When the Maccabis scored their winning shots at the Euroleague Final Four games on Sunday, a chant of yesh Elokim, “G-d exists” could be heard above the din of 13,500 fans and spectators in the Olympiski Arena in Moscow.
It’s a second consecutive win for the Israeli Maccabi team. For Chabad-Lubavitch of Moscow—host city to the 2005 games, it was a rare opportunity to reach thousands of Jews with a message of Jewish identity.
Some 6,000 Israelis arrived in Moscow last Thursday to cheer for their team. As the Friday games ended just prior to the onset of Shabbat, about 1,000 walked from the stadium to the Marina Roscha Synagogue in Moscow, for a full Friday night Shabbat services and dinner.
“We wanted to seize the opportunity to encourage the Israelis to do something Jewish, something spiritual,” says Rabbi Yakov Fridman, director of Chabad’s Israeli division in Moscow. “The enthusiasm and joy that the fans and players exuded in participating in Shabbat, was tremendous.”
Following the games, Maccabi coach Pini Gershon, the athletes and hundreds of fans made their way to the Marina Roscha Synagogue where they were greeted by Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar who encouraged them to carry their national pride as Jews into practical measures.
The Israelis came to collect a much coveted trophy. They probably did not guess that they’d also come away from Russia, of all places, with the joy and warmth a Shabbat experience with Chabad, and a deepened Jewish consciousness.