Mar-a-Ego resort on Tuesday night. Fuentes, who has been labeled a “white supremacist” by the Justice Department and first gained prominence after participating in the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, said in June that “Jews stood in the way” of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. West, who has said he is running for president in 2024, also said in an earlier Twitter post that he asked Trump at the dinner to be his running mate. In the video, West claims Trump started “screaming” at him over the idea of running for office and told him he would lose. You really can’t make this shit up! Click here for more.
- World Cup bagels yes, beer no – There are reportedly 20-30,000 Israelis attending the World Cup this year in Qatar, a Muslim country that previously did not allow Jews entry to the country. With such a large entourage of Israelis, a couple of clever Rabbis came up with a way to service the visitors with kosher food. Rabbi Marc Schneier, from New York, and Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s emissary to Istanbul, worked with Qatari officials to create a kosher catering program to provide for observant Jews who may attend the games. And despite a report that has echoed around the world claiming that Qatar banned the production of kosher food after promising it would be made available, the rabbis say all is still going as planned. The kitchen will be operational for the full 30 days of the World Cup tournament. Both rabbis said that if they see high demand, they hope to increase the offerings beyond just bagels. Click here for more.
- 🕍 The “Little Shul” that could, finally couldn’t – Known as “The Little Shul,” it was built as a two-decker in Lawrence Massachusetts, and was converted into a synagogue in 1919 by immigrants who lived and worked in the bustling Jewish neighborhood. Its last full-time rabbi died in 1950, and since then volunteers have run services. After decades of decline, the remaining congregants have made a decision: it’s time to close down. Enter Rabbi Idan Irelander, an Israeli-born musician who helped launch Congregation Ahavat Olam in North Andover last summer. Irelander and Ahavat Olam’s president Marc Freedman met with Ansha Sholum’s president, Frayda Koffman, and discussed its future. Irelander needed a Torah for his new congregation. Instead of one, he got two, and Koffman received a promise that once the new congregation found a permanent home, the old shul’s yahrzeit plaques would be hung on its walls, and the ark from Lawrence’s last shul would be moved to the new temple in North Andover.(Jewish Journal of Boston)
- 🎬 Harrison Ford still fighting Nazis – The famous actor will take on the Nazis once again in the forthcoming “Indiana Jones” sequel, due out in 2023. In previous installments, Nazis’ faces melted off after they pried open the Ark of the Covenant, and another Nazi crumbled to dust after he tried to drink from the Holy Grail. Let’s hope all Nazis suffer the same fate. (JTA)
That’s all I’ve got this week gang. It’s been a great weekend so far, and we have one more party to go! So, do your best to make good decisions, and remember, be careful out there.