Aly Raisman joining ‘Dancing with the Stars’ cast


Aly Raisman, the Jewish gymnast who won three medals at last summer’s London Olympics, is joining the celebrity cast of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Raisman was among the cast revealed by “Good Morning America” on Tuesday for the show’s 16th season, which begins March 18. Others include former figure skating champion Dorothy Hamill, like Raisman an Olympic gold medalist.

Raisman rose to fame last summer with her gold medal in the floor routine performing to the Jewish classic “Hava Nagila,” and in helping the U.S. women's team take the gold. The Massachusetts native also said she supported a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli Olympians who were killed at the Munich Games in 1972.

On “Dancing with the Stars,” Raisman will be partnered with professional dancer Mark Ballas. Other celebrities slated for the cast include Jacoby Jones, a wide receiver for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens; country singers Wynonna Judd and Kellie Pickler; Zendaya Coleman of the Disney Channel; and  Lisa Vanderpump, star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Part of gold medal ‘belongs to Israel,’ Kiwi sailor Jo Aleh says


Jo Aleh, the New Zealand Jewish Olympian who won gold in the sailing regatta, said part of her medal “belongs to Israel.”

Aleh, the New Zealand-born daughter of dual Israeli and Kiwi citizens Shuki Shukrun and Daniella Aleh, clinched gold last week in the women’s 470 sailing event with her partner Olivia “Polly” Powrie. Her parents were on hand to witness the triumph.

The new Olympic champion—whose father lives in Moshav Yinon near Kiryat Malachi and whose mother served in the Israeli army—said she was amazed and slightly bemused at the media fanfare in Israel.

“It feels great to know that there is even more people behind me and, given my parents’ background, part of my medal belongs to Israel,” she said.

Aleh’s half-sister Shefa is celebrating her bat mitzvah in two weeks. Aleh, the 2007 world champion, was scheduled to go straight to Israel, but as one of five Kiwi gold medalists she is traveling back for parades in Auckland on Wednesday and the earthquake-ravaged city of Christchurch on Friday.

“I am still hoping to make it back to Israel in time for my sister’s bat mitzvah,” she said.

In New Zealand, it was after midnight Aug. 10 as many in the small Jewish community, which numbers around 7,000, celebrated a slice of their own history: Aleh is believed to be the first Kiwi Jew to win an Olympic medal.

“I was not aware of this,” Aleh said. “I guess it’s a good bonus.”

Shemi Tzur, Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand, said that “This is both an outstanding personal achievement and a great accomplishment for New Zealand. My colleagues at the embassy in Wellington and I followed the competition enthusiastically and we all share your joy and pride.”

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.

Six decades later, fibbing flyer sees London Olympics


It took 64 years, with a detour to Israel’s War of Independence, but Mitchell Flint is finally getting to see the London Olympic Games, live and in person.

In the summer of 1948, Flint, with a four-year wartime stint as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot in the Pacific under his belt, graduated as an industrial engineer from U.C. Berkeley. At the same time, the newly declared State of Israel was struggling to defend itself from six invading Arab armies.

“I’m Jewish, Israel desperately needed trained fighter pilots, so I thought I could perhaps do something to sustain the state,” Flint recalled.

Read more at jewishjournal.com/tomstopics.

New Zealand Jewish sailor in medal contention


New Zealand sailor Jo Aleh is in good position to win her first Olympic medal as her event heads into its final stretch.

Aleh, whose parents Shuki and Daniella Aleh lived in Israel before moving to Auckland, and teammate Olivia Powrie are in second position after six of 10 races in the 470 event. The Kiwis were leading in the early rounds but now trail the British team by a point.

Four rounds remain—two each on Tuesday and Wednesday—followed by a medal race, scheduled for Friday.

Aleh, a former national champion and 2007 world champion, finished seventh at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Her father has flown in from Israel to watch the final rounds and 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 traveling there to celebrate her half-sister’s bat mitzvah.

