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June 27, 2014

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 27, 2014 At Paola Salem (L-r), Mariano Schlez and Paola Salem, with Damian Beker and Maxi Klein, organized efforts to brin9 together Jewish soccer fans at the World Cup's seven sites in Brazil. By Hillel Kuttler (JTA) - When Argenti- na plays its opening-round matches in the World Cup, Mariano Schlez of Buenos Aires will be screaming his support from the stands. But taking in his home country's matches in Brazil isn't all thatwill be occupying Schlez for the first fortnight of the monthlong soccer spectacle. Also filling his calendar are 14 "Jewish" events that he and his wife have organized in seven of the host cities. They include Shabbat evening prayers, beach soccer games leading into Saturday night Havdalah services, pickup games and Jewish heritage tours. For Schlez, 38, and his wife, Paola Salem, 37, the World Cup being played in the region prompted them last winter to mull opportunities to fashion Jewish experiences for fellow soccer fans. They figured on organizing two or three activities. Now, though, "the project is bigger than we'd thought at first," Salem said. Their goal was to bring together international Jew- ish visitors already united by a passion for soccer - known throughout the world, but not in America, as football. "It's great to connect Jew- ish football fans," Schlez said Thursday after arriving in Rio de Janeiro. "I love football, I've played it all my life and I'm a teacher of lots of kids in this lovely sport, so it was an opportunity to make a con- nection between my love for football and my Jewish life." His friends Maxi Klein and Damian Beker joined him on the 1,800-mile, three-day drive fromArgentina. They're helping out in the Jewish pro- gramming, too. All three work for the Maccabi youth sports organization in Buenos Aires. While remaining at home with the couple's two chil- dren, Salem is serving as a one-woman command center, responding to inquiries posted on the project's two Facebook pages - Jewish Soccer Fanat- ics Traveling to Brazil in 2014 and Jewish Connect at the World Cup Football 2014 - along with maintaining com- munication with Brazilian Jewish organizations helping to organize the events in the seven cities: Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Manaus, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Jan.eiro and Sao Paulo. Fans from approximately 20 countries have exchanged information on the Facebook pages about the events and such key matters as procuring World Cup tickets and places to stay, she said. Those wishing to attend any of the Jewish events - all are free - must register, with Salem passing along the infor- mation to security officials at the venues. Volunteers are of- fering their services through Facebook. Salem said she budgeted for $9,000, with $5,000 covered by a grant from the Tulsa, Okla.-based Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Large and small businesses donated funds and products, while others provided discounts for print- ing promotional flyers and embroidering the 400 kippahs that Schlez brought along to give away at the Shabbat events. At the Havdalah services, soccer-themed note paper will be distributed for participants to write messages heralding the coming week. The mes- sages will be collected and displayed, Salem said. The gatherings promise to be a multicultural cholent that thrills Salem. "Connecting Jewish people from all over the world is what I love," Salem said. "It's like a dream." The dream began taking shape at a family dinner when Schlez, a longtime fan of the Boca Juniors team - Diego Maradonna, who led Argen- tina to the 1986 World Cup title, was his favorite player - expressed a desire to attend the Brazil tournament. The couple mulled programming ideas before approaching the Schusterman foundation. Returning from a camping trip in January, they learned that their grant request was approved. That's when the planning gears really started churning. The World Cup program- ming dovetails with the aim of Turismo Judaico, a company Salem launched to provide Jewish travelers with information such as Shabbat candle-lighting times, kosher dining options, and sites of cultural and religious interest. The foundation, which encourages Jewishly focused initiatives for young people under the theme "Make It Happen," deemed the World Cup programming a creative way to build community, said Seth Cohen, Schusterman's director of network initiatives. "We think that young adults are the levers of change in the Jewish world and in the world Jewishly," Cohen said, and the Brazil events bring "a Jewish lens to an experience the entire world is watching." "The eyes of the world are on Brazil. Let's shine a light on the Jewish community there as well." By Joseph Telushkin NEW YORK (JTA) -- Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneer- son, the seventh Lubavitcher = Rebbe, was inarguably the most well-known rabbi since Moses Maimonides. Hundreds of prominent rabbinic figures have lived in the intervening 800 years since Maimonides died. But how many can be named before an audience of Jews from the United States, Is- rael, France or the former Soviet Union -- the four largest Jewish communities in the world today -- and be so widely recognized, without the speaker needing to add several sentences explaining who the person was? The Rebbe died 20 years ago this month, buthe remains to this day well-known among Jews of all denominations. And beyond. Visitors to Mo- rocco have long reported seeing two pictures hanging in Moroccan Jewish homes, one of the Moroccan king and one of the Rebbe. Just a few days ago, I saw a picture of the Rebbe in my local barbershop; the owner is from Uzbekistan. But, of course, the Rebbe's significance goes well beyond his name