SAO PAULO (JTA) — Players for one of Brazil’s most popular soccer teams wore Stars of David on their jerseys to remember Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.
Some 22,000 supporters watched the Corinthians team’s eleven players take the field in uniforms bearing a yellow star embroidered above the club’s emblem and beat Fortaleza by a score of 3-2 on Wednesday. Many of the seats in the stadium also displayed a yellow star, with a message printed on it about the Holocaust reading: “A star not to forget.” The team also opened a photo exhibit about the Holocaust.
Kristallnacht was the Nazi-instigated pogrom against Jews in Germany and Austria on Nov 9-10, 1938, that left dozens of Jews dead and ruined hundreds of Jewish storefronts, buildings and synagogues in Germany and Austria. Tens of thousands of Jews were arrested by the Nazis in the days following the pogrom, whose name comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets the following morning.
“In times of so much intolerance, hate speech, xenophobia and racism, this initiative is an example of love for the other, of commitment among peoples and nations,” Rabbi Toive Weitman, head of the Sao Paulo Holocaust Memorial, told JTA.
The Corinthians team has the most support among Sao Paulo’s 60,000 Jews. Corinthians was founded in Bom Retiro, the Sao Paulo neighborhood that was once heavily populated by Jewish immigrants who arrived in the early 20th Century and is still today home to several Jewish institutions, including the Holocaust memorial.
The team’s Kristallnacht campaign was financed and promoted by the Holocaust memorial and a private, Jewish-owned advertising agency. The jerseys will be auctioned and the funds donated to the Holocaust memorial.
A Portuguese-language video about the team and why it decided to remember Kristallnacht publicly was premiered before the match and quickly went viral on social media, gaining massive media coverage in Brazil.
After briefly introducing the soccer club’s history and championship victories, which once were represented by stars on the jersey, the video introduces the yellow Star of David, the Holocaust, Kristallnacht, and the reason for the homage.
“Corinthians’ message shows that Brazil is an example of peaceful coexistence, everyone must respect one another,” Daniel Bialski, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Bialski serves as Corinthians’ attorney and is president of the Hebraica Jewish sport club, considered the largest of its kind worldwide.
In January, the Corinthians posed for a photo on their home field holding a poster with the hashtag #WeRemember in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which got some 50,000 “likes” on social media. In 2018, the team wore uniforms featuring the names of the 11 Jewish victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
“I feel greatly represented by the (team’s) message. Fighting the hatred against Jews must be emphasized and disseminated for all,” Persio Bider, president of the Organized Jewish Youth organization, told JTA.
Ariel Gelblung, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director in Latin American, believes the campaign deserves support, encouragement, and promotion.
“This is the example for football clubs to generate good practices and unity between peoples, rather than hate and division. Faced with the spread of Holocaust denial, the Corinthians propose memory,” Gelblung said in a statement.
Founded in 1910, Corinthians is one of Brazil’s most popular soccer teams with over 30 million fans. It was listed by Forbes as the most valuable soccer club in the Americas in 2017, worth $576.9 million.
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