Aleh says she was inspired to take up sailing after watching the 1995 America’s Cup when New Zealand won sport’s oldest trophy.

Israeli judoka Zeevi eliminated from Olympics competition


Israeli judoka Arik Zeevi, who predicted he would win a medal at the London Olympics, lost his opening match and his shot at a medal.

Dmitri Peters of Germany put Zeevi in a headlock in their 100 kg. match on Thursday, forcing the 35-year-old Israeli to tap out after 43 seconds, the Times of Israel reported

“I made a mistake and paid the price,” Zeevi told Israel’s Army Radio, according to the Times of Israel. He reportedly had tears in his eyes as he left the mat.

Zeevi, a bronze medalist at the 2004 Athens Games, had made his prediction after faltering in Beijing in 2008. He had told JTA in advance of the Games that he expected this to be his final Olympics.

Female judoka Alice Schlessinger, another Israeli medal hope, was eliminated on Tuesday.

More than 20,000 Londoners hold Munich moment of silence


More than 20,000 people in various venues in London attended the British Zionist Federation’s “Minute for Munich” program that was promoted via social media.

A short memorial service at the Israeli Embassy that was organized by the Zionist Federation was streamed live online Friday, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

About 200 people marked the Minute for Munich in Trafalgar Square, reciting memorial prayers and lighting memorial candles. Afterwards, they waved British and Israeli flags in front of media covering the event.

“The British Jewish community is showing its solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel,” the British Israel Coalition’s Ari Soffer told the crowd, according to the Chronicle. “We should not allow this tragedy to go uncommemorated. This is a time to show our respect and remember the dead.”

The families of the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, in which 11 Israeli Olympics athletes and coaches were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, have mounted a global campaign to get the International Olympic Committee to hold an official moment of silence at the Games. The IOC continues to reject the call, despite its being endorsed by President Obama, GOP presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the U.S. Senate, the German Bundestag, the Canadian and Australian parliaments, about 50 members of the British Parliament, the Israeli government and Jewish organizations worldwide.

37 Israeli Olympians set for London Games


A group of 37 Olympians is ready to represent Israel in the 2012 London Games, which kicked off with Friday’s Opening Ceremony.

Israel is competing in badminton, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, athletics, judo, sailing, shooting, swimming, synchronized swimming, and tennis.

The only medalist from Israel at the last summer Olympics (2008 in Beijing) was Shahar Zubari, who won bronze in sailing. Each country is permitted to send just one windsurfer to the Olympics, and Zubari edged out local rival Nimrod Mashiah for Israel’s spot.

“For me, reaching the Olympics is only the beginning,” Zubari told the Jerusalem Post.

Other prominent Israeli Olympians include Ariel Ze’evi, who won a bronze medal in judo at the 2004 Athens Games; Alice Schlesinger, a former bronze medalist at the Judo World Championships; Vered Buskila, a silver medalist in sailing at the 2005 European Championships; and Shahar Pe’er, once the 11th-ranked women’s tennis player in the world.

The London Games also mark the 20th anniversary of Israel’s first-ever Olympic medals—Yael Arad’s silver in half middleweight judo and Shay Oren Smadga’s bronze in half lightweight judo, both at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Opinion: Munich’s indelible stains


Under the headline “Indelible Stains,” the Los Angeles Times listed “10 Olympic controversies that forever leave their mark on the Summer Games.”

Subsequently, the Times published (a part of) my letter written in response to the egregious omission from their article:

Unfortunately, the most important controversy in the history of the games was left off the Times’ list: the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympics in 1972 by Palestinian terrorists. 

Maybe the controversy was that the Olympics did not have adequate security; or that the German government refused assistance from the Israeli government, who, unfortunately, had years of experience in such situations; or that the Olympics were not suspended out of respect to the great loss of life; or that 10 Arab countries protested lowering their flags half mast and immediately raised their flags following the memorial; or that the German government released the three remaining terrorists (in exchange for a hijacked Lufthansa airliner), who returned to heroes welcomes in their home countries.

