When Argentina plays its opening-round matches in the World Cup, Mariano Schlez of Buenos Aires will be screaming his support from the stands. But taking in his home country’s matches in Brazil isn’t all that will be occupying Schlez for the first fortnight of the month long soccer spectacle. Also filling his calendar are 14 “Jewish” events that he and his wife have organized in seven of the host cities. They include Shabbat evening prayers, beach soccer games leading into Saturday night Havdalah services, pickup games and Jewish heritage tours. Their goal is to bring together international Jewish visitors already united by a passion for soccer – known throughout the world, but not in America, as football.
Schlez' friends Maxi Klein and Damian Beker joined him on the 1,800-mile, three-day drive from Argentina. They’re helping out in the Jewish programming, too. All three work for the Maccabi youth sports organization in Buenos Aires.
While remaining at home with the couple’s two children, Salem is serving as a one-woman command center, responding to inquiries posted on the project’s two Facebook pages – Jewish Soccer Fanatics Traveling to Brazil in 2014 and Jewish Connect at the World Cup Football 2014 – along with maintaining communication with Brazilian Jewish organizations helping to organize the events in the seven cities: Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Manaus, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Fans from approximately 20 countries have exchanged information on the Facebook pages about the events and such key matters as procuring World Cup tickets and places to stay, she said.
Those wishing to attend any of the Jewish events – all are free – must register, with Salem passing along the information to security officials at the venues. Volunteers are offering their services through Facebook.
At the Havdalah services, soccer-themed note paper will be distributed for participants to write messages heralding the coming week. The messages will be collected and displayed.
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