being widely known and his face being widely recognized. What matters far more is the influence he continues to exert. Several factors in particu- lar account for the Rebbe's extraordinary impact: first, his innovative ideas on how to reach Jews (later non-Jews as well), along with the army of emissaries he nurtured to carry out his ideas and his vision, eventually in well over a thousand cities. In addition to his innova- tive campaigns to reach out both to communities and to individuals (such as through the tefillin campaign and the Shabbat candle-lighting campaign), perhaps the foremost idea the Rebbe preached was the love of every Jew. This idea may sound neither innovative nor revolutionary. After all, "Love your neighbor as yourself" -- the basis of the Golden Rule-- is the Torah's most famous verse (Leviticus 19:18), and two of Judaism's best-known rabbis, Hillel and Akiva, regarded it as Judaism's most fundamen- tal law. With such emphasis on the centrality of love of neighbor, it would seem that interpersonal love was always a uniformly treasured and practiced part of Judaism. Only it wasn't. The Talmud attributes the first-century Roman destruction of Judea and the Temple in Jerusalem, perhaps the greatest catastro- phe in Jewish life prior to the Holocaust, to "sinat chinam," causeless hatred, inside the Jewish community--ahatred that made it impossible for the Jews to unify and fight as one force against their Roman oppressors. Internal conflicts, often serious, have long characterized Jewish communal life. The Rebbe intuited that while all Jews are familiarwith the commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself," it seems thatvirtually everyone, even some otherwise very great figures, have reasons and rationales to justify why it doesn't apply to those with whom they disagree. The Rebbe therefore mod- eled a new pattern, one of non-judgmental love for all Jews. Some critics of Chabad suspected that this well- known predilection of the Rebbe was a tactic intended to augment financial support for the movement or to stimu- late goodwill for Chabad. But they were wrong. This love represented what the Rebbe really felt. Israel's former chief rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, has recalled a meeting he had as a young man with the Rebbe. Lau proudly explained his involve- ment in "kiruv rechokim," bringing back to Judaism lost Jews who had strayed far away. The Rebbe immediately cor- rected this inherently judg- mental language: "We cannot label anyone as being 'far.' Who are we to determine who is far and who is near? They are all close to God." The belief in the brother- hood of all Jews, not just those who live like you, led to another remarkable innova- tion: the Rebbe's willingness to send his followers out into the world. For the first time in Jewish history, a campaign was launched to reach every Jewish community and every Jew in the world. The Lubavitch movement now has Chabad houses in 48 American states (only Mis- sissippi and South Dakota are without permanent Chabad representation) and in some 80 countries, run by over 4,000 Chabad couples. The "shluchim" (emissaries), as these couples are known, go to countries as Jewishly remote as the Congo and Cambodia and to cities with small Jew- ish communities like Jackson Hole, Wyo. And, of course, there are the Chabad Passover seders, the most famous of which, in Kathmandu, drew 1,100 participants in 2012, the large majority of them young Israeli backpackers trekking through Nepal. It is for this reasons such as this, I presume, that Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the immediate past president of the Union for Reform Judaism, refer- ring, among other thirigs, to Chabad's outreach, once declared: "It is hard for me to say this but I will say it nonetheless: We must follow the example of Chabad." It is the Rebbe's legacy that today there are few leaders of any Jewish denomination who would disagree with this advice. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is the author of the new book "Rebbe: The Life and Teach- ings of Menachem M. Sch- neerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History." Somali militants who murdered 48 people in a Ke- nyan village as they watched the World Cup went door to door asking residents if they were Muslim or spoke Somali -- and shot them dead if either answerwas 'no; witnesses revealed. "They came to our house at around 8 p.m. and asked us in Swahili whether we were Muslims," Anne Gathigi told the Daily Mail. "My husband told them we were Christians and they shot him in the head and chest." In a joint statement, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, on behalf of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, have condemned the latest al- Shabaab attacks as Nazi-like. Chief Rabbi Goldstein has called on "African religious leaders who share common values of the sanctity of human life and dignity to rally together in the face of such evil." An interfaith gathering will took on Wednesday, June 18, where Chief Rabbi Dr. Goidstein and Rabbi Cooper addressed the ongoing brutal persecution of people of faith on the African continent. "It is time the clergy be- comes the voice of condem- nation of Nazi-like tactics increasingly being employed against innocent civilians across the continent," said Rabbi Cooper. Rabbi Cooper added"From Boko Haram in Nigeria to al- Shabaab in Kenya, the world is increasingly witnessing brutal tactics, which the World War II Nazis called seleczia as they selected in- nocent Jews to perish in gas chambers. "Once again, we see the growing trend of innocent men, women and children being singled out by mur- derous terrorists because of their faith." The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is a leading hu- man rights NGO named in memory of the famed Nazi hunter.