Or maybe another controversy is that the Indelible Stains of Blood was actually left off the LA Times’ list.

The Times placed it on their website; not in print.  Interestingly, they omitted what I considered the most important line in the letter: the last.

People question why so many Jews today are obsessed with keeping alive the memory of the 11 murdered Israelis. 

Unfortunately, in today’s world, 11 people mass murdered is a relatively benign number.  Almost daily we read about suicide bombers who murder 20, 30, 45, 200.  Not to mention the thousands wiped out in Syria and more than 300,000 slaughtered in the Sudan.  Just last week, in our own back yard, 12 people were murdered while attending a midnight movie.  That’s one more than Munich.

So why should the Olympics and the world pause, even for one moment, to honor the memory of 11 murdered Israeli athletes?  Why not give silence to all victims of murder?

Because it’s different.  Because context is everything.  Because it was on the heels of the Holocaust, in the exact place where the idea of eradicating an entire people began; an idea which led to more than 6 million people stripped of their dignity, tortured, and systematically exterminated: men, women, and children.

There were not just eleven people murdered in the Munich Olympics during those horrific events, frozen in time while the world witnessed.  Those 11 athletes represented a country, a religion, a people.  Every Jew lost a brother that day.

When a U.S. embassy is attacked, America is attacked.  The 11 Israeli Olympians were not just individuals; they were Israel.  Then, once again, as Israel was attacked, the world did nothing but watch, as if it was another televised sporting event.  And it continues today while the International Olympic Committee refuses to honor their memory 40 years later.

Israel has moved into the 21st century.  Israeli children are taught about the Holocaust, yet they understand today’s realities.  They are no longer crippled by the past, rather they celebrate Israel’s Nobel Laureates in science, medical and technological breakthroughs, and the humanitarian efforts that are transforming the world.

Certain images create nations.  Unfortunately, those images are not always beautiful.  The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Pearl Harbor, the Twin Towers.

As a Jewish nation, we can no longer stay paralyzed by our past, but we must never forget it.  We must remember the “indelible stains” of our history, from the destruction of the First and Second Temples to the heroism at Masada and Entebbe.  And we must honor with a moment of silence those who perished in the Holocaust, and our relatives lost in Munich in 1972.

Jack Saltzberg is executive director of Friends of Sheba Medical Center. He can be reached at jack@saltzberg.org.

 

Editorial Cartoon: The Endless Relay Race


Iranians unlikely to compete against Israelis in Olympics


Despite a statement from the head of the Iranian Olympic committee asserting that Iranian athletes can compete against Israelis in the London Olympic Games, it is unlikely to occur.

Bahram Afsharzadeh, the head of the Iranian Olympic Mission, said on July 23 that his athletes will compete against Israeli athletes in the Games that start on July 27. But the Iranian team left for London on July 22 without judo champion Javad Mahjoob, the only Iranian athlete who had a possibility to compete against an Israeli, the Washington Post reported.

Iranian officials are quoted as saying that Mahjoob is suffering from a “critical digestive system infection” and will not be able to travel to the Games. Others are skeptical that Mahjoob is ailing and believe it is more likely that it is an excuse to keep him from facing off against Ariel “Arik” Ze’evi in the 100-kilogram weight class.

Iranian athletes withdrew from events against Israelis at the 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games.

The official Iranian government Fars news agency said that the Olympic chairman’s words were taken out of context, as he said that Iranian athletes would compete against all athletes and did not name Israel specifically.

How the Munich 11 petition went viral


It began two years ago as an idea by volunteers at a suburban Jewish community center and turned into a major international campaign, galvanizing everyone from President Obama to the mayor of London.

