Rabbi Daniel Lieberman’s fears after disturbing anti-Semitic verbal attack at son’s suburban soccer match

Dylan Caporn
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Portrait of Rabbi Daniel Lieberman at the Perth Hebrew Congregation Ian Munro
Portrait of Rabbi Daniel Lieberman at the Perth Hebrew Congregation Ian Munro Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

An Australian rabbi has warned of the growing “virus” of anti-Semitism after his 12-year-old son was abused by a rival soccer player at the weekend — where he was told “Heil Hitler” while shaking hands.

The anti-Semitic attack, the second in less than 24 hours directed at Rabbi Daniel Lieberman’s family, has led the Rabbi to come forward amid concerns posts on social media are encouraging attacks.

At the end of the game on Sunday in Perth, Rabbi Lieberman said his son went to shake the hands of opposing players from a northern suburbs soccer club, in a show of good sportsmanship.

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When Rabbi Lieberman’s son, who wears a kippah, went to shake the hand of the opposition player, he was allegedly told “Heil Hitler”.

The incident, which left the 12-year-old devastated, was overheard by a referee and reported immediately to Football West — the organisation which runs soccer in the State.

“A 12-year-old has not come to that himself. He hasn’t studied race theory or read Mein Kampf or any of this stuff. He doesn’t really know about it,” Rabbi Lieberman said.

“Somebody has taught him that. That’s the most disturbing thing.

“Whether it’s coming from the home, whether it’s coming from social media, whether it’s coming from the school environment — somebody is teaching young people to hate and that’s a very serious problem.”

A Football West spokesman said the organisation was aware of an alleged incident and was working with the clubs involved.

Horrifically, it was the second time in a day that anti-Semitic abuse was levelled at Rabbi Lieberman’s family.

On Saturday, Rabbi Lieberman and his two sons were walking through a park when a vehicle pulled up, and the driver, a middle-aged man, allegedly yelled out the window: “Dirty f...ing Jews”.

After the incidences, Rabbi Lieberman said his older son told him: “We can’t be openly Jewish in Western Australia anymore”.

Rabbi Lieberman, who moved to Perth from Manchester, said while he had experienced abuse in the UK, he had never had someone use the phrase “Heil Hitler” to him before.

“Never in all of my years I’ve ever had the words ‘Heil Hitler’ said to me before. So that’s a new thing,” he said.

“(Anti-Semitism) certainly hasn’t been seen before to this extent. Certainly online, it’s bigger, it’s greater and it’s more widespread, and really, with more venom than I’ve seen before.

Portrait of Rabbi Daniel Lieberman at the Perth Hebrew Congregation.
Portrait of Rabbi Daniel Lieberman at the Perth Hebrew Congregation. Credit: Ian Munro/The Nightly

“There is a huge amount of it on social media and really some of the most egregious stuff that you can think about, comes out of social media.

“With more and more people engaging on social media at younger and younger ages, you see them being exposed to some of the most terrible things.”

Rabbi Lieberman said the boys who used the language needed to educate themselves and learn about history.

“You’ve got to learn that what you have said, and the character that you have invoked, is a very serious matter and you have to understand that terrible things have gone on in history in the name of hatred and bigotry and discrimination,” he said.

“It’s incumbent upon everybody to educate themselves, about anti-Semitism to inoculate themselves against the terrible effects that it has both on the one who is abused and the abuser himself. It’s a terrible virus that comes to us all.

“If we just look over East and see what goes on in New South Wales and other places, internationally, and we think that we are we are free from it here — we’re not.”

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