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Footballers are like rabbis. Diary of the Chief Rabbi, 24 November 2021

Yesterday morning I was already at Schiphol Airport at 7:15. Although my flight did not leave until 9:25 a.m., I gratefully made use of the Lounge to say my morning prayers, dressed in tallit and tefillin. So off to London to watch the Chelsea-Juventus match from the grandstand. I had already been criticised in advance by a faithful diary reader. How could I take it upon myself to go and read a book of Psalms to my hosts, as I wrote in my previous diary, while the footballers are working very hard to win (or lose). And so, I decided that if I did dip into the psalms during the match, I would have to do so in such a way as to be inconspicuous, so that no one would be annoyed. Besides, if I did get caught, I could still say that I was praying for Chelsea's victory and if things really went wrong for Chelsea, my prayers would be for their spiritual wellbeing, because losing to a crowd of 42,000 at a home game is obviously far from pleasant.

 

But things turned out quite differently. When we arrived at the Millennium Hotel, which is close to the stadium, it was swarming with police and security guards. We, the delegation of the EJA, the European Jewish Association, were expected there and at 5:30 p.m. exactly, as agreed upon, we were picked up by a lady who would accompany our delegation throughout the evening. When we arrived at the stadium, we were led into a building, corridor after corridor, lift after lift. We were given our tickets, but in the end we didn't really have to go through any security checks because our hostess was apparently the guarantee that we were 'kosher'. After we had handed in our coats, two of the six in our delegation had been given a tie, as it had to be worn, we were finally in the heart of Chelsea. A second hostess was added to our delegation and we were introduced to the chairman of Chelsea. And then it started. Coats back on and from the 5 star reception room in the stadium to the football pitch. And there I was allowed to explain the reason for our visit. On behalf of the EJA I presented the chairman, and through him the entire football club, with the King David Award 2021. Read the press release and you will know why I was in London for less than 24 hours:

 

PRESS RELEASE:

Chief Rabbi Jacobs "Chelsea example for Dutch football clubs! "

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, together with the chairman of London football club Chelsea, is appealing to Dutch professional football clubs to start a campaign against anti-Semitism in general and in football stadiums in particular.

Last night, before the Champions League match against Juventus, Chief Rabbi Jacobs presented the prestigious King David Award to the chairman of Chelsea, Bruce Buck.

This award is presented annually by the European Jewish Association (EJA) to a person or organisation that distinguishes itself by fighting against anti-Semitism.

Chief Rabbi Jacobs is the chairman of the anti-Semitism committee of this organisation. "Every employee at Chelsea walks around with badges against anti-Semitism. The fight against this evil is now in the DNA of the club and should serve as an example for pay football clubs in our country and elsewhere in the world," said the Chief Rabbi.

The presentation took place in the presence of British Jewish administrators.

Last year, the award went to Lebanese businessman Abdallah Chatila. He bought 600,000 euros worth of Nazi memorabilia at an auction and then donated it to Jewish organisations. In doing so, the Lebanese tycoon wanted to express his indignation about the auction. Since then, Chatila has supported numerous initiatives against anti-Semitism.

For further information: Hans Knoop 06 47082871

 

And regarding the Chelsea - Juventus match: I think the chairman of Chelsea realised that I am not a big football fan and therefore he regularly asked me what I thought of the match. And you know, apart from the great reception we got in the grandstand, the match made an impression on me. These footballers do not just kick a ball. No, they think ahead, have in their minds the various possibilities and see where their supporters and opponents are and what moves those opponents can make. Actually, I thought to myself, they are like rabbis who also have to think ahead and decide quickly to prevent attacks and reach the goal.

 

During the coronation period, Chief Rabbi Jacobs keeps a diary for the Jewish Cultural Quarterly. NIW publishes these special pieces on https://niw.nl/category/dagboek/