And in case you haven’t heard yet about the movement to get the International Olympics Committee to hold a minute of silence to honor the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain at the Munich Games in 1972, NBC’s Bob Costas has promised to raise the issue and hold an on-air moment of silence in his Olympics broadcast.

The campaign for the commemoration gained steam in May, when IOC President Jacques Rogge denied a request by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon for an official moment of silence during the Games to honor the Munich 11.

“I intend to note the IOC denied the request,” Costas told the Hollywood Reporter last week. As the Israeli team walks into the 80,000-seat Olympics stadium, Costas said, he will say, “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. Here’s a minute of silence right now.”

In making that pledge, Costas added his name to a growing list of public figures calling for the official IOC moment of silence. The list includes Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the U.S. Senate, the German Bundestag, the Canadian and Australian parliaments, Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard, 140 Italian lawmakers and some 50 members of the British Parliament. The Olympic Games’ opening ceremony is Friday.

In a personal letter, Julia Gillard urged Rogge to recognize the Munich 11 during the opening ceremony “or at an appropriate time during the Games.” That, she said, would allow the Olympic movement “to honor, before the world, the memory of those whose lives were lost during that horrific event.” On Monday, the IOC’s Rogge surprised many by holding an impromptu moment of silence to honor the Munich 11 before delivering brief remarks in the Olympic Village, marking the first time the athletes have been memorialized inside in an Olympic Village.

“I would like to start today’s ceremony by honoring the memory of 11 Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals that have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village,” Rogge said at the event for the Olympic Truce, a U.N.-backed initiative calling for an end to hostilities during the two weeks of the Olympic Games. IOC executive board members, special guests, Olympic athletes and officials attended the event.

“The 11 victims of the Munich tragedy believed in that vision,” Rogge said. “They came to Munich in the spirit of peace and solidarity. We owe it to them to keep that spirit alive and to remember them.”

But two widows of the slain Israelis criticized the move to The Jerusalem Post as a public relations stunt and slammed Rogge for holding fast to his decision against an official commemoration.

The campaign for an official commemoration at the 2012 Games was born when Steve Gold and a few other volunteers at the Rockland County JCC in suburban New York decided to dedicate the Maccabi Games they were hosting to the murdered Israelis.

One of them knew Ankie Spitzer, wife of the Andrei Spitzer, an Israeli fencing coach killed in the attack, and asked her to record a video promoting a petition for an official IOC moment of silence. In the past, Olympics officials have attended private Israeli or Jewish ceremonies marking the tragedy, but other than the day after the murders themselves, the IOC has not held a commemoration of its own of the Munich massacre.

The petition was launched, and since April the signatures—and news stories about the effort—quickly mounted. At last count, some 104,000 people had signed on to the petition.

On Monday, Gold left for the London Games, where he, Spitzer and Ilana Romano – whose weightlifter husband, Yossef, was killed by the Palestinian terrorists in 1972—plan to present their petition to Olympics officials.

The campaign gained visibility last week when Obama lent his support to the effort via an email from National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor to Yahoo! News, and this week when Romney—who was CEO of the 2002 Winter Games at Salt Lake City—threw his support behind the effort.

Gold, who was the first person to sign the petition, credited Jewish and non-Jewish organizations with picking up on the effort.

“Everybody knows somebody. There was not one organization that said they would not help us,” he said. “To them this was a no-brainer, and everybody started putting it on their website, whether it was the Anti-Defamation League or the Board of Rabbis or the Jewish Federations of North America. So it began to go viral. It’s cool stuff.”

Gold said it is remarkable that a petition about something that happened four decades ago has had such an impact.

“Here’s a cause that’s 40 years old and it has resonated,” he said. “I believe it hit a nerve and that people had this in their head for 40 years and weren’t able to tell anybody about it. We gave them that opportunity.”

