Beitar Yerushalayim Soccer Club sponsoring a shomer Shabbat soccer academy with no games on the sabbath.
Jerusalem’s Beitar Yerushalayim soccer club, one of the leading teams in Israel’s national professional league, announced Wednesday that they are sponsoring a new soccer academy that is opening in Miami, Florida.
The academy is the work of Daniel and Menajem Benchimol, whose younger brother Sholem was tragically killed in a traffic accident when he was 17, just before he was to become captain of the high school soccer team at Hillel Academy in Miami.
Shalom was a rising soccer star who never got on the field without a kippa on his head, even at the expense of anti-Semitic taunts from opposing players.
Following his death the family established an organization in his name “to create the first soccer academy in the United States that will respect Shabbat.”
When they turned to the Beitar club for support the team said it was an easy decision to make as the team also observes the sabbath and doesn’t play games on Saturdays.
Beitar is the first Israeli sports team to launch an academy outside of Israel and says the new school will bring Israel’s national sport to the community and promote and cultivate ties with American Jewry.
South Florida is home to about 700,000 Jews including 100,000 Israelis and the team wants the children of the area to to experience and fall in love with both the “beautiful game” and Beitar, which was founded in Israel’s capital city 84 years ago.
“We are happy and excited to be part of such an important and large commemorative project,” team owner, Moshe Hogeg said. “Beitar opens its gates and reaches as far as Miami, to pass on our values and pride to Diaspora Jewry as well.”
Daniel Benchimol said they chose to to partner with Beitar “because they are the only professional soccer team in the world that doesn’t play on Shabbat. Together, we will create opportunities for kids to play sports and practice Judaism at the same time.”
“It was one of Sholem’s dreams to play professional soccer while staying strong to his Jewish values, now we will take that dream and make it more accessible to kids with similar goals,” Menahem Benchimol added. “This will also create stronger ties between the greater Miami community and Israel as the academy will be open to everyone.”