Brazil's Jews Honor Soccer Team That Helped Fight Nazis

Jewish supporters of Fluminense celebrate Hanukkah with club that donated funds, training facilities to Brazilian war effort in WWII.

Fluminense team supporter wearing rice powder, the team’s symbol, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 27, 2015.

Jewish supporters paid tribute Sunday to a major Brazilian soccer club for supporting Brazil’s fight against the Nazis during World War II.

Idish-Flu, a group of Jewish supporters of the Fluminense Football Club, led the celebration at the club headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, during which they lit the candles of a seven-foot-high menorah painted in the team’s colors of red, green and white, and presented the club’s president with an inscribed silver plate.

In 1942, Fluminense raised funds from its members to buy a single-engine airplane to be donated to the Brazilian Air Force. In addition, the club promoted a nursing course and offered its modern shooting range for the Brazilian military to practice before heading to the battlefield in Italy.

“We wish to send our good vibes to our beloved club in recognition of its help in the fight against the Nazis,” said Michel Ghelman, an Idish-Flu member. “It is timely to do so now during Hanukkah, a time when we recall divine miracles. After all, Fluminense is also our religion.”

The club’s president, Peter Siemsen, said, “I am very glad to see that the Jewish community, to which so many of our supporters belong, has decided to value the fact that Fluminense supported Brazil when it chose to fight on the Allies’ side against the Axis. This is part of our glorious past that must be remembered and honored.”

Fluminense supporters are estimated at 3.6 million, mostly from the upper classes of Rio, including a large number of Jews. The team, which was founded in 1902, plays in the Manoel Schwartz Stadium, named for a former team president.