Sports clubs help Russians in Germany be Jewish for the first time
The 3 Saxony Maccabi centers assist members to embrace a Jewish community they couldn’t acknowledge in the atheist Soviet Union
BY THOMAS FRITZ December 27, 2014, 2:36 am

LEIPZIG — Lost in thought, the men sit opposite each other at three small tables, their foreheads burrowed in their hands. Six pairs of eyes are fixed on the figures in front of them in deep concentration. With a move once every few minutes, hours pass

It is chess training at the Jewish Maccabi Sports Club in the Ariowitsch House in Leipzig, a center of Jewish culture in the Waldstraßen Quarter near the city center. The club, refounded in 2005, is along with ones in Dresden and Chemnitz one of three surviving organizations of the 1903 Association of German-Jewish Athletes in the state of Saxony. There are 34 more such Jewish clubs nationwide.

Time does not matter here: Most of the men are already retired. Just like the Jewish communities in Germany, these clubs are mainly populated by Russian-born immigrants over 50 years of age.

One of the chess players is Michael Lempert, 64, the Maccabi chairman. Together with his wife Irina, 63, he came to Germany in 1996 along with some 220,000 Jewish refugees from 1991 and 2004. In 2003, the Lemperts moved to Leipzig, a city of half a million, and a vibrant center of trade, science and music.

Lempert is responsible for the 79 Maccabi members, who are divided into football, volleyball, chess and table tennis departments.

Read more: Sports clubs help Russians in Germany be Jewish for the first time | The Times of Israel 

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