|The Hakoah soccer team in Vienna, 1933. Yitzhak Braun is crouched, with bent knees, first on left in front row. Yitzhak Huebner is standing, back row in shorts, second from left. photos courtesy Miriam Braun|
Thanks to the legacy of a Jewish soccer team, a trail of memory stretches from Vienna, to Bergen County, to Jerusalem, and around the world.
Earlier this month, The Jewish Standard published an article about Sport Club Hakoah, a Bergen County soccer team carrying on the name and tradition of the original Hakoah team that played in the Austrian capital in the early part of the last century, before the Nazis took power.
Miriam Braun, an Englewood native now living in Israel, chanced upon the article while reading The Jewish Standard online. It sparked warm memories for her. She recalled that her father, Yitzchak, played for the original team in the early 1930s.
She was “surprised and delighted” to read of the Bergen team, she said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem. “I am so delighted that this legacy would be passed on and shared with the young people of today,” she said.
|Miriam Braun in Israel with photo of team.|
There is another reason for her delight. She was visiting for a Shabbat meal several years ago with a Jerusalem friend, Mira Huebner-Harel, and they were comparing notes on their roots in Austria.
Braun mentioned the soccer team, and that she had a picture of the team with her father in it. As she recalls, excitement brimmed over as her friend recalled that her own father, Yitzchak Huebner, also played on the same Hakoah team.
“The minute Shabbat was over, she ran over to my house to see” the picture, Braun recalled, “and lo and behold, our fathers played on the same team.”
The Vienna team had a winning record, and won the Austrian national championship in 1925-26. The team disbanded in 1938 under the Nazi yoke.
Braun said her grandfather, Avraham, was the cantor at the Shifschul in Vienna, which was destroyed on Kristallnacht [Nov. 9-10, 1938]. Her father left Austria, married her mother in Switzerland, and the couple came to the United States.
Yitzchak Braun served as cantor at an Englewood synagogue from 1948 to 1979. After retiring, he and his wife, Elly, made aliyah, his daughter recalled, and he spent his later years doing chesed, righteous deeds, mostly at Shaare Zedek Hospital. He died in 2005.
His time playing soccer “was a very happy time of his life,” his daughter said, and he remained an enthusiastic fan of the sport throughout his life.
Miriam Braun grew up in Englewood and moved to Israel in 1976. She runs the volunteer programs at the Sanhedria Children’s Home for boys from troubled homes in Jerusalem.
“It’s a wonderful tribute to the original team,” Braun said of the Bergen club. “My father would have been so proud.”
“It’s wonderful that young people are interested in Jewish sports,” she added. “It’s fantastic, just fantastic.”
The original team, known as Sport Club Hakoah Wien, was formed in 1909 to give Jewish young men a high-level sports outlet. Besides the national championship, the team scored a decisive victory in an exhibition match against a top-ranked team on a visit to England.
It also played before a crowd of 46,000 against an American all-star team on a visit to Manhattan’s Polo Grounds in 1926.
The Bergen team was launched by Ron Glickman of Teaneck and is in its first year, posting a record of five wins and four losses. They play against local club teams. Visit bergenhakoah.org for more information.
Glickman said that since the article was published, he has been contacted by offspring of other players from the Vienna team. He also has been contacted by soccer teams carrying the Hakoah name from Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, and Argentina.
“The team has done so much in connecting us to the past and to the future,” Glickman said.