(JTA) — It’s a World Cup like no other in recent memory — starting in late November.
That’s because it’ll take place in Qatar, where temperatures won’t usually fall under 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The headlines going in are focused on the country’s widely-criticized human rights record. The preparations for the first World Cup hosted in the Arab world have taken years to complete, have cost more than $200 billion and, according to human rights organizations, have led to the deaths of thousands of migrant workers.
Qatar also has no diplomatic relations with Israel, leaving Israeli fans in a tense situation — more on that below.
But beneath these headlines, there are other Jewish angles to the world’s biggest sports spectacle. Let’s dive in.
The US has 2 Jewish players
Jewish professional men’s soccer players from the United States who compete on the world stage are a rare phenomenon. But this year, the U.S. men’s national team has two on its roster — including the likely starting goalie.
Matt Turner, a 28-year-old New Jersey native who didn’t seriously begin playing soccer until he was 14, struggled to prove himself through high school, college and through the start of his professional career. After going undrafted in Major League Soccer, Turner joined the New England Revolution in 2016 and finally in 2020 ascended to the upper echelon of the sport’s goalkeepers. He’s now the backup keeper for Arsenal F.C., one of the top clubs in England’s Premier League.
Turner’s father is Jewish and his mother is Catholic, but he identifies more with the Jewish tradition, according to a profile in The Athletic. Turner’s great-grandparents fled Europe during World War II because they were Jewish and changed their name to Turner at Ellis Island, he explained on soccer journalist Grant Wahl’s podcast. Turner obtained Lithuanian citizenship in 2020.
Turner’s teammates on defense include DeAndre Yedlin, a Seattle native who was raised Jewish but has said he practices Buddhism. Yedlin has a large Hebrew tattoo on his right shoulder in honor of his great-grandparents.
Yedlin, who is of African-American, Native American and Latvian heritage, is in his first year of a four-year contract with the MLS team Inter Miami after spending five seasons with the Premier League’s Newcastle United. He is the only player on the U.S. roster with World Cup experience; he served a bench role in 2014.
While Yedlin’s playing time this year may not be much different, his off-field presence is seen as an asset.
“He’s a glue guy,” said USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter. “He’s there for the team, he creates atmosphere for the team. Sometimes he’s a shoulder to cry on or to talk to. Other times he’s a motivator.”
(A third member of the U.S. team, forward Brendan Aaronson, is not Jewish, but has occasionally elicited questions about his background due to his Ashkenazi-sounding surname.)
A veteran Argentine-Jewish coach is back
José Pékerman, a coaching legend in the sport in Argentina, has already had one miraculous comeback — could he make it two?
As coach of the perennial powerhouse Argentine national team, the 73-year-old made waves calling up a young Lionel Messi to his first World Cup in 2006. He never won a Cup with the team, however, and resigned after 2006. In 2012, he returned to the world stage as coach of the Colombian national team and helped them in 2014 return to the tournament for the first time since 1998. The squad made a surprise run, too, making it all the way to the quarterfinals.
Now he hopes to help Venezuela, which has dropped close to 60th in the international rankings, as their coach.
Pékerman began his soccer career as a kid at the local Maccabi Jewish youth club in Entre Rios, a province north of Buenos Aires.
So are a pair of Jewish Telemundo announcers
Telemundo’s coverage of the tournament, as it has for years, will feature plenty of “goooaaaaaals.”
That’s because it will include six-time Emmy award-winner Andres Cantor, the Argentine-Jewish announcer who perhaps is most responsible for popularizing long goal calls in the English-speaking world.
He will be joined by one of his mentees, two-time Emmy nominee Sammy Sadovnik, who has been with Telemundo since 2007 and covered sports since 1989. He’s a proud Jew from Peru who visits Israel every year.
Israel isn’t in the tournament and hasn’t qualified since 1970
Israel’s first and only appearance in the World Cup was in 1970. That half-century hiatus is not due to a lack of talent.
Israel was one of the founding members of the Asian Football Confederation, joining in 1954, and would enjoy international success culminating in winning the 1964 AFC Cup. But Israel’s success was overshadowed by geopolitics — many AFC member countries began to boycott playing Israel over time.
In 1958, Israel won its World Cup qualifying group without playing a single opponent due to protests. In 1974, the AFC expelled Israel from the confederation in a 17-13 vote organized by Kuwait.
Israel would wander the soccer desert for two decades before securing full membership in the Union of European Football Association. Israel remains the only UEFA member without any territory in Europe.
That membership brings tough competition: Israel is in the same conference as soccer powerhouses like Spain, France and Italy. In the 2022 qualifiers, Israel was grouped with Denmark, also a perennially top-tier team.
Despite the tough competition and frequent antisemitism Jewish and Israeli players face across Europe, the Israeli Football Association is content where it is.
“We prefer our clubs and national teams playing at the European level,” Shlomi Barzel, a spokesman for the IFA, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2018. “We find a warm, welcoming and challenging home in Europe.”
Israelis normally aren’t allowed into Qatar, but this World Cup is an exception
Israelis normally aren’t allowed into Qatar, and direct flights from Israel aren’t allowed into the Muslim-majority country. But for the World Cup, Qatar announced it would allow direct flights from Tel Aviv to its capital Doha for Israeli fans, and depending on Israeli government approval, for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well.
Israeli diplomats will also be permitted to offer support to Israelis during the World Cup — which will be crucial since Qatar, which is part of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, has a very limited Jewish communal presence. Chapters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement normally help Jewish tourists procure kosher food and offer other support, but the closest Chabad center in the region is in the United Arab Emirates.
And while as many as 20,000 Israelis could make the trip, the Israeli government is still urging them to be careful.
“The Iranian team will be in the World Cup and we estimate that tens of thousands fans will follow it, and there will be other fans from Gulf countries that we don’t have diplomatic relationship with,” a senior Israeli diplomat warned fans as part of a Foreign Ministry campaign. “Downplay your Israeli presence and Israeli identity for the sake of your personal security.”
RELATED: Check out the Jewish Sport Report’s Soccer Spotlight video series, hosted by former professional soccer player Ethan Zohn. The first episode, with Major League Soccer VP Jeff Agoos, is out now.
The post All the Jewish players and storylines to watch in the 2022 World Cup appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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