Glasgow, Scotland – A Charedi rabbi from Israel became an unlikely social media star yesterday when stadium cameras caught him studying Talmud during an important soccer match played yesterday in Glasgow.
Rabbi Zev Leff had agreed to take his grandchildren to the game in Hampden Park that had Israel facing off against Scotland in the Nations League game, earning Scotland a spot in the Euro 2020 playoff.
Israel had struck out early, taking a 1 – 0 lead against Scotland as reported by The Guardian (http://bit.ly/2A8qWFW), ultimately losing by a score of 3 – 2 in a nail biter that lasted nearly four hours.
Cameras that panned across the stadium caught sight of Rabbi Leff, rabbi of Moshav Matisyahu, deeply immersed in his learning in the early part of the game as Israel enjoyed its brief lead over the home team.
The camera lingered on Rabbi Leff for several seconds as he sat with his wife, daughter and several grandchildren looking up just briefly at the action on the field below, with announcers commenting on what was clearly unusual behavior at a highly anticipated sporting event.
Son Shimon Leff told Israel Today (http://bit.ly/2AdCyY3) that this father was visiting his sister and brother in law, Yossi and Sara Bodenheim of Glasgow, who have been serving as Jewish chaplains at multiple local universities for the past six years.
Leff said that his father had likely laughed when he heard that he had become a social media sensation.
“The announcers had said that he was probably praying for a positive outcome in the game, but he told me that that was fake news,” said Leff. “He said that he had been learning the Talmud Yerushalmi and not saying Tehillim.”
Leff said that he had already heard from numerous people who recognized his father in the viral video clip. Most had favorable comments although a few said that they were somewhat embarrassed, a reaction that Leff disagreed with.
The Chabad emissary to Glasgow, Rabbi Mendy Jacobs, said that the match was big news for the local Jewish community, who cheered on both teams and took pride in seeing the Israeli flag and hearing Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem.
It was while Hatikvah was being played that another memorable moment unfolded, one that garnered over 400,000 views on social media.
United Kingdom television broadcaster David Tanner posted video to Twitter showing Israeli team members sharing their jackets with the game’s ten child mascots, many of whom appeared chilled to the bone in their official soccer uniforms as they stood on the field in weather that had spectators bundled up in coats, hats and scarves.
“What about all the Israel players giving their jackets to the shivering mascots?” wrote Tanner, enhancing his post with two clapping hand emojis. “What a lovely touch. I remember being in the tunnel when Gordon Strachan took time out from his pre-match duties to arrange cold weather kit for the kids in similar conditions. Class. #SCISR”