On Sunday, London Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled a memorial plaque to the Munich victims at a ceremony near the Olympic village organized by Hackney Borough Councilman Linda Kelly and Martin Sugarman, chairman of the Hackney Anglo-Israel Friendship Association, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

“It is entirely right this morning that we should remember those events,” Johnson said. “And today let us hope that these Olympic Games that we are holding in London this week, 40 years later, are not only happy and peaceful, and also that they will be remembered in years to come.”

Palestinian Olympic participation brings conflict to the fore


A portrait of the two most prominent Palestinian leaders—current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and former President Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004—hangs in the conference room of the Palestinian Olympic Committee headquarters.

The background of the portrait is a panorama of the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem, which Israel and the Palestinians both claim as a capital. National flags and photos of national leaders would be commonplace at any country’s Olympic office. Indeed, Israeli flags abounded at a press event for the Israeli Olympic team earlier this month.

But as Palestinian delegation head Hani Halabi sees it, and as the Dome of the Rock photograph indicates, the Palestinian delegation’s presence at the London Olympics is about not just national pride but also highlighting the ongoing Palestinian conflict with Israel.

Halabi says he is proud, for example, that Palestinian judoka Maher Abu Rmeileh became the first Palestinian ever to qualify on his own for an Olympic event. But he is even happier that Abu Rmeileh is from Jerusalem.

Four Palestinian athletes, two men and two women, will join Abu Rmeileh, who is 28, in London: swimmers Sabine Hazboun and Ahmed Mostafa Gebrel and sprinters Baha Alfarra and Woroud Sawalha. The latter covers her hair even while competing.

While Abu Rmeileh qualified for the Olympics on his own by competing in his sport, the other Palestinian athletes, by contrast, will reach the Games via a special invitation from the International Olympic Committee reserved for countries whose athletes have not been able to qualify for events. Palestinians have been competing in those spots since 1996, the first year they participated in the Olympics.

Sawalha, 22, does not have medal hopes, saying that she needs “more years” to train, but said that she is excited to go to London, “represent my country and see another world.”

Israeli delegation head Efraim Zinger said that the Israeli Olympic Committee has tried to use the Olympics to foster cooperation between his team and the Palestinian one. Israel offered joint training facilities and staff to the teams, he said, and the International Olympic Committee “praised our effort and cooperation. But on their side we didn’t get any response.

“It’s a shame, because we believe that through sports the young generation can get to know each other better than during day-to-day life,” he said.

Halabi dismissed the notion that sports could bring Israelis and Palestinians together. For him, conversely, preparing for the Games has brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into sharp relief.

“We are in the occupation,” he told JTA. There are “no facilities, no coach, no moving for the player from town to town—from Jerusalem to Ramallah, from Ramallah to Bethlehem.” Halabi said that due to restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, the first time the entire delegation will meet is when the athletes and coaches arrive at London’s Heathrow Airport on Friday.

Even when offered, Halabi said he refuses any cooperation with the Israeli delegation. “There are more than 6,000 Palestinians in their prisons,” he said about Israel. “With the occupation and the prisons, I cannot train in judo” with Israel.

For her part, Sawalha would be happy to train with Israelis. “The whole thing is about sport and nothing else,” she said.

Zinger said that the Israeli Olympic Committee has been responsive to every Palestinian complaint regarding freedom of movement, doing its utmost to ensure that Palestinian athletes can train without limitations.

“They have no problem in principle as far as we know,” he said. “When there were problems like that in the past we managed to work it out and since then we haven’t heard any complaints.”

The International Olympic Committee reported in an October 2011 news release that the Israeli and Palestinian Olympic committees met three times last year regarding potential collaboration and easing freedom of movement, but has reported no further progress since then.

Even as he eschews using the Israeli Olympic team’s gyms, Halabi lamented his athletes’ subpar training facilities. As such, while star Israeli judoka Arik Ze’evi expects to win a medal, Halabi has modest goals in mind for Abu Rmeileh.

