The yellow star, football and Maccabi: the legend of Yossef Merimovitch

By guest Parsha Points contributor Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day is when Jewish People around the world bow their heads to remember those who perished throughout Europe during the late 1930s early 1940s. The relationship between the Holocaust and Maccabi Tel Aviv is one that will be forever intertwined due to the colors of the club’s jersey.

Yossef Merimovitch, z”l is personally responsible for the deep ties that Maccabi has with the Holocaust. In 1943, Merimovitch, who at the time was one of the stars in Israel, heard about the atrocities that were going on in Europe and could not remain indifferent. The striker, who had been scoring goals at a tremendous clip for the side that played in blue-and-white understood that the Jews of Europe were forced to wear a Yellow Star in order to differentiate them from the others. He asked that the club add yellow to their uniform in order to stand in unity with their brothers and sisters who were being persecuted. 

The request didn’t fall on deaf ears and from that day on, yellow has been part of Maccabi and the connection between the club and the Holocaust will always remain as one and the same.

Merimovitch began his career as a footballer with Maccabi “Michael”, and immediately impressed the coaches giving him his first start in a Maccabi Tel Aviv kit. Football was always an important part of the Merimovitch household as his older brother, Menachem (Mendele) starred for Maccabi Tel Aviv as well. Menachem represented Israel many times across the ocean and eventually settled in Australia with two other National Team players. Menachem passed away while fighting in the Australian Army at the beginning of World War II.

While his brother was in Australia, Yossele became one of the stars of Israeli football. As a player, Merimovitch won six Championships and six State Cups, a record that still stands. Following his playing career, Merimovitch had plenty of success as a coach winning a title and a State Cup over three different terms with the club. He also led the Israel National Team on two occasions while taking home the Asian Cup once.

While Yom HaShoah is the designated day to remember the six million Jews who perished, fans of Maccabi Tel Aviv are reminded of the Holocaust at each game when the players come out wearing their yellow uniforms.

May the memories of the six million remain on our conscious and may the never be forgotten.