World Jewish Sports Museum

Sports teams and sporting events have a special place in our hearts and in our lives. For many, they are personal: the love of a certain team is often passed down from one generation to another. And, of course, teams create community: the experience of seeing someone wearing your team’s jersey or cap can make you feel an unexpected bond with someone you may have nothing else in common with. For some, allegiance to a certain team is a big part of their identity.


1. What role should a sports team play when it comes to fans who have experienced calamities?

2. Can you think of sports campaigns that have made an impact on you?

3. Do you think sports are inherently political or not?


By Adi Rubenstein

The response of the sports community to the horrific events of October 7 has been mixed for players and fans alike. It’s not unusual for sports teams to honor victims of a tragedy in the stadium or on their uniforms, and that happened a lot. At the same time, many not only didn’t mention the victims of October 7 and its aftermath; some even turned against Israeli and Jewish athletes:

– Israeli soccer player Lial Abeda was subject to almost daily attacks while playing for the Scottish team, Celtic Glasgow, until he was forced to leave the team and move to play in the United States.

– Jewish soccer player Shawn Weissman experienced anti-Semitic attacks in Spain and, as a result, moved to play in an Italian league.

– The Liverpool football club prevented families of Israelis murdered on October 7 from hanging a flag with their photos in the stadium.

There have been interesting counter examples as well. Germany demonstrated that it is one of Israel’s strongest allies on the global political stage as well as on the sports stage. German football league teams chose to remind the world every week of what happened on October 7.

– The fans of the German team Werder Bremen waved signs for the hostages at games.

– The football teams in the Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, and Union Berlin hosted delegations of Israelis from the kibbutzim that were attacked, and Israelis who returned from captivity.

Germany’s unreserved support for Israel is no small matter, especially in light of the history between the two nations in the sports arena. Two of the most horrific examples include the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, which were a stage for Nazi propaganda, and the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, where 11 Israeli athletes were murdered.

The Hungarian sports community also offered assistance in the wake of October 7, turning its local stadiums into the new home of Israeli football. Israel’s soccer teams have played all their “home” international games since the outbreak of war in Hungary. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán even attended a game and cheered on the Israeli team.

The reaction of the sporting world is in some ways more painful and harsh than that of the “real world,” as many expect sports to remain a source of pure entertainment and not a political platform. On the other hand, in the last 30 years, the biggest sports bodies in the world have invested tens of millions of dollars in campaigns to fight racism and hatred, and promote the acceptance of others. Some of the reactions to October 7 lead us to question how effective these campaigns have been.

The World Jewish Sports Museum in Ramat Gan, Israel, the only museum in the world that tells the story of Jewish sports, recently announced a unique exhibit, scheduled to open in July, that will tell the story of the war through the lens of sports, including Israeli athletes who were kidnapped and murdered, the reaction of sports fans around the world, the way the sports community responded to international Israeli athletes, and the way Israeli sports was changed forever in the face of the war and the loss of hundreds of sports fans from all around Israel.

Do you have any sports stories related to the war? Please reach out to Osnat Zur, Director of the World Jewish Sports museum at so you can contribute to creating this exhibit.

For more information:

Three athletes killed as Israel-Hamas war wages on” by Vimal Sankar in Inside the Games, Oct. 13, 2023.

Sports becomes new battleground in wartime anti-Israel campaigns” by Lahav Harkov in Jewish Insider, Jan. 16, 2023

Israeli Jiu-Jitsu fighter and Nova survivor dedicates gold medal to fallen friend” by Jerusalem Post Staff in Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2024

With no home matches at Euros, Israeli soccer boss says he’s keeping eye on the ball” by Agencies and TOI staff in The Times of Israel, March 21, 2024

Adi Rubinstein is a journalist, a historian of Jewish sports, and the curator of a new exhibition on sports and the October 7 massacre. The Jewish Sports Museum is located in Ramat Gan, Israel. The exhibit will be open in July 2024.

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