German football team joins San Diego Jewish school in commemorating children murdered in the Holocaust


(JTA) — The German football team Borussia Dortmund joined students at the San Diego Jewish Academy on Friday to participate in a project to commemorate children who were killed in the Holocaust.

The club, which plays in the Bundesliga, Germany’s top tier of professional soccer, is in the United States for a series of exhibition matches against other teams from the United States and England. According to a press release from the World Jewish Congress, Dortmund had been training at the San Diego Jewish Academy over the past week.

On Friday, the club’s manager and four of its players, alongside students from the school, participated in The Butterfly Project, a Holocaust education organization that offers programs where participants paint ceramic butterflies to honor the 1.5 million children who were killed during the Holocaust.

The group painted butterflies for victims who had lived in Westphalia, the region of Germany where Dortmund is based. The organization provided biographies of the children that were being memorialized.

“It was a tremendous honor to be able to host a team of the caliber of Borussia Dortmund on our field all week, but to witness firsthand their commitment as an organization to Holocaust education and combating antisemitism was even more remarkable,” said Adam Bemoise, director of auxiliary programs at San Diego Jewish Academy.

Founded at the San Diego school in 2006, The Butterfly Project has facilitated the decoration of 350,000 butterflies that are displayed throughout the world “as symbols of resilience and hope,” according to the group’s website.

“When the players take their butterflies, they carry the message,” Cheryl Rattner Price, founder of The Butterfly Project, said at the event. “It is a message for peace. They help us amplify our message.”

The Dortmund club has previously been involved in efforts to combat antisemitism, most notably by hosting a conference last year titled “Antisemitism and Professional Football: Challenges, Opportunities, Network.” Organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the World Jewish Congress and the Deutsche Fussball Liga (German Soccer League), the daylong gathering centered on strategies to curb antisemitism in German soccer.

“The World Jewish Congress is proud to work together with Borussia Dortmund to find new ways to elevate the voice of the Jewish community and ensure that our shared history will be used to build stronger future generations,” said Cory Weiss, WJC executive director of communications strategy, according to the release.

Leopoldo Kahn, a former leader of Peru’s Jewish community, spoke at the gathering and shared his family history, according to the release. Kahn’s grandfather was Paul Hirsch, a Jewish politician who served as mayor of Dortmund in the 1920s, after a stint as the prime minister of Prussia.

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