At Maccabi, forging Jewish identity between the baselines


When I was 10, my family got frum, and I started playing baseball. Oddly, the overlap wasn’t a coincidence: Our new rabbi added me to his Little League team and taught me how to throw; I broke in my first mitt — and a new peer group — playing catch with his son. For me, a connection between the national pastime and Judaism is not just easy to make on a personal level. It’s seminal to my interest in both.

I’m not sure that’s what qualified me to coach a cadre of bright-eyed, bar mitzvah-aged ballplayers in this summer’s JCC Maccabi Games, an annual Olympics-style tournament for Jewish teens held in Stamford, Conn., this month. But there I was, shooing a gaggle of over-sugared charges through security and, along with more than 100 other boys and girls from our Westside JCC delegation, onto a plane headed for John F. Kennedy International Airport. That everyone in the group was Jewish — a unique, fledgling Jewish identity for every plane ticket — struck me as remarkable and exciting. There were kids who went to Jewish day school and kids who’d never had bar mitzvahs, and the vast majority fell somewhere in between. In other words, it looked like a cross-section of American Jewry.

At the same time, it seemed clear from the outset that Jewish identities would not be getting the workout on this trip. The chaperones were coaches, not rabbis, and other than the occasional allusion to “Jewish values,” the programming stuck to sports. Religion was more a selection criteria than unifying theme, and it stayed in the background most of the time. Which was fine! The kids were being Jewish without their parents; for more than a handful of them, the games could end up being the only Jewish thing they do all year.

Maccabi’s ideologically aloof playing field instead lent itself to a more organic contemplation of Jewish faith, at least on the team I coached. In fact, it turned out to be the ideal space for dialogue — low-stakes, diverse and totally voluntary. When Judaism did come up, I observed these sunflower seed aficionados shell, chew and spit religious ideas with bracing open-mindedness and originality. The discussions were more brief than shallow; these athletes were also budding intellectuals, which is to say, growing friends.

It started during the Friday night meal at our hotel — you couldn’t really call it Shabbat dinner since there was neither Kiddush nor challah — when the boys started considering who at the table was “actually” Jewish. “Both my parents are Jewish,” our center fielder began, with a modest whiff of self-assurance. “I’m half,” volunteered the left fielder, rather fearlessly. Which half? the others needed to know, for obvious reasons. “My dad is Jewish,” he responded, evidently knowing where this was headed because he then added, “I have Jewish blood.”

The crowd was tougher than the sell. “But you’re not Jewish!” the center fielder exclaimed. Here, I finally jumped in with what is at least tacitly Maccabi’s eligibility guideline: “You’re Jewish if you say you’re Jewish,” I said. “Who’s to say you’re not?” “The Conservative movement,” quipped the center fielder, who goes to Jewish day school. The left fielder (a Hebrew-schooler) called him off, unimpressed: “Who gives a” — and here he said a word that I, his baseball coach, did not teach him and do not condone using — “about the Conservative movement?” They laughed, and went back to testing each other’s memorization of baseball statistics.

Later that week, at an amusement park for their evening activity, two teammates broached the topic of God. While working on a mouthful of hamburger, our second baseman volunteered his theory that the ocean — the origin of life and forever unknowable — is God. Our shortstop countered that God might be the invisible, all-powerful force of gravity. The middle infield got pretty abstract.

All the while, their rookie baseball coach felt stuck, torn between helping them navigate Jewish ideas and just letting them make a fine mess. Was I to join these conversations and risk curtailing their reach? (Is God not on land or in space? I asked, unhelpfully.) What did these restless, creative minds — whose spiritual bandwidth was just beginning to stretch — have to gain from anything I had to say? Sure: God can be anywhere you look. Does saying that really help someone who is already experiencing God at the beach? And of course: Your parents don’t determine whether you’re Jewish, you do. Does that help a young Jew, who’s already comfortable defying the Conservative movement, understand that faith is inexorable, and inexorably personal?

Our oldest player was barely 14 years old — he and his teammates are a long way from answering Judaism’s big-picture questions, and that’s as it should be. What’s important is that they have already started to talk about those questions — and that their new friends will listen to and challenge their ideas as they evolve. They went to Connecticut to play baseball, and yet here they were, negotiating Jewish identity. And, perhaps, forging a meaningful connection between their Jewish experience and their favorite sport. I can’t say where any one of them will wind up. It was just a treat to see all of them on their way.


Louis Keene is a writer living in Los Angeles who can now say he has coached baseball. You can find more of his writing on his website at VICE Sports, and at www.keene.la.

Raisman earns sweet redemption in Rio


For American gymnast Aly Raisman, a silver medal in Thursday's all-around event was a moment of redemption after the heartbreak of 2012 when she was on the wrong side of a tiebreak and bumped from the podium.

It was also a validation that a 22-year-old can still rock in the world of gymnastics, despite an army of naysayers who didn't think she could compete in a sport made for teens.

Raisman rose to the podium alongside compatriot and gold medal winner Simone Biles and bronze medallist Aliya Mustafina, the Russian rival that had prevailed in the tiebreak for the bronze in London.

“After the tiebreak of 2012, it was very heartbreaking,” saidRaisman.

But Thursday's silver, she said, “shows you should never let anyone tell you that you can't do anything, and you should never give up just because you fail in something.”

In 2012, Mustafina and Raisman finished with the same total score and the tie was broken by using their three highest apparatus scores. Mustafina came out a hair higher, leavingRaisman in fourth.

Raisman said she had to stare down the skeptics when she came back too the national team in 2014 after a series of injuries. 

“When I first came back, all the media and everyone looked at me like I was crazy that I was really going to come back,” said Raisman. 

Her coach, Mihai Brestyan, told her “'just said ignore everyone,'” she said. “'When you are 21 or 22, that will be your best age.' And he was right.” 

But at the 2015 world championships, she finished a disappointing fifth.

“I wouldn't call fifth in the world a failure,” she said. 

“But sometimes when you make mistakes,” she added, “it's the best thing for you.” 

After their one-two finish Thursday, Raisman and Biles, 19, walked around the Rio Olympic Arena, as if they were one. The two are very close and Raisman said “the whole time we have been here together, that's been our goal to go one-two.”

Biles, who many call the best gymnast of all time, was ebullient about her team mate's accomplishment.

“I was more proud for Aly getting silver than me gold,” Biles said. “She just worked so hard in gym and for it to finally pay off, it amazes me.”

Raisman returned the compliment by saying that she never thought she could beat Biles.

“No one goes in thinking they can beat Simone,” Raismansaid. “People don't go in thinking they can beat Usain Bolt either. It's kind of the same thing.”

The two plan to take a beach vacation in Belize, the homeland of Biles' mother Nellie, and ponder their futures.

“I feel really good at 22 and I can't wait to see what is to come,” Raisman said.

Biles chirped “2020?,” hoping her friend will be coming along for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Israel sending team of 5 to Sochi Olympics


Israel will be sending five athletes to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, starting next month.

Evgeni Krasnopolski, 25, a Ukraine native who grew up in Israel, will skate in the pairs competition with Andrea Davidovich, 16, of Vermont. The pair, who train in Hackensack, N.J., finished seventh in the senior pairs competition at the European Skating Championships earlier this month in Budapest, Hungary.

Alexei Bychenko, 25, also a Ukraine native who grew up in Israel, will represent Israel in men’s figure skating. Bychenko finished 10th in the men’s singles at the European championships earlier this month in Germany.

Vladislav Bykanov, 24, also born in Ukraine, will represent Israel in the short-track speed skating competition. He finished in the top 10 in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters at the European championships.

Virgile Vandeput, 19, will compete in alpine skiing in the giant slalom and special slalom. Vandeput, a former member of Belgium’s national skiing team, has represented Israel in international competitions for the past four years. His mother is Israeli.

Israeli delegations have competed at the Winter Olympics since 1994. The Sochi Games begin Feb.  7.

Aly Raisman, Amar’e Stoudemire to participate in upcoming Maccabiah Games


The 19th Maccabiah Games begin this week. Of the 8,000 athletes from around the world descending on Israel for what some call the “Jewish Olympics,” 1,100 will hail from America.

At the head of the pack is none other than American Jewish gymnast extraordinnaire, Aly Raisman. Another big-name American to look out for at the games, which run July 18-30, is Amar’e Stoudemire. The New York Knicks star surprised fans the first time he traveled to Israel to explore his Jewish roots.  This time the big surprise is that he isn’t representing the United States, but instead will be coaching the Canadian basketball team.

Want to watch but don’t know how? The lovely folks at Haaretz are here to help with this viewing guide. Thanks guys!

The Chabad Telethon: Beyond silence


One of the most moving letters you’ll read this year was written by Irwin Cotler, a Canadian member of parliament, to the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge, imploring him to hold a minute of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists 40 years ago at the Munich Olympics.

Rogge had already refused the request for the opening ceremonies, so Cotler urged him to do so during the closing ceremonies:

“This Sunday, when the London 2012 Olympic Games conclude, let us pause to remember and recall each of the murdered athletes. Each had a name, an identity, a family — each person was a universe: Moshe Weinberg; Yossef Romano; Ze’ev Friedman; David Berger; Yakov Springer; Eliezer Halfin; Yossef Gutfreund; Kehat Shorr; Mark Slavin; Andre Spitzer; Amitzur Shapira.

Dr. Rogge … it is not too late to be on the right side of history.”

Cotler appealed not only to emotion but also to reason. Such a memorial, he reminded Rogge, was not without precedent:

“Two years ago during the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, the IOC observed a moment of silence — over which you presided, appropriately enough — in memory of the Georgian athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died tragically in a training accident. Ten years ago, in 2002, the IOC memorialized the victims of 9/11, though that terrorist atrocity neither occurred during the Olympic Games nor had any connection to them. The duty of remembrance was justification enough.

“In particular, after eschewing a memorial for the murdered Israeli athletes and coaches at this year’s opening ceremony, the IOC then — and again, rightly — memorialized the victims of the 2005 London Bombings … though this terrorist atrocity, as well, had no nexus to the Olympic Games.”

Cotler’s appeal was compelling and moving, but it was unsuccessful — a fact that has surely left a stain on this summer’s Olympics.

But beyond that, it has also left many disappointed Jews around the world wondering what to do next.

After an exhausting lobbying effort supported by many world leaders, including President Obama, these disillusioned supporters are wondering whether they should lick their wounds and give up the fight — or begin anew and lobby for a minute of silence at the next Olympic games.

Here in Los Angeles, there is a Jewish group that is taking a whole different approach to honoring the victims. They will neither give up the fight nor plead with the IOC for a minute of silence.

In fact, they don’t want silence. They want to make some holy noise.

And you can bet they will do that at the 32nd annual Chabad Telethon on Sunday night, Sept. 9.

“The Rebbe taught us that the only response to darkness is to increase the light,” was how Chaim Marcus put it when I asked him why they had decided to honor victims of terror during a normally festive evening.

Marcus, the producer of the last few telethons, doesn’t think there’s a contradiction between the two. “The Chabad Telethon itself was born out of the fire that destroyed the world’s first Chabad House, in 1980 in Westwood,” he told me. “It was our way to rebuild and renew — stronger and greater than before.”

So, instead of commemorating the 11 Munich victims with silence, Chabad will celebrate their lives by “adding light to the world by encouraging our viewers to live their legacy through acts of goodness and kindness.”

Chabad Rabbi Chaim Cunin, executive producer of the telethon, adds: “This year, we will sing more, dance more and pour out our hearts more than ever on behalf of the Munich victims and all those in need.”

The tribute will include Larry King setting up a short film clip from “1972 Munich Games: Bud Greenspan Remembers,” followed by the lighting of 11 candles and the chanting of the El Maleh Rachamim mourning prayer by chazzan Yacov Lerner.

They’re hoping to have many celebrities on stage at the Saban Theatre, where the telethon will take place this year, including people like Olympic swimmers Mark Spitz, Lenny Krayzelburg and Jason Lezak; and London’s gold-medal gymnast Aly Reisman.

It’s classic Chabad to take an Olympic failure and turn it into a Jewish lesson. What they’re basically saying is: Yes, it would have been great had the IOC devoted a minute of silence to the Jewish victims, but they didn’t, and we won’t cry over it. We can do it ourselves, in our own way.

It’s true that as Jews, we want the world to love us, to understand us, to feel our pain. With our history of Holocaust trauma, we crave recognition, especially for our innocent victims. So, naturally, we wanted a billion people worldwide last month to remember that 11 athletes were murdered because they were Jews.

But being Jewish doesn’t only mean being victims. It also means being survivors; survivors who have the power to honor our victims by being more Jewish than ever.

And that’s an idea worth making a little noise over.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Jewish glory, frustration mark London Games


The London Olympics may have “lit up the world,” as organizing committee head Sebastian Coe put it, but for Jews the 2 1/2 weeks offered healthy doses of frustration and glory.

On the plus side, new medalists such as America’s Aly Raisman gained the spotlight with her grace, which included a floor routine to “Hava Nagila” en route to a U.S. women’s team gold in gymnastics. She followed that with an individual gold for floor exercise and a bronze on the balance beam.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Jo Aleh brought home a gold for Kiwi fans in the women’s 470 regatta and Australian kayaker Jessica Fox won a silver medal in the slalom K1. They joined in their glory with previous medalists such as U.S. swimmer Jason Lezak, who helped his relay team win a silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle in what was likely the last of his four Olympics.

Yet the game’s opening ceremony ended hopes that the International Olympic Committee would officially recognize with a moment of silence the 11 Israeli athletes murdered 40 years ago at the Munich Games by Palestinian terrorists. An international campaign for a moment of silence had the support of President Obama and numerous other world leaders.

And Israel’s athletes—for the first time in 24 years—went home without a single medal, which has prompted conversation about the country’s lack of commitment to Olympics excellence. Israel’s rhythmic gymnastics team made it to the finals, but on Sunday it finished last among the eight teams in the all-around group competition.

Two Israeli citizens, however, are coming home with some Olympic glory. David Blatt, an American-Israeli, coached Russia’s bronze-winning men’s basketball team and Aleh will soon make a family visit to the Jewish state.

Blatt, the coach of Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv team, has helped rebuild the Russian national squad since being brought in as head coach in 2006, Sports Illustrated reported. He took the team to a 2007 European Championship.

He played for Princeton University from 1977 to 1981 and on the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the 1981 Maccabiah Games. Following the Maccabiah Games, Blatt played for several Israeli teams until he was injured in 1993 and took up coaching.

The disappointment in Israel over the lack of a national delegation medal may be behind what Yuli Edelstein, minister of Diaspora affairs, told Raisman last week as she accepted his invitation for the Raisman family to be his guests in Israel.

“Making your first visit to Israel is not only important because it is the homeland of the Jewish people, but also because you can contribute from your experience to the young generation of Israeli athletes,” Edelstein said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Beating her to the Jewish state, however, will be Aleh. After a parade back home to celebrate New Zealand’s success at the London Games, she reportedly is heading to Israel for the bat mitzvah of her half-sister.

The greatest disappointment of the Games for many Jews, however, was the failure of the international campaign to have the Munich 11 remembered. It included a petition launched by the Rockland JCC in suburban New York that garnered nearly 111,000 names, a private meeting with two Munich 11 widows and IOC President Jacques Rogge, and the backing of President Obama and political leaders from Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy and elsewhere.

One widow of the Munich 11 had biting words for Rogge when he attended the London Jewish community’s memorial for the murdered athletes and coaches.

“Shame on you, IOC,” said Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer, who died in the attack. “You have forsaken the 11 members of your Olympic family. You discriminate against them only because they are Israelis and Jews.”

Meanwhile, the Arab-Israeli conflict was felt when the Lebanese judo team refused to even practice in a gymnasium next to the Israelis. The Lebanese even erected a makeshift barrier to split their gym into two halves, according to the Times of Israel.

Also, Iranian judoka Javad Mahjoob withdrew from the Games, citing “critical digestive system infection,” according to the Washington Post. The report speculated that Iran was maintaining a longstanding policy of not allowing its athletes to compete against Israelis.

New Zealand Jewish sailor Jo Aleh guaranteed medal


New Zealand Jewish sailor Jo Aleh is guaranteed an Olympic medal with just one race left in the women’s 470 regatta.

Aleh, 26, whose parents are dual Israel-New Zealand citizens, and partner Polly Powrie are tied for first after nine races.

The Kiwi pair will meet the British duo of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark in the gold medal race on Friday. Aleh and Powrie let an eight-point lead slip after the eighth race.

“We had a pretty good first race today, which helped us a little bit but then we followed it up with our little stuff-up,” Aleh said after the ninth race Wednesday. “It’s left us still in a pretty good spot.”

The Brits and Kiwis are far ahead of third-place the Netherlands; it would require a disqualification to deny either the gold or silver medals.

Aleh, a former national champion and 2007 world champion, finished seventh at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She is a member of Beth Shalom, a Progressive congregation in Auckland, according to New Zealand Jewish Council President Stephen Goodman.

Her father, Shuki, flew in from Israel and her mother, Daniella, who lived in Israel for eight years, arrived from New Zealand earlier this week.

Aleh has a half-sister, Shefa, and a half-brother, Yaam, in Israel. Her parents met in Israel after they completed their military service but were married in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Australian sprinter Steven Solomon’s Olympic run has ended with the 4×400-meter relay team failing to qualify for the finals. Solomon, competing at his first Olympics, led off for the Australian team, posting a respectable 45.6-second leg. In the men’s individual 440, he ran two personal bests, including a sub-45-second run, to qualify for the finals, in which he finished eighth.

Also at the Olympics on Thursday, Israeli rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivkin is in 14th place in the qualifying round after performing her hoop and ball routines. She was ranked seventh after her hoop routine but dropped her ball. She will compete with ribbon and clubs in two routines on Friday. She must finish in the top 10 to compete in the finals.

Rivkin received Israel’s first rhythmic gymnastics medal, a bronze, in the individual hoop final at the 2011 World Championships in France. She placed 10th in the all-around competition. The Olympics do not offer medals in individual apparatus in rhythmic gymnastics.

The Israeli rhythmic gymnastics team was in eighth place following the ball routine; the finals are on Sunday. The team placed 10th at the 2011 World Championships.

Russian basketball team, coached by Israeli-American David Blatt, reaches Olympic semis


The Russian Olympic men’s basketball team, coached by Israeli-American David Blatt, has advanced to the semifinals.

The Russians will play Spain in Friday’s semifinals after defeating Lithuania, 83-74, on Wednesday in London. Russia has not won an Olympic medal in basketball since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Blatt has helped rebuild the Russian national team since being brought on as head coach in 2006, Sports Illustrated reported. Under Blatt, the Russian national team won the 2007 European Championship.

He played for Princeton University from 1977 to 1981 and on the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the 1981 Maccabiah Games. Following the Maccabiah Games, Blatt joined an Israeli Super League team. He played for several Israeli teams until he was injured in 1993 and took up coaching.He is currently the coach of the Maccabi Tel Aviv team.

Raisman, Down Under athletes soar among Jewish Olympians


Slideshow highlighting Aly Raisman‘s Olympics at bottom

U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman and athletes from Down Under were the story for Jewish sports fans at the London Olympics.

Raisman, who performs her floor routines to the melody of “Hava Nagilah,” won an individual gold medal on Tuesday in the floor exercise as well as a bronze on the balance beam after helping the U.S. women’s team take the gold last week.

Her bronze came after the U.S. lodged a protest against the original result. Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., had finished fourth, but the judges agreed to a rescoring, putting her in a tie with Romania’s Catalina Ponor. Under a tie-breaking procedure, Raisman took the medal with a higher execution score. Raisman defeated Ponor again in the floor exercise final.

Meanwhile, there was something good in the water for Jewish athletes from Down Under.

[Aly Raisman’s results: team / all-around / balance beam / floor exercise]

Nathan Cohen, who is Jewish, and his partner Joseph Sullivan won the men’s double sculls on Aug. 2 to give New Zealand its first gold medal of the London Olympics.  They rallied in the last 200 meters to overtake Italy’s Alessio Sartori and Romano Battisti with a time of 6 minutes, 31.67 seconds—1.13 seconds ahead of the Italians.

Australian kayaker Jessica Fox, 18, won a silver medal in the K-1 kayak slalom final. Her first Olympic medal followed a family tradition: Her mother, Myriam Jerusalmi Fox, won a bronze in the same race for France at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Her British father, Richard, finished fourth in the same event at the 1992 Olympics and was appointed coach of the Australian kayak team before the 2000 Sydney Games.

At midweek, New Zealand sailor Jo Aleh was in good position to win her first Olympic medal as her event headed into its final stretch. Aleh, whose parents, Shuki and Daniella, lived in Israel before moving to Auckland, and teammate Olivia Powrie are in first after eight of 10 races in the 470 event.

Two rounds remain—both on Wednesday—followed by a medal race, scheduled for Friday.

Aleh’s father has flown in from Israel to watch the final rounds, while her mother has arrived from New Zealand. Aleh has two half-siblings who both live in Israel, according to a report in The Forward. After the Olympics, the family is reportedly traveling there for her half-sister’s bat mitzvah celebration.

Australian sprinter Steven Solomon’s bid for a medal ended when he ran out of steam in the 400-meter final. Solomon trailed the pack on Monday night, finishing eighth in 45.14 seconds—his second fastest time and just 0.17 seconds off his landmark semifinal time.

The 19-year-old runner, who played soccer at the 2009 Maccabiah before taking up sprinting, heaped praise on his Jewish Ukrainian coach, 78-year-old Fira Dvoskina, who could not travel to London but was coaching him via Skype.

Israeli athletes were not faring well and, for the first time since 1988, seemed likely to return home without a medal.

Windsurfer Lee Korzits, Israel’s likely last hope for a medal, finished the medal race in ninth place, dropping from second place to sixth in the overall rankings. Shahar Tzuberi, the bronze medalist from Beijing, did not qualify for the medal event.

Also, Israeli judoka Arik Zeevi, who predicted he would win a medal at the London Olympics, lost his opening match. Dmitri Peters of Germany put Zeevi in a headlock in their 100 kg. match on Aug. 2, forcing the 35-year-old Israeli to tap out after 43 seconds, the Times of Israel reported. He had tears in his eyes as he left the mat.

Female judoka Alice Schlessinger, another Israeli medal hope, was eliminated early as well.

On Sunday, Israeli gymnast Alex Shatilov finished sixth in the floor exercise finals. Shatilov, 25, had finished 12th last week in the individual all-around final.

In an odd incident, Israeli sprinter Donald Sanford was forced to borrow running shoes, saying his had been stolen and that he did not have the opportunity to warm up. He argued unsuccessfully with the judges for more time and failed to advance out of the first round in the 400 meters, though he did run his personal best time of the season.

Meanwhile, French Olympic swimmer Fabien Gilot grabbed some attention with the Hebrew tattoo on his left arm that he said is a tribute to his late grandmother’s husband, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz. Gilot, who is not Jewish, said the tattoo is dedicated to his family and honors Max Goldschmidt, who has been a major influence in his life, Ynet reported. The tattoo says, “I’m nothing without them.”

Gilot revealed the tattoo, which is on the inside of his left arm, after exiting the pool following his team’s gold medal-winning performance in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Outside the competition, there was news as well. German Olympic rower Nadja Drygalla left the Olympic Village following claims that her boyfriend is a member of an extremist political party inspired by the Nazis. She had already finished competing at the Games as part of the women’s rowing eight team and reportedly left of her own accord after a 90-minute conversation with German officials.

Media reports said her boyfriend was a leading member of a regional National Socialist group, the Rostock National Socialists, and had worked in a state election for the far-right National Democratic Party. Germany’s intelligence agency describes the NDP as racist, anti-Semitic and inspired by the Nazis.

For more Olympics coverage, visit jewishjournal.com/olympics.

Australian sprinter Steven Solomon advances to 400-meter finals


Australian sprinter Steven Solomon qualified for the Olympics 400 meters final with a second consecutive personal best time.

Solomon, 19, who only took up professional sprinting in 2009, finished third in his semifinal heat on Sunday in London, but his time of 44.97 was good enough to advance to Monday’s final. He was seventh among the eight qualifiers

With the top two qualifying automatically for the final, the former Maccabi soccer star had an agonizing wait to see if his time was good enough to make the final.

“I’m absolutely stoked,”  Solomon told the media after the race. “I came into the race really nervous. I really wanted to make the final. I really believed in myself and when I crossed the line, I saw that I had broken the 45 [second] barrier.

“Two personal bests in two days. I am just really looking forward to the final and giving it absolutely everything I have for myself and my country.”

Solomon’s coach, Ukranian immigrant Fira Dvoskina, was elated as she watched the race live in Sydney.

“We talked yesterday on Skype and I told him what mistakes he made when he ran the heat and he said he’ll fix it,” she told JTA. “He ran 44.97—I cannot believe it.”

Dvoskina said his goal is to run 44.80 in the final, but she is not sure that’ll be good enough to win a medal.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Australia has not had a male 400 meters runner in the Olympic final for a very long time. He is one of the top eight runners in the world.”

Harry Procel, a Maccabi Australia veteran who is in London at the Olympic Stadium with the Solomon family, told JTA that Solomon “did brilliantly to win his heat.”

“He ran a beautifully controlled race and handled the pressure with aplomb,” Procel said.

A day earlier Solomon, in his Olympics debut, won his heat to reach the semifinals in a time of 45.18, also a personal best. He defeated the defending Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt, who pulled up with a hamstring injury, and finished eighth fastest in the seven heats.

His previous best of 45.52 had come three weeks ago at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona. Based on the performance, Athletics Australia had selected Solomon, the captain of the junior soccer team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, ahead of veteran John Steffensen, a black sprinter of South African descent who alleged racial discrimination. It sparked a bitter race row in which Solomon was unwittingly in the middle.

Rogge expected to get heat at Munich 11 Jewish memorial service


Jewish speakers are expected to criticize International Olympics Committee president when he attends a memorial ceremony for Israeli coaches and athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Monday’s service, which is a Jewish community event, has created a “dilemma” for organizers, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

IOC president Jacques Rogge refused international appeals including from that of President Barack Obama to the Israeli widows of the Munich 11 to legislators around the world to hold a moment of silence during last week’s opening ceremonies of the London Olympics for Israelis slain by Palestinian terrorists during the Munich games.

British Jewish leaders said they did not feel that they could withdraw an invitation to Rogge because they did not formally offer one, according to the Chronicle. Rogge has said he will attend the event and he has met privately with two widows of the murdered Israelis.

One of those women, Ankie Spitzer, told the Chronicle, “I have been asked to speak. What I am going to say to the IOC will not be nice. But that’s too bad. I do not want to see them there … I will tell them they are two-faced hypocrites and should have stayed at home. ”

Her husband, Andre, was the Israeli fencing coach in 1972. Jewish Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman said that Rogge should be present to see the intense emotions surrounding the issue.

“It’s good that he should be there to see how people feel and he should witness it. It will bring the message home to him,” she told the Chronicle.

French Olympic swimmer Fabien Gilot explains Hebrew tattoo as a family tribute


French Olympic swimmer Fabien Gilot said the Hebrew tattoo on his left arm is a tribute to his late grandmother’s husband, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz.

Gilot, who is not Jewish, said the tattoo is dedicated to his family and honors Max Goldschmidt, who has been a large influence in the Olympic champion’s life, Ynet reported. The tattoo says “I’m nothing without them.”

He revealed the tattoo, which is on the inside of his left arm, after exiting the pool following his team’s gold medal-winning performance this week in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay in London. It created a stir in Israel and around the world.

The swimmer has previously discussed his tattoos in the French media, claiming “they all have a meaning for me.” He noted that “I have the Olympic rings, a sentence in Hebrew that means ‘I am nothing without them’ for my family and three stars—one for each of my brothers.”

Aly Raisman, Jason Lezak shine for Team USA


While both took to the podiums in London this week to receive a medal, 18-year-old Aly Raisman’s Olympic star was rising as 36-year-old swimmer Jason Lezak’s appeared to be setting.

Raisman, of Needham, Mass., helped Team USA take the women’s team gold on Tuesday—the first Olympic gold medal for the U.S. gymnastics squad since the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Also, Raisman is favored to win the all-around individual competition on Thursday, as well as the floor exercise on Aug. 7, when she will be competing in the balance beam final. She and Gabby Douglas are representing the U.S. in the individual finals.

Lezak, a four-time gold medalist likely competing in his last Olympics, helped the American men’s swimming team qualify for the 4×100-meter freestyle swimming finals. The team went on to finish second, receiving a silver medal—Lezak’s eighth medal overall in four Olympics. Lezak did not compete in the finals.

[Related: Aly Raisman leads U.S. to gymnastics team gold]
[Related: Video of Aly Raisman’s parents goes viral]

Meanwhile, the Israeli delegation was experiencing its ups and downs early in the Games.

On Tuesday, two Israeli medal hopefuls were faring well in windsurfing. Lee Korzits was in second place in the women’s eight-day long RS:X event while Shahar Tzuberi was in 10th in the men’s competition.

The Israeli judo team was expected to do well after winning four medals in recent European matches, but judoka Alice Schlesinger was eliminated from competition early this week.

Political differences between Israel and its Arab neighbors came to London when the Lebanese judo team refused to practice next to the Israeli team. The Lebanese even erected a makeshift barrier to split their gym into two halves, according to the Times of Israel.

Meanwhile, even before the start of the Games, Iranian judo athlete Javad Mahjoob withdrew from the competition last week, citing “critical digestive system infection,” according to the Washington Post. That led to widespread speculation that Iran was maintaining a longstanding policy of not allowing its athletes to compete against Israelis.

At the Games, the American swimmers led all the way in the men’s 4×100-meter relay until Yannick Agnel of France pulled ahead of Ryan Lochte in the final lap. France finished first in 3 minutes 9.93 seconds, ahead of the United States (3:10.38) and Russia (3:11.41).

The French turned the tide on the Americans from four years ago in Beijing, when Lezak overtook the French world record-holder Alain Bernard in the final 25 meters despite being nearly a full body length behind him in the stretch. It was the fastest 100-meter freestyle split in history by nearly six-tenths of a second, and earned victory for the U.S. and kept alive Michael Phelps’ drive for a record-setting eight gold medals.

Lezak, though he did not swim in the relay on Sunday night, had helped his teammates Lochte and Phelps qualify in the morning preliminaries.

“The coaches had a tough decision to make with so many talented 100 freestylers and then the two best all-around swimmers in the world,” Lezak told FOXSports.com late Sunday via email. “Of course, I would have liked to be a part of the final. If you asked any of us who swam prelims they would have answered it the same.”

While he has not specifically said he would return for another Summer Games, Lezak, who was inducted into the National Jewish Hall of Fame in 2010, is the oldest member of the U.S. men’s swim team.

“As the body gets older, sometimes the mind wants to go hard for a lot longer. But I’ve learned over the course of the last several years how many laps is enough, how many is too much,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Since his historic comeback at the Beijing Olympics, Lezak has participated in Israel’s Maccabiah Games, winning four gold medals last summer, and taught swimming clinics for neighborhood kids at the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County in Southern California. He has two children and is an active member of Temple Isaiah in Newport Beach, Calif.

“It’s something for me to get in touch more with Jewish kids and hopefully inspire them,” he said in 2009. “I really didn’t have anyone like that growing up.”

Raisman scored 15.300 in the floor exercise to win the event, performing her routine to a string-heavy version of “Hava Nagila” as she did on Sunday. Raisman also had performed to “Hava Nagila” when she gained a berth on the U.S. team last year.

She is trained by Mihai and Sylvia Brestyan, the Romanian couple who coached the Israeli national team in the early 1990s. The coaches and her mother selected “Hava Nagila” after several exhaustive late-night online searches, they told JTA last year.

She is proud to be using the Jewish song “because there aren’t too many Jewish elites out there,” Raisman told JTA last year. And, she added, “I like how the crowd can clap to it.”

Raisman is a recipient of the Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award given out by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in New York.

Other notable performances of Jewish athletes included U.S. fencer Timothy Morhouse, who lost to Italy’s Diego Occhiuzzi in the quarterfinals.

In tennis, Israel’s Shahar Peer was eliminated by Russia’s Maria Sharapova, one of the top-ranked players in the world. Peer is winless against Sharapova in seven matches.

In men’s gymnastics, Israel’s Alex Shatilov qualified for the finals of the floor exercise after finishing fourth overall. He also qualified for Wednesday’s all-around individual final after finishing 12th overall.

In men’s rowing, David Banks of the U.S. team finished first in the preliminaries and qualified for the finals.


For more Olympics coverage, visit jewishjournal.com/Olympics.


Australian Jewish leaders call for national minute of silence


Australian Jewish leaders have urged all Australians to hold a moment of silence in honor of the 11 Israelis murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In a joint statement released Tuesday, Dr. Danny Lamm, head of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and Philip Chester, head of the Zionist Federation of Australia, encouraged Australians to pause at 11 a.m. local time Friday in memory of the victims. The Jewish leaders also said that they “deplore” IOC President Jacques Rogge’s refusal to hold one minute of silence at Friday’s opening ceremony in London.

“The legislatures of Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany and Italy have passed resolutions calling on the IOC to set aside one minute of silence at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Games to remember the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Olympic Games in Munich 40 years ago,” Lamm and Chester wrote. “Their calls have been endorsed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, among others. We salute them for their principled leadership.

“May their memory help to advance the highest ideals of sport and sportsmanship which the Olympic Games were created to affirm.”

Meanwhile, Jewish lawmaker Michael Danby has added his name to a petition by the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians also calling on Rogge to hold a minute of silence in London on Friday.

On Monday, Rogge held a moment of silence during a ceremony in the Olympic Village, the first time the deaths have been commemorated in the athletes’ home during the Games.

Where are the Munich elegies?


This year, Tisha b’Av marks not only the destruction of both Temples, but with the opening ceremony of the London Olympics just a night earlier, the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre.

On this day of mourning and fasting, which begins at sundown on Saturday, how can we remember the tragedy of the 1972 Summer Olympics, when 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered?

The International Olympic Committee has rejected a call for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony in memory of those killed, announcing instead a tribute in Munich and holding a ceremony on Monday at the Olympic Village with remarks by the IOC’s chief, Jacques Rogge.

Even in 1972, I was already having trouble remembering.

Returning to UCLA my sophomore year, just weeks after the tragedy, I remember being pushed by more serious minds into working on an issue of the school’s Jewish student newspaper, Ha’Am, which at its center had a spread titled “Post Olympic Outpour.” At first I resisted, thinking “Why do I need to go through the pain all over again?”

Now, 40 years later, I wonder how many of us are still resisting that pain.

Traditionally on Tisha b’Av, we remember our tragedies by sitting on low seats or the floor, lowering the lights and chanting in a mournful trope the book of Eicha (Lamentations). In many communities, elegies called kinot are chanted as well that commemorate such tragic events as the public burning of the Torah in Paris, the massacre of German Jews during the first Crusades, the Ten Martyrs (which you may recall from the Yom Kippur Martyrology service), the York massacre and, more recently, the Holocaust.

In 2012, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, writing in Jewish Action, the magazine of the Orthodox Union, described the emotional impact of the kinot.

“All the kinot, regardless of who the author may be, express strong feelings of loss, grief and despair,” he wrote. “On Tishah B’Av day, the reader must come away from a reading of the poems with similar feelings.”

Weinreb went on to say that after studying the kinot texts over a course of months, he found himself “spiritually exhausted by the process,” holding on to “those few phrases of hope with which almost all the kinot conclude.”

It is from the intent of the kinot that I think we can find an inspiration for a different form of Munich elegy.

A formal kinah commemorating the Munich 11 has yet to enter the liturgy—if someone has written one please email me—but other forms, though not formal kinot, can help us process our feelings of loss and despair. For example, the personal tragic stories told through films can touch us, moving us toward memory.

In England on Tisha b’Av, the New London Synagogue about 10 miles from the Olympic Village will be showing the Academy Award-winning documentary “One Day in September.” Released in 1999, it’s a film that, while making points about the Palestinian terrorists and botched German police work, mourns the victims by recounting the story of Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer and his wife, Ankie.

Another film that like an elegy re-enacts the tragedy, Spielberg’s 2005 “Munich”—it also has a fictionalized account of Israel’s response—will be shown at Temple Concord in Syracuse, N.Y.

The audience for these two films, sitting in a darkened setting, drawn together to listen and watch the story being retold, will be reminded of a different Jewish theme internalized when we hear the kinot chanted—we do not remember and mourn alone.

For most of us, writing a kinah would be a challenge, but adding a line to a petition asking for a moment of silence presented by Ankie Spitzer might be a way to get in the spirit of it. When I read the comments on the petition site, they seemed to form a kind of people’s elegy of prayer, memory and anger:

“I was there, I felt it, I cried for it, I still pray for all them,” Johanna Bronsztein wrote.

“We must never forget and forever respect,” Brenda Rezak wrote.

Jeri Roth adds, “If these people had been any other nationality, we wouldn’t have to ask for a moment of silence.”

Yet for many of us, home on Sunday, watching the Summer Olympics’ events on TV— archery, fencing, weightlifting—in our own darkened rooms, it’s all too easy to forget.

With so much Olympic pageantry and competition, with the promise of gold, silver and bronze to divert me, I will need my own kinah to pull me back to a zone of “Never forget”—a simple list to remember what happened 40 summers ago. Sometime that day, resistance gone, I will try to touch again the loss I felt in 1972.

I will read the names:

Moshe Weinberg, wrestling coach
Yossef Romano, Ze’ev Friedman and David Berger, weightlifters
Yakov Springer, weightlifting judge
Eliezer Halfin and Mark Slavin, wrestlers
Yossef Gutfreund, wrestling referee
Kehat Shorr, shooting coach
Andrei Spitzer, fencing coach
Amitzur Shapira, track coach

Will this simple act also allow me to dream that a tragedy like this will not be repeated? That is my hope.

Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at edmojace@gmail.com.

Racism scandal dogs Australia’s only Jewish Olympic athlete


The only Jewish athlete on Australia’s Olympic team unwittingly has been drawn into a racism scandal on the eve of the London Games.

Steven Solomon, 19, of Sydney, was selected to represent Australia in the 400-meter race ahead of John Steffensen, a 29-year-old Australian of South African descent, who defeated Solomon at the Olympic trials earlier this year, though neither had the needed qualifying time.

But Solomon won the bronze medal at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Barcelona last weekend with a personal best time and anchored the 4×400-meter relay team to fourth place, prompting Athletics Australia officials to call him their “rising star.”

Steffensen, who won a silver medal in the relays at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and two Commonwealth gold medals, threatened to boycott the London Games after he heard the decision.

“I’ve put up with being racially vilified by this federation, being discriminated against on many teams,” Steffensen, who has aboriginal ancestry, said of Athletics Australia. “You know it would help if I was a different color.”

Steffensen on Monday said he was given a provisional entry for the 400 meters by Athletics Australia, Reuters reported. But the news service reported that AA chief executive Dallas O’Brien told Fox Sports TV that “it is very clear at the moment that Steve is the first and only choice from Athletics Australia selectors.”

Solomon, who was captain of the Australian junior football team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, has not been drawn into the scandal. Both runners have been selected for the 4×400 relay.

Remarkably, Solomon did not have any formal athletics training before 2009. After the Games, he will accept a scholarship to study medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

America’s Jewish Olympians head to London with Jewish pride


Jason Lezak—no newcomer to Olympic glory—recognizes the difficulty in returning to the medal stand at the London Games.

“I definitely would hope to … get onto the podium there and win a medal for the USA,” Lezak, a seven-time Olympic medalist, told JTA on Tuesday from the U.S. swim team’s training camp in France. “With Australia, France and Russia, there’s going to be a lot of tight competition, and it’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure.”

The Jewish swimmer, the winner of four Olympic gold medals, will race for the United States in the 400-meter freestyle relay—the event in which he provided one of the most enduring moments of the 2008 Games in Beijing. His frenetic sprint to the finish in the last leg, overcoming world record-holder Alain Bernard, earned victory for the U.S. and kept alive Michael Phelps’ drive for a record-setting eight gold medals.

This year, in his fourth Olympics, the 36-year-old Lezak is one of five captains for the 530-member American squad. Fellow Jews joining Lezak on the U.S. contingent at the London Games, which has its opening ceremonies on July 27, include swimmer Anthony Ervin, gymnasts Alexandra Raisman and Julie Zetlin, rower David Banks, fencer Tim Morehouse and fencing coach Yury Gelman.

(Illinois-born Jillian Schwartz, a pole vaulter on the American team at the 2004 Athens Olympics, will be representing Israel.)

Some touted Jewish athletes didn’t make the cut this time. They include swimmers Dara Torres (five Olympics, 12 medals), Garret Weber-Gale (two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games), Andrea Murez (2012 NCAA champion in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays), Daniel Madwed (2012 Big Ten champion in four events) and Eric Friedland. Also not heading to London to compete are soccer player Yael Averbuch and gymnast David Sender.

For Robert Dover, who won four medals while competing in equestrian events in six Olympics for the United States, the road to Olympic glory began on Grand Bahama Island in 1969, where he celebrated his bar mitzvah. The event became unforgettable when his parents arranged for a horse to be flown in as the boy’s present.

“It was a great first horse for me. His name was Ebony Cash,” said Dover,  who grew up in Chicago and Toronto and is now heading to his seventh Olympics—for the first time as a coach and this time for Canada’s equestrian team.

Like Lezak, Gelman is heading to his fourth Olympics, all as a coach. He taught fencing to elite athletes in his native Kiev, then moved to New York in 1991. He couldn’t find work in America in his field, so Gelman spent a year-and-ahalf selling doughnuts at a flea market along a New Jersey highway.

Gelman would go on to serve 17 years as the fencing coach at St. John’s University in New York, and in 2007 he opened the Manhattan Fencing Center.

Morehouse and three other Gelman proteges qualified for London, where the fencing events will begin on July 29.

Robert Dover. Photo by Mary Phelps Photography

“I’m very proud of our group, and we’ll try our best,” said Gelman.

The Brooklyn resident does not belong to a synagogue or other Jewish groups, which he attributes to the Soviet repression that affected his late parents, Wolf and Malvina. Both were loath to introduce Judaism to their children because of the negative repercussions, he said.

“In the Soviet Union, we weren’t religious. It was prohibited,” Gelman said. “The Kiev synagogue was pretty far from where I lived. My parents never talked about it.”

Wolf and his sister were the only ones in their family to survive the Nazi massacre of Jews in the village of Gaisen, Ukraine. Gelman remembers his maternal grandmother, Esther Krakovitch, bringing matzah to their home for Jewish occasions, but he didn’t know anything about the Passover holiday to which, he later learned, the food correlated.

Dover does sometimes attend synagogue services in Wellington, Fla., the horse country where he lives most of the year. He says he is proud to be a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

“There are many more Jews in the sport than people know of,” Dover said.

In a best-case Olympics scenario, Dover said, Canada’s performance in Greenwich Park’s dressage arena will continue an upswing that saw the country attain seventh place at the world championships two years ago—its highest finish since 1988. Earning a bronze medal in London might take “almost a miracle,” he said, with England, Germany and either Demark or the Netherlands the favorites.

Even while coaching Canada’s three equestrians, Dover’s heart will remain stateside. His parents, who live in Austin, Texas, are ailing. So before heading overseas, he will visit his father, Herbert, 89, who lives in a treatment facility for Alzheimer’s patients. His mother, Jean, 84, has seen her body ravaged by the breast cancer she first fought four decades ago.

Dover believes that his mother, who lives nearby with his sister, is hanging on to watch her son compete one final time—this time on television instead of in person.

“My mom—I believe it will be the last time I will see her,” he said from his summer home in Fire Island, N.Y. “She’ll watch on TV. It’ll be live-streamed. That’s why she’s still here. She’s here until the Olympics.”

He adds, “It’s probably the hardest time in my life right now. They’ve both been quite amazing for me. They came to all but one of my Olympics and all but one of my world championships.”

Dover, who served as U.S. equestrian captain at each of his six Olympics, recalled meetings with captains of the sports teams to select the country’s flag bearer for the opening ceremonies.

“The stories you hear about the various people and what they’ve done and their hardships—it’s something that leaves your mouth hanging open,” he says. “They are extraordinary people.”

For his part, Lezak also is one of many Jewish Olympians – including nine-time gold medalist Mark Spitz – who have competed in Israel’s Maccabiah Games.

A member of Temple Isaiah in Newport Beach, Cal., Lezak lit the torch to start the 2009 Maccabiah near Tel Aviv. He has followed reports of the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to honor the memories of the 11 Israeli Olympians murdered at the Munich Games 40 years ago with a moment of silence.

Lezak is still hopeful that the IOC will make what he called the “right decision” in London.

“It would be nice, in my opinion, to have that moment of silence, but there are also people out there who would hate for that to happen,” he said, adding that the IOC “would have to weigh all the positives and negatives of both sides. I cannot make that decision. [The IOC is] in a no-win situation.”

London Jewish community, already vigilant, is advised to beef up security for Olympics


Typically on high alert, London’s Jewish community organizations are being advised to take additional security measures during the Olympics.

The Community Security Trust, the charity that represents and recommends the community on matters of security, has told Jewish groups to implement or increase patrols around their buildings. CST’s guidelines also remind community groups of basic security steps such as questioning visitors to community buildings, not congregating outside and ensuring that all security equipment is working.

“We are not aware of any specific threats related to the Jewish community,” emphasized Dave Rich, the CST’s deputy director of communications. “This is the normal kind of advice we would give to people when there are high-profile events taking place in London. There might be some anti-Israel demonstrations, but we are not expecting massive disruptions.”

The London Jewish community’s security infrastructure already is highly developed, with guards posted outside nearly every synagogue, school and community building. Additionally, CST-trained volunteers help to secure major community events.

Among the concerns is that the high volume of overseas visitors expected at Jewish community venues during the Games will present a security challenge. In addition, the security alert for the entire city may be raised.

“There is no doubt that the Jewish community needs to be vigilant, but there is nothing new in that,” said Hagai Segal, a lecturer at New York University in London and a consultant on Middle Eastern affairs and terrorism. “There is no evidence of any specific targeting of the Jewish community or of terror attacks being planned in general, either.”

Pointing to the general security operation in London that is “unprecedented in British history,” he said, “When the country is better protected, the Jewish community is better protected, too.”

In the absence of a specific threat, Segal added, the Jewish community has no need to increase its security arrangements significantly, as they are already so extensive.

“The community has had to get used to having patrols around synagogues and a system for the reporting of anti-Semitism, and it is recognized as having one of the best community security systems anywhere,” he said. “The London Metropolitan Police actually uses the CST as an example of efficient community policing. The community is expert in this area, which ensures that when there are special events in the city, they don’t have to do much more.”

Similarly, he said, London as a whole had been operating at the highest or second-highest level of threat assessment since the subway and bus bombings on July 7, 2005, and is also accustomed to extensive counterterror measures.

“A lot has been learned since 7/7. The UK has become very good at counterterrorism,” Segal said.

Meanwhile, the details regarding security for the Israeli delegation to the Olympics are being closely guarded.

Efraim Zinger, secretary-general of the Israeli Olympic Committee and head of the Israeli Olympic delegation, would confirm only that the British were responsible for the team’s security and that the delegation would not be housed in a separate building in the Olympic Village.

“We are closely following the security measures taken by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and by the British government,” Ziniger said. “We really appreciate the enormous effort and money that is being invested. They know how to do this work and we trust them.”

He acknowledged that a large event like the Olympics was “naturally very attractive for the bad guys,” but said that the threat was not just to Israel, as the British and Americans could be targeted as well.

“There is complete cooperation in all areas, we have open channels,” Zinger said. “Those who need to protect the Games are concentrating on that and doing an excellent job. We are concentrating on our sportspeople doing an excellent job.”

The operation to secure London as a whole will be the most expensive in British history, costing $1.55 billion. Some 17,000 troops, 12,500 policemen and 7,000 security guards will be posted in the city, which has been nicknamed “Fortress London,” while an aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames River, surface-to-air missiles will be deployed at six sites and unmanned drones with surveillance cameras will patrol the skies. 

Nevertheless, the security arrangements have been severely criticized in recent weeks after it emerged that the company contracted to protect the Olympic Park and stadiums failed to deliver enough personnel. The government has deployed 3,500 more troops than originally planned and warned that more might be necessary

Nerves were rattled earlier this month after six Islamist extremists were arrested in London over a possible terror plot. Three lived just a mile from the Olympic stadium. However, the London Metropolitan Police said the arrests were not linked to the Olympics.

Maccabiah Results: Team USA Wins 82 Medals in the First Full Week of Competition


Tel Aviv, Israel, July, 21 – Team USA has won 25 Gold, 26 Silver and 31 Bronze Medals in the first full week of competition at the 18th Maccabiah Games.  Competition began on Sunday, July 12 and in addition to the medal count, both Jason Lezak and Andrea Murez broke Maccabiah Records in their first day of competition on July 19.  Lezak won the Gold in the 100m Freestyle with a time of 47:8 and Murez won the Gold in the 100m Freestyle with a time of 56:4, both athletes breaking all previous Maccabiah records. – Maccabiah USA Press Release 

Highlights

Gold

Michael Hauss (Huntington Beach) 100m Freestyle,  Swimming (junior)
” title=”Andrea Murez” target=”_blank”>Andrea Murez (Venice) 100m Freestyle, Swimming (open)

Silver

Andrey Baranchik (Los Angeles) Discus Throw – Male, Track and Field (junior)
Michael Hauss (Huntington Beach)  200m Butterfly, Swimming (junior)
Naomi Javanifard (Goleta) 100m Freestyle, Swimming (open)
Daniel Silver (Pasadena) 1500m – Male, Track and Field (junior)
Brianna Weinstein (Irvine, CA) 200m Breastroke, Swimming (junior)

Complete list of U.S. winners.

Gold
Adleberg, Samantha T&F – Open 800m – Femaile Washington, DC
Cohen, Alexander Swimming – Juniors 200m Butterfly Woodstock, GA
Emrani, Dustin T&F – Open 800m Male Kings Point, NY
Frankl, David Gymnastics – Junior All-around Franklin Lakes, NJ
Goldman, Jason Wrestling – Open Free Binghampton, NY
Hauss, Michael Swimming – Juniors 100m Freestyle Huntington Beach, CA
Karosas, Tasija Swimming – Juniors 200m Backstroke Stowe, VT
Levere, Jacqueline Swimming – Juniors 200m Breastroke Los Altos, CA
Lewinson, Rebecca Swimming – Open 200m Breastroke West Windsor, NJ
Lezak, Jason Swimming – Open 100m Freestyle Irvine, CA
Meltzer, Max Wrestling – Open Greco Bethesda, MD
Mitchell, Haley Swimming – Open 200m Backstroke Walled Lake, MI
Murez, Andrea Swimming – Open 100m Freestyle Venice, CA
Ratner, Noah Juniors Golf Overall Asheville, NC
Schwartz, Jillian T&F – Open Pole Vault Female New York, NY
Sender, David Gymnastics – Open Rings Arlington Hts, IL
Sender, David Gymnastics – Open Vaulting Arlington Hts, IL
Sender, David Gymnastics – Open Horizontal Bar Arlington Hts, IL
Silver, Evan Wrestling – Open Free Chevy Chase, MD
Silver, Evan Wrestling – Open Greco Chevy Chase, MD
Steinberg, Galina Triathlon – Masters Age 40 -44 San Diego, CA
Stuckelman, Mark Triathlon – Masters Age 45 -49 Del Mar, CA
Tanenbaum, Jacob Wrestling – Open Free San Luis Obispo, CA
Tanenbaum, Jacob Wrestling – Open Greco San Luis Obispo, CA
USA Team T&F – Open 4x400relay – Female
USA Team T&F – Open 4×400 – male
USA Team Juniors Golf Overall

Silver
Adleberg, Samantha T&F – Open 400m – Female Washington, DC
Baranchik, Andrey Junior T&F Discus Throw Male Los Angeles, CA
Bernstein, Eden Wrestling – Open Free Allen, TX
Cohen, Alexander Swimming – Juniors 100m Freestyle Woodstock, GA
Cohen, Alexander Swimming – Juniors 200m Backstroke Woodstock, GA
Ehrlich, Marjee Swimming – Juniors 200m Backstroke Cherry Hill, NJ
Emrani, Dustin T&F – Open 400m – Male Kings Point, NY
Freidman, Simone Gymnastics – Junior Uneven Bars Annadale, VA
Freidman, Simone Gymnastics – Junior Floor Annadale, VA
Gordon, Ilana Gymnastics – Junior Vaulting San Carlos, CA
Hauss, Michael Swimming – Juniors 200m Butterfly Huntington Beach, CA
Javanifard, Naomi Swimming – Open 100m Freestyle Goleta, CA
Kessler, Rachel Swimming – Open 200m Butterfly New Rochelle, NY
Lipp, Jordan Wrestling – Open Free Beachwood, OH
Pierce, Katherine T&F – Open 5000m Female Alfred, ME
Sender, David Gymnastics – Open Singles Arlington Hts, IL
Sender, David Gymnastics – Open Pummel Horse Arlington Hts, IL
Sharkey, Bryan T&F – Open 1500m – Male Miami, FL
Silver, Daniel Junior T&F 1500m – Male Pasadena, CA
Solomon, Eva Triathlon – Masters Age 40 -44 Ann Arbor, MI
Sugarman, Robert Triathlon – Masters Age 70 – 79 New York, NY
USA Team Junior T&F 4x400relay – Male
USA Team Junior T&F 4x400relay – Female
USA Team T&F – Open 4×100 – Female
USA Team T&F – Open 4×100 – male
Weinstein, Brianna Swimming – Juniors 200m Breastroke Irvine, CA

Bronze
Davidson, Jacob Swimming – Juniors 200m Butterfly Rochester, MN
Evans, Matthew T&F – Open Long Jump Weston, FL
Feingold, Julie Swimming – Open 200m Breastroke Munster,IN
Fellman, Robert T&F – Open High Jump – Male Boca Raton, FL
Fellman, Robert T&F – Open Discus Throw Boca Raton, FL
Fellman, Robert T&F – Open Javelin – Male Boca Raton, FL
Foreman, Jessica T&F – Open 100m – Female Wayland, MA
Foreman, Jessica T&F – Open 200m Female Wayland, MA
Frankl, David Gymnastics – Open Pummel Horse Franklin Lakes, NJ
Frankl, David Gymnastics – Open Parallel Bars Franklin Lakes, NJ
Goldfarb, Aly T&F – Open Pole Vault Female Birmingham, AL
Goldfarb, Aly T&F – Open 400m – Female Birmingham, AL
Gordon, Seri T&F – Open 800m – Femaile Niskyuna, NY
Grossman, Jared Wrestling – Open Free Oyster Bay, NY
Hammond, Zach Wrestling – Open Free Mays Landing, NJ
Hammond, Zach Wrestling – Open Greco Mays Landing, NJ
Kraus, David Wrestling – Open Free Baltimore, MD
Langefeld, Andrew Swimming – Open 200m Butterfly West Lafayette, IN
Lauder, Laura Cycling – Female Tt- 30-49 Atherton, CA
Levine, David Triathlon – Open Age – 18 – 19 Sprint Charlotte, NC
Lipp, Jordan Wrestling – Open Greco Beachwood, OH
Lipp, Kevin Wrestling – Open Free Beachwood, OH
Merrill, Jeff T&F – Open 800m – Male Ann Arbor, MI
Merrill, Jeffrey T&F – Open 800m Male Ann Arbor, MI
Popper, Hannah Gymnastics – Junior Floor Forest Hills, NY
Silver, Kevin T&F – Open 5000m – Male Beachwood, OH
Steves, Joshua Gymnastics – Junior All-around Houston, TX
Steves, Joshua Gymnastics – Open Vaulting Houston, TX
Ungar, Joshua Gymnastics – Open Horizontal Bar Longmeadow, MA
USA Team T&F – Open 4×400 – male
Weinstein, Jeffrey T&F – Open 10000 – Male Philadelelphia PA

VIDEO: Virtual Rabbi David presents ‘The Jewish Olympics’


Virtual Rabbi (and Olympics fan) David Paskin presents a Shabbat message based on the determination and dedication of Olympic athletes.

David Paskin, or Rabbi David as he is known by his congregants, is an accomplished spiritual leader, singer/songwriter, entertainer and award-winning Jewish educator. For more than a decade, David has served as full-time Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Abraham in Canton, Massachusetts

 

VIDEO: Heeb Olympics 2008 — Gefilte Fish Wrestling




Four modern-day gladiators do battle for the gold (a lifetime supply of Gold’s mustard) in the Heeb Olympics. For more information, check out www.heebmagazine.com.

Sunday wrapup from Beijing: U.S. swimmer Torres wins two silvers; Israelis lag


BEIJING (JTA)—United States’ swimmer Dara Torres won two more silver medals in Beijing.

Torres won the medals Sunday in the Women’s 50m Freestyle and the Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay.

Jewish-American swimmers Jason Lezak and Garret Weber-Gale both added another gold medal to their collection, joining Michael Phelps and teammates to win the Men’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay.

Israeli athletes did not fare as well Sunday. Alex Shatilov finished last in the Men’s Floor Exercise final, the only apparatus final the Israeli gymnast qualified for in the Beijing Games.

Shatilov fell on his final landing, and received a score of 14.125 after a .400 penalty. The gold medalist in the event was Zou Kai of China, with a total score of 16.050.

Shooter Doron Egozi finished 36th, while Gil Simkovitch finished 38th, in the Men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions event. Shooters Guy Starik and Simkovich also competed Friday in the Men’s 50m Rifle Prone qualification round, but neither advanced to the final. Starik came in 12th with a score of 594, while Simkovich came in 22nd with 592 points. This finish was an improvement on Starik’s Athens finish of 16th. He joins sailor Yoel Selais as the only Israelis to compete in four Olympics.

Israeli windsurfer Shahar Zubari, who was leading in first place after five races, slipped to third place after his seventh race in the Men’s RS:X competition. Zubari finished 17th in race 5, sixth in race 6, and 19th in race 7. He was able to maintain a first place position after race 5 because he is allowed to drop his worst performance, but after continuing to perform outside of first place, he no longer retains his top rank.

Israeli windsurfer Maayan Davidovitch is 14th in the Women’s RS:X competition after seven races.

Israeli sailing duo Nike Kornecky and Vered Bouskila finished their eighth race in first place, and moved up to number three in the ranking of the Women’s 470 two-person dinghy event. With two more races until the top ten boats in the fleet qualify for the medal race on Monday, the Israeli pair looks solid for advancement.

Mark Spitz: Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete ever


His hair is gray, the 70s mustache is history, he’s taking medication to control his cholesterol, and depending when you ask, iconic Jewish Olympian Mark Spitz is really pleased with the way the U.S. Olympics swimming team has fared this Summer.

Spitz on Phelps according to Wikipedia:

Spitz told AFP he felt snubbed about not being asked to attend the 2008 Olympics to watch Michael Phelps attempt to break his record of seven gold medals.

“I never got invited. You don’t go to the Olympics just to say, I am going to go. Especially because of who I am….I am going to sit there and watch Michael Phelps break my record anonymously? That’s almost demeaning to me. It is not almost—it is.”

Spitz also says he could have won eight gold medals if given the chance. “I won seven events. If they had the 50m freestyle back then, which they do now, I probably would have won that too,” he said. And Spitz thinks Phelps will succeed, “he’s almost identical to me. He’s a world-record holder in all these events, so he is dominating the events just like I did,” Spitz said. “He reminds me of myself.”

Other than to pose for an odd picture with Phelps, Spitz does not have much interaction with the superstar. “He’s not sitting down with me asking for advice,” he said.

“They voted me one of the top five Olympians in all time. Some of them are dead. But they invited the other ones to go to the Olympics, but not me,” he said. “Yes, I am a bit upset about it.”

On August 14, Spitz appeared on NBC’s Today Show where he clarified his statement and his pride in Michael Phelps:

It’s about time that somebody else takes the throne. And I’m very happy for him. I really, truly am…I was working with a corporate sponsor who elected not to bring their US contingent over to China, and they piled on more work for me here in the United States, which was great. So I wasn’t able to get to the Olympics and watch Michael in the first couple of days. And they thought, some of these reporters, that I was supposed to be invited by some entity, and I told them that that wasn’t really the case, that doesn’t happen that way. And so, I’m sort of disappointed that I wasn’t there, but, you know, that interview somehow took a different turn, and I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of them and I’ve been true to form about the way I feel about Michael, and he’s doing a great job for the United States and inspiring a lot of great performances by the other team members.

Also on August 14, 2008, in an interview aired on Los Angeles KNBC-4’s morning news show, Today in L.A., Spitz was quoted saying he does believe that, “Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete ever.”

On August 15, 2008, as part of an interview on NBC, Spitz said that he felt Phelps’ performance in the 100 fly in Beijing was “epic”. Spitz paid this compliment to Phelps just two hours after his record-tying seventh gold medal during a live joint interview with Bob Costas:

You know, Bob and Michael, I wondered what I was going to say at this monumental time, when it would happen and who I would say it to, and of course I thought I was going to say it to you for some time now. But, it’s the word that comes to mind, “epic”. What you did tonight was epic, and it was epic for the whole world to see how great you really are. I never thought for one moment that you were out of that race and contention, because I watched you at Athens win the race by similarALTTEXT margins, and 18 months ago at the World’s by similar margins. And, you know, that is a tribute to your greatness. And now the whole world knows. We are so proud of you Michael here in America, and we are so proud of you and the way that you handle yourself, and you represent such an inspiration to all the youngsters around the world. You know, you weren’t born when I did what I did, and I’m sure that I was a part of your inspiration, and I take that as a full compliment. And they say that you judge one’s character by the company you keep, and I’m happy to keep company with you. And you have a tremendous responsibility for all those people that you are going to inspire over the next number of years, and I know that you will wear the crown well. Congratulations, Mike.

Spitz’s remarks came after another record-breaking anchor sprint by Jewish gold medal winnner Jason Lezak (photo, right) helped Phelps win his record-breaking eight gold. Lezak had earlier earned a bronze in his first individual medal win.

The NY Daily News wrote:

You just wonder how the Olympics will go on now without Michael Phelps. He leaped into the water one last time Sunday morning – the third, butterfly leg of the 4×100 relay. He started in third place and clambered out in first, after 100meters of flapping and kicking and swimming the lights out. Phelps grabbed the lead and then his old wing man, Jason Lezak, did the rest again.

Another American Jewish swimming star, Los Angeles-born Dara Torres, a 41-year old mom, was edged by .01 second and garnered a silver—the same margin that kept Michael Phelps on course to break Mark Spitz’s record, wrote the Los Angeles Times:

The five-time Olympian and the oldest American swimmer ever, settled for a silver when Germany’s Britta Steffen nipped her at the wall in the 50-meter freestyle to complete a sweep of the women’s sprint events in Beijing.

ALTTEXT

USA’s Dara Torres wins silver in the Women’s 50m freestyle. Image courtesy LATimes.com

 

Jason Lezak earns first individual medal


BEIJING (JTA)—Jewish Olympic swimmer Jason Lezak followed up his relay heroics with a bronze medal in the 100-meter men’s freestyle.

Lezak, whose late dash in the 4 x 100-meter men’s freestyle relay propelled the U.S. team to the gold medal and a world record, finished in a time of 47.67 seconds Wednesday at the Water Cube in Beijing. He trailed Alain Bernard of France at 47.21 seconds and Australian Eamon Sullivan at 47.32.

For Lezak, at 32 the oldest male swimmer to ever qualify for an Olympic team, it was his first individual medal in his third Olympic Games. He had won five relay medals, including three gold.

“That’s what’s been driving me the last four years since Athens,” Lezak said when asked how it feels to earn his first individual medal.  “It definitely feels good.”

Lezak, of Irvine, Calif., had overtaken Bernard in Monday’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Bernard and Sullivan had exchanged the world record in the semifinals.

Net losses for Israelis at Olympics


BEIJING (JTA)—Israel’s tennis players were eliminated from the Beijing Olympics.

Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, the third-seeded men’s doubles team with perhaps the best chance at a medal among the Israelis on the court, were upset Tuesday by the unseeded tandem of Arnaud Clement and Llodra Michael of France, 6-4, 6-4, in their first-round match.

Erlich and Ram had beaten the Frenchmen in January in the Australian Open final to give Israel its first Grand Slam title.

Also Tuesday, Tzipora Obziler fell to Mariya Koryttseva of Ukraine, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4, in a grueling three-hour women’s singles match. The deciding set lasted an hour, 6 minutes.

That same evening, Obziler and Shahar Peer dropped a women’s double match, 6-3, 6-2, to Gisela Dulko and Betina Jozami of Argentina.

Peer, the 24th seed in women’s singles, was eliminated in the second round Monday by Russia’s Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 7-6. The second set took 1:11.

Peer had won her first-round match, 6-3, 5-7, 6-0, over Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

Report from Beijing: Swapping old Jewish swim records for new ones


BEIJING (JTA)—Jewish-American swimmers Garret Weber-Gale and Jason Lezak, along with Cullen Jones and the unstoppable Olympic champion Michael Phelps, made history in the pool on Monday, August 11.

The US relay team won the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay and smashed the world record by nearly four seconds on their way to the gold.

In a strange Jewish sports irony, the gold for this half-Jewish team may come at a price to the legacy of an iconic Jewish sports figure.

Phelps needed this gold medal to help him on his quest to break legendary Jewish swimmer Mark Spitz’s 36- year-old ” alt=”ALTTEXT” width=”432″ height=”441″ />

Mark Spitz, sports icon

Irvine’s Jason Lezak anchors 400-meter relay swim team for the gold


“I can’t even explain it, it was unreal. I’ve been a part of the two teams at the last two Olympics that came out behind, and I think I wanted it more than anybody, not just for myself, but to show that we are the nation to be beat in that relay, ” Jason Lezak told the Los Angeles Times

Lezak swam the final lap for the 400-meter team (including Michael Phelps), which won another gold for the U.S. That makes three Jewish medallists to date; Americans swimmer Dara Torres, swimming relay, and Sada Jacobson, fencing, have both earned silver.

Lezak, born in Irvine, has four Olympic medals. He was on a gold-medal-winning medley relay team, and won gold as a member of the medley relay team in Sydney.

He also has a silver medal from swimming on the 4×100 freestyle relay in Sydney and a bronze in the same event from Athens.

Lezak and another Jewish swimmer, Garrett Weber-Gale, comprised half the U.S. squad with Michael Phelps and Cullen Jones. The Americans finished Monday’s race in 3:08.24, erasing the world mark by about 4 seconds.

Lezak swam 46.06 seconds in managing to overtake world record-holder Alain Bernard of France. Lezak, who picked up his third career gold medal, trailed by nearly a second heading into the final lap. His time would have beaten his American record in the 100 freestyle.

Weber-Gale followed Phelps’ opening leg with a time of 47.02.

The U.S. team had beaten the world mark in the qualifying round with a team that did not include Lezak or Phelps but did have Ben Wildman-Tobriner, another Jewish swimmer.

Phelps has now earned two gold medals in his bid to win eight and break the mark of seven set by Mark Spitz, also a Jewish swimmer, in the 1972 Games in Munich.

VIDEO: What do the Chinese think of Jews?


Nation & World Briefs


Jewish Man’s Murder Angers Parisians

At least 1,200 people demonstrated in Paris on Sunday to show their anger at the murder of a Jewish man. Ilan Halimi, 23, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered. His body was found last week at a train station outside Paris. Halimi apparently was lured into a trap by a woman of North African origin who came into a Paris store where Halimi sold mobile phones. The demonstrators at Sunday’s protest shouted slogans and carrying banners that read “Justice for Ilan” and “Avenge Ilan!”

The French government is considering Halimi’s murder to be an anti-Semitic act. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Monday night that the minister of justice had ordered that Halimi’s death be considered “premeditated murder motivated by religious affiliation.”

Villepin spoke at the annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, or CRIF, the umbrella organization of secular French Jewish groups. In addition to pledging that the government would do its utmost to find Halimi’s killers, Villepin pledged that the French government would fight anti-Semitism throughout French society. The dinner, which was attended by some 800 ministers, elected officials, ambassadors and religious officials included Muslim representives from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Mauritania, Pakistan and Tunisia.

Holocaust Denier Sentenced

An Austrian court sentenced David Irving to three years in prison for denying the Holocaust. Irving, a British historian who pleaded guilty to the charges at the opening of the trial earlier on Monday, looked stunned in the crowded courtroom after the jury and three judges returned the sentence. Holocaust denial is a crime in Austria, a country once run by the Nazis. Irving was arrested in November when he came to Austria to give a lecture. The charges against him are based on a speech and interview from 1989 in Austria, in which he denied that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz. After he arrived at the court, Irving told reporters that he had changed some of his views since 1989 and now recognized that gas chambers had indeed existed and that “millions of Jews died, there is no question.”

Israel Cracks Down on Hamas

Israel decided to impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority as soon as Hamas takes over its government. Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Cabinet voted Sunday to stop the monthly transfer of tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority, to step up scrutiny over crossing points into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and to prevent entry into Israel by members of Hamas. The measures go into effect when Hamas, which won last month’s Palestinian Authority elections, forms the new government.

“It is clear that, given Hamas’ majority in the Palestinian Parliament and the fact that Hamas will form a government, the Palestinian Authority is effectively becoming a terrorist authority,” Olmert told fellow ministers.

The measures were not as tough as had been expected, especially after the Defense Ministry recommended a halt on entry to Israel by Palestinian workers. Israel has been under Western pressure to not impose sanctions severe enough to boost Hamas’ standing and increase pan-Arab and Iranian support for the Palestinian Authority.

Jewish Skater Earns a Silver

Jewish ice skater Ben Agosto and his partner, Tanith Belbin, earned a silver medal in ice dancing at the 2006 Olympics. Agosto and Belbin finished second to Russians Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov in the ice dancing competition, which concluded Monday. Agosto’s mother is Jewish and his father is Puerto Rican.

Zionist Congress Election Faces Low Turnout

The Feb. 28 deadline to vote for U.S. representatives to the World Zionist Organization’s (WZO) 35th Congress of the Jewish People is fast approaching, but the majority of American Jews seem largely disinterested. Of the estimated 5 million to 6 million Jews in the United States, less than 100,000 are expected to cast ballots by the deadline in an election that will choose 145 delegates from 12 groups that range from the Russian American Jews for Israel, to Religious Zionist Slate to the ARZA/World Union, the Reform movement’s slate.

If registration trends continue, it appears that fewer Jews will participate this year than in 2002, when nearly 89,000 voted. Five years earlier, almost 108,000 Jews cast ballots. Participation has drifted downward, despite an extensive media campaign by the American Zionist Movement (AZM), the WZO’s U.S. wing, to educate American Jews about the organization and to get the vote out. The WZO, which has an annual budget of $12.5 million, was founded in Switzerland by Theodor Herzl to support the creation of a Jewish homeland and now works to improve Disapora relations, combat anti-Semitism and to strengthen Jewish identity and education around the world, among other initiatives.

In addition, WZO members account for half the board of governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which encourages Jews to immigrate to the Jewish homeland and helps them resettle there. The projected low turnout in the current WZO election might reflect, among other things, a diminished emotional link to Zionism among younger American Jews, said Chani Monderer, election manager of the American Zionist Movement.

The 35th Congress meets in Jerusalem June 19-22.

Individuals 18 and older who accept Zionism can register and vote through the AZM at www.congressofthejewishpeople.org. Registration is $7 for the general public and $5 for students. –Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Anti-Israel Rally in Rome

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators burned Israeli and American flags during a march Feb. 18 through Rome, sponsored by several left-wing groups. Protesters chanted anti-Israel slogans and carried banners equating Israel’s security barrier to apartheid. At one point, three protesters, two of whose faces were hidden by kaffiyehs, burned and spat on an Israeli flag.

Bank Admits Nazi Ties

Germany’s Dresdner Bank helped finance the crematoriums at Auschwitz, according to a study commissioned by the bank. During the Nazi era, Dresdner was part of a construction company that built the crematoriums at the death camp in Poland, according to the report, which was released last week after seven years of research. The company also financed Nazi weapons plants and did business with Nazi-linked authorities in Eastern Europe.

“We accept these truths, even if they are painful,” said Wulf Meier, a Dresdner board member.

New Cartoon Furor in Russia

Russian human rights activists criticized the decision of provincial authorities to close down a newspaper that published a controversial cartoon of religious leaders. The Moscow Bureau on Human Rights said the decision to shut down the Gorodskie Vesti newspaper in the southern city of Volgograd was a show of “incompetence” and epitomized the inability of local officials to deal with interfaith issues. Last Friday, city authorities in Volgograd annulled the license of Gorodskie Vesti, which published a cartoon depicting Jesus, Moses, Buddha and Mohammed in front of a television showing two groups of people about to start a fight. The caption read: “We did not teach them to do that.” The decision to shut down the paper came despite the fact that no local religious community in Volgograd said it was offended by the cartoon. The officials stated the closure of the city-owned paper was needed to avoid “incitement of ethnic hostilities.” According to the Moscow Bureau on Human Rights, a group that monitors anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Russia, Volgograd officials never paid attention to another local newspaper, Kolokol, that over the years has consistently published anti-Semitic and xenophobic articles and published “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an anti-Semitic forgery.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Briefs


 

FBI Inquiry Into Expert’s Death

The FBI is investigating the death of an American Jewish terrorism expert. Jason Korsower, 29, died in his sleep in his Washington apartment Nov. 26. An autopsy has proven inconclusive, his family said, and the FBI is looking into his death. Citing policy, the FBI refused to confirm or deny that it was investigating the death of the Atlanta native. Korsower worked for the Investigative Project, which is run by Steve Emerson, an expert on Islamist terrorism who has received death threats.

British Academics Launch Boycott

A university in London hosted a conference to launch a fresh academic boycott of Israel. The event, titled “Resisting Israeli Apartheid: Strategies and Principles,” was held at the School of African and Oriental Studies on Sunday. Organized by the college’s Palestinian society, the meeting saw protests by Jewish and Israeli groups, which organized a counter-event calling for dialogue instead of sanctions. But conference organizers insisted that the new group, the British Committee for the Universities in Palestine, needed to take harsh measures to make a difference.

“We want people to think about the depth of the moral challenge of the boycott,” said the campaign coordinator, professor Hilary Rose, who along with her husband Steven began the boycott calls in a letter to the Guardian newspaper two years ago.

“It’s not an easy matter for any academic to do this, it’s a measure of our despair at the government’s inability to take the situation seriously and work for a just peace,” she added.

Kudos to Israel!

Israel received two awards in The Wall Street Journal’s 2004 Technology Innovation Awards competition: The Silver award went to Given Imaging Ltd. of Yoqneam, Israel for “PillCam,” a tiny camera that patients swallow so that doctors can see their digestive tract. And the Bronze award went to InSightec Image Guided Treatment Ltd. of Tirat Carmel, Israel for “ExAblate 2000,” a nonsurgical way to destroy tumors by focusing ultrasound waves on them.

Mubarak Pushes Peace

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is reportedly brokering peace among Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Arab world. The official Egyptian news agency MENA said this week that Mubarak had brought Israeli and Palestinian officials close to a cease-fire agreement that would pave the way for implementing the U.S.-led “road map” for peace. Jerusalem sources confirmed the report Wednesday, saying it was in line with Israel’s demand that the Palestinian Authority crack down on terrorism so the Jewish state can scale down its military countermeasures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mubarak also flew to Kuwait on Tuesday for what Ha’aretz said would be an effort to push Gulf states into normalizing ties with Israel. Cairo and Jerusalem did not comment, but the report appeared to be consistent with recent assertions by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom that, following the rapprochement with Egypt, as many as 10 Arab states could open diplomatic missions in Israel.

Shooting of Palestinian Probed

Israeli top brass are investigating whether shots fired accidentally by troops in the Gaza Strip killed a Palestinian youth. The probe was announced Wednesday after testimony surfaced linking the slaying last summer of a 15-year-old outside the Morag settlement to soldiers who were on a hike. The Palestinian’s father said the boy was hit seven times in the head by deliberate Israeli gunfire. Reports from inside the ranks indicated that one or more of the soldiers may have fired the shots for fun, and accidentally hit the youth.

Amir Fiancee Defends Her Man

Yigal Amir’s fiancee used an Internet blog to defend his assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“For Yigal, the religious and rational reasons were equally important,” Larissa Trimbobbler said Wednesday in a blog written in her native Russian. The Prisons Service has refused to allow conjugal visits for Amir, who is serving a life sentence in isolation for shooting Rabin dead during a 1995 rally celebrating the Oslo peace accords.

For Amir, “it was also important that most of the nation did not accept the Oslo accord which was ratified in the Knesset on the strength of Arab votes,” Trimbobbler wrote.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.