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German Soccer Officials and Jewish Leaders Meet in Dortmund To Combat Antisemitism

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More than 100 representatives of German professional
football joined Jewish community leaders and experts Wednesday to grapple
with how professional soccer clubs can more effectively combat
antisemitism.

The conference, “Antisemitism and Professional Football: Challenges,
Opportunities & Network,” was organized by the German Football League
(DFL), the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Central Council of Jews in
Germany. It marked the first time that a national-level football league has
engaged on such a large scale with the Jewish community on the topic of
antisemitism within the wider context of sporting activities.

Held at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, the event offered insights
into the current projects of Germany’s soccer clubs and the DFL, as well as
potential opportunities for working with the Jewish community and others to
develop sustainable and meaningful initiatives to fight hate.

Last year, the DFL Members Assembly, the 36 clubs of the Bundesliga and
Bundesliga 2, unanimously decided to adopt the working definition of
antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA),
opposing antisemitism in all its forms. A commonly accepted understanding
of antisemitism is needed to fight it effectively, said several of the
presenters at the conference.

The day began with keynote addresses by WJC Executive Vice President Dr.
Maram Stern; President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Dr. Josef
Schuster; and DFL Executive Committee Member Ansgar Schwenken.

“The fight against antisemitism in society is not decided by the words of
politics, but by deeds and daily and sustainable work in all parts of
society,” said Dr. Stern.

Dr. Schuster said, “There are a plethora of initiatives, especially for the
memory of athletes who were expelled during the Nazi era or murdered in the
Shoah. With today’s symposium, we are taking a strong step to combat hate
in the present.”

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Mr. Schwenken added: “Addressing antisemitism is a continuous process, not
one that ends simply because you decide you know enough or because you
believe you have talked or thought about it enough. That is what makes
today’s conference exactly the right way for us to work together, standing
united against the challenges in this area.”

Dr. Felix Klein, Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany
and the Fight Against Antisemitism, and Mahmut Özdemir, Parliamentary State
Secretary to the Federal Minister of the Interior and Homeland, also spoke.

“Sport has a unique ability to promote diversity and unite different facets
of German society,” said Dr. Klein. “This is clearly demonstrated by the
fact that Jewish sporting clubs such as Maccabi do not limit their
membership solely to those within the Jewish community, but are open to all
other religious and ethnic groups.”

Mr. Özdemir said in his welcoming address, “Unfortunately, antisemitism is
an omnipresent problem in sports. Only by joining forces will it be
possible to take action against it. Professional football, the World Jewish
Congress and the Central Council of Jews are therefore sending
an unmistakable signal with this event.”

After the morning session, a series of workshops, including “Conspiracy
Myths: When Thoughts Become Dangerous” and “Hate on the Net: Antisemitic
Posts and What to Do About Them,” sensitized conference participants to the
issues affecting the Jewish community, both in Germany and around the
globe.

Also delivering keynote remarks were literary scholar Dr. Yael Kupferberg;
Managing Director of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Daniel Botmann;
and antisemitism researcher Pavel Brunssen.

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