“I hope to see him carry the Palestinian flag in London,” Halabi said. “He is a good fighter in judo. Maybe he will make a good place, but a medal is very difficult.”

Spats between the two committees have occurred ever since the Palestinian delegation first announced its participation in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Israel reportedly objected that year to the Palestinian athletes’ walking under a banner that read “Palestine,” on the grounds that there was no recognized state of Palestine. The International Olympic Committee dismissed the complaint.

This year, Israel has lobbied heavily—and so far unsuccessfully—for a minute of silence at the Games to commemorate the murder of 11 members of the Israeli delegation to the 1972 Munich Games. Palestinian terrorists killed the victims. Halabi said he had “no comment” on the issue.

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.”

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.

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.

Israel’s Olympians heading to London thinking medals, remembering slain countrymen


Israelis and their Summer Olympics athletes are eyeing the upcoming London Games with excitement and disappointment.

The athletes are hoping that for the sixth straight summer Games, at least one of them will come home with a medal. Yet they are well aware that the International Olympics Committee has again spurned the campaign to have a moment of silence for their counterparts slain 40 years ago at the Munich Games.

The London Games, which begin July 27, will have 38 Israeli Olympians participating in 18 events. Their top medal hopefuls are in judo, sailing and gymnastics. This year’s delegation features two bronze medalists—windsurfer Shahar Tzuberi, from Beijing in 2008, and judoka Ariel Ze’evi, from Athens in 2004.

“I’m very calm, but there’s still time” before the Olympics, said Ze’evi, who at 35 is the team’s oldest member. “We don’t prepare for failure.”

The Israeli squad, which is scheduled to arrive at the Olympics complex on July 10, also is preparing for some somber moments in London. Team members will be participating in a public memorial ceremony on Aug. 6 for the 11 Israelis killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The IOC has resisted calls for a minute of silence for the victims despite an online petition with nearly 90,000 signatures and the urging of the U.S. Senate, as well as Australian, Canadian, British and German lawmakers.

Israeli delegation head Efraim Zinger said the IOC is “obligated” to remember the Munich 11 as “athletes and Olympians.”

Other than the day after the murders, the IOC has never held a formal moment of silence for the slain Israelis. IOC officials have participated in Jewish community events surrounding various Olympic Games since the tragedy.

The London Games also mark the 60th year since Israel’s first Olympic appearance, in Helsinki, Finland. It took another 40 years for an Israeli to win a medal, but since 1992 the delegation has taken home at least one medal, including three each in judo and windsurfing, and one in kayaking.

This year, the team hopes to add a fourth sport to the list. Zinger also would like to see an Israeli woman stand on the podium for the first time since the country’s first-ever medal in ‘92, when judoka Yael Arad took the silver. Nearly half of this year’s delegation is female.

“Because of the work we did in the past few years, all of our athletes are better,” Zinger said, noting particularly the gymnastics team as a potential medal winner. He said he was hopeful for at least one more medal in judo or sailing.

Leading the gymnastics efforts will be all-around gymnast Alex Shatilov, who finished eighth in the last Olympics in the floor exercise and won the silver at the 2011 world championships. Also last year, the six-member women’s rhythmic gymnastics team took bronze in the world championships. All of the rhythmic team’s members are under 22.

Another hope for Israel’s first female medalist in 20 years comes in what may be Israel’s best Olympic sport—judo. Alice Schlesinger, 24, did not medal in Beijing but has since won three bronzes—in the 2009 world championships, and in the 2009 and 2012 European championships.

Schlesinger says she hopes to “go home in peace” from London. “Like everyone else I want a medal, but I want to enjoy it,” she said.

Typically, the Israeli team has a strong international flavor. Several of the athletes were born in the Soviet Union, and two were born and raised in the United States—pole vaulter Jillian Schwartz and 400-meter sprinter Donald Sanford. Schwartz connected with Israel after competing here in 2009, while Sanford, who is not Jewish, married an Israeli and lives part of the year on her family’s kibbutz. Both are now Israeli citizens.

For his part, Sanford seems to have settled in well with his new Israeli family.

“Her ima, her abba and her savta live 400 meters from where we live,” said Sanford, using the Hebrew words for his wife’s mother, father and grandmother. “We see them every day.”

Israeli thanks Australia for backing Olympics moment of silence


Israel’s deputy foreign minister thanked Australia for supporting the campaign to urge the International Olympic Committee to hold a minute’s silence at the London Games in honor of the 11 Israelis murdered in Munich in 1972.

Danny Ayalon met earlier this week with Peter Slipper, the speaker of Australia’s Parliament who recently took a leave of absence from his post amid accusations of fraud and sexual harassment. Slipper is in Israel for an official visit.

Also present at the meeting were Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer, widows of two of the Munich 11, who have been campaigning for the IOC to acknowledge the Munich massacre.

Australian lawmakers on June 26 unanimously backed a motion calling on the IOC to hold a minute’s silence. The members of parliament backed the bill by standing in unison in silence.

“The Israeli people thank you and the Australian people for your moral and decent decision to hold a minute of silence in memory of the athletes murdered in Munich simply because they were Israelis,” Ayalon said.

In a statement, Romano and Spitzer said: “For 40 years we have walked alone, and it is wonderful that now the government of Israel as well as other governments around the world are supporting us and understand the injustice that has been done to us. We want to especially mention the Australian government, which was one of the first to call on the International Olympic Committee to hold a minute of silence. All of this support gives us the strength to continue, because we are no longer alone in our struggle.”

Slipper also spoke to Israeli President Shimon Peres. “I reiterated to the president and to the deputy foreign minister the strong links our two countries share, and highlighted the recent resolution passed by the entire Australian government and the Australian House of Representatives in support of a minute silence being held at the London Games in honor of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Games,“ he said.

As London’s Jews prepare for Olympics, Munich 11 on their minds


For the British Jewish community, the most memorable moment of the London Olympics may be a somber one.

On Aug. 6, several hundred people are expected to attend a commemoration for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches murdered by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

“From conversations across the community, the key thing people are engaged in around the Olympics is that they want to see a commemoration of Munich,” said Peter Mason, director of the London Jewish Forum.

While a ceremony organized by the Israelis and the local community takes place during every Olympic Games, this one marks the 40th anniversary of the massacre. The International Olympics Committee continues to reject international calls for a minute of silence during the opening ceremony on July 27.

But the community also has made a point of joining the general air of celebration sweeping London in the run-up to the Games. In the past year, nearly every Jewish school, youth group and charity has run Olympics-related activities. And during the Olympics, London’s Jews will welcome thousands of Jewish visitors with social events, synagogue services, guides to Jewish London and, in the Olympic Village, pastoral care.

The welcoming efforts are being coordinated by the Jewish Committee for the London Games, which was established by the London Jewish Forum and several other community organizations.

For one of the organizations, Maccabi GB, which runs sports programming for the Jewish community, the Olympics has been “a springboard to get people involved. At every opportunity we’ve linked to the Olympics,” said project manager Jessica Overlander-Kaye.

Maccabi GB worked with more than 15 Jewish organizations on more than 30 events, ranging from talks about the roles of Jews in sport to Olympics-themed sports days in Jewish schools, and liaising with students who want to write good luck cards to the Israeli delegation. An annual community Fun Run was expanded this year to reach 2,000 people, including British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

For Overlander-Kaye, become involved in Olympics-themed activities through Jewish groups is “about being part of something smaller and bigger at the same time. It’s an opportunity to be part of the Olympics while connecting to the Jewish community. Viewed backwards, it reflects very well on our community, on our mentality about working from the grass roots, that we encourage people to get active and engaged. We make it easy for people.”

She is particularly proud of the work that Maccabi did this year in encouraging people with disabilities to become involved in sports. In June, the group held an event that saw the able-bodied and non-able-bodied play sports together.

“We linked it to the Paralympics,” she said of the international games held for disabled athletes after each summer Olympics. “The Israeli delegation will have a strong Paralympic team, and this makes sports accessible” to disabled people.

Other groups have focused on educational events. For example, the London Jewish School of Jewish Studies, which runs adult education classes, is offering sessions on whether the Olympian ideal is Jewish and “Who really won on Chanukah?,” while the United Jewish Israel Appeal has developed six workshops, including ones on the Munich massacre and Jewish ideas on strength that have been taken up by youth groups and schools.

The closest many community members will get to the Games will be on July 25, when the Olympic torch, which has been touring across the United Kingdom, will be carried through the heavily Jewish North-West London.

“Hopefully the community will have a good showing,” Mason said. “There is a genuine building of excitement.”

During the Games themselves, the community will open its doors to tourists, from abroad and from elsewhere in the UK, who wish to experience Jewish London. A website was set up by the Jewish Volunteering Network under the auspices of the Jewish Committee for the London Games that lists all major attractions, including kosher restaurants, synagogues and Jewish landmarks. It also has a section on the history of London’s Jews and a calendar of Jewish events connected to the Games.

Some 10,000 people already have visited the website since its launch in January, according to Es Rosen, the website manager and JVN regional development manager.

“We have no idea how many people we can expect, but when people go to an international city they often seek out Jewish tourist sites,” Rosen said. “The Olympics have tremendous potential for Jewish London.”

As the Olympic Village is situated in East London, the relatively small community there has taken on the role of catering to the Jewish needs of the Olympic teams.

Four local rabbis from across the denominational spectrum will join 186 other chaplains serving the athletes, delegation members, staff and volunteers. Rabbi Richard Jacobi of the Woodford Liberal Synagogue says he will be available for those looking “for a sympathetic ear from their own faith, or from faith in general,” in case of stress, a personal emergency or any other need. The pastoral team also is part of the contingency plans in case of a large-scale incident.

“Personally this is a once-in-a-life opportunity to be involved in something that presents London and British Jewry in the best possible light,” Jacobi said. “Many people think that London is dominated by anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and that is not the case. There is a degree of background radiation, but it certainly does not influence people’s lives on a daily basis. People enjoy being Jewish in London.”

Nevertheless, he adds, “The 40th anniversary of the Munich tragedy is also at the back of my mind. If anything were to happen, being part of the response feels very important to me rabbinically and personally.”

Many of his congregants are volunteering in the Olympic Village or as “hosts” posted at strategic points in London to help tourists. Like many other local synagogues, his shul will host two Shabbat services particularly aimed at visitors, and in the Olympic Village Orthodox and non-Orthodox services aim to alternate.

Finally, the East London communities plan to hold their own events commemorating the Munich massacre. One ceremony will be on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av, on July 28, and a religious service at Waltham Forest Hebrew Congregation will be in September. Jacobi says these events would have taken place even had the IOC agreed to hold a minute of silence.

“In the midst of everything else, a minute isn’t particularly long to appreciate what these events meant,” he said. “It is important that everyone had the opportunity to come together as a group, learn more about it and associate more with it.

“We think people—mainly Jewish but also others—feel it should be remembered. It’s part of Jewish and Olympic history.”

Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s secretary for sports, will not call for a moment of silence at Olympics


Great Britain’s secretary of state for culture, media and sport will not join the growing international campaign for a moment of silence at the upcoming London Summer Olympics for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Games.

“The decision as to whether a minute’s silence is held during the Games lies with the IOC,” a spokesman for Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

The spokesman added that Hunt will represent the government at a private ceremony at the Guildhall, which is a joint initiative between the Israeli embassy, the Israeli National Olympic Committee and the Jewish community,” the paper reported.

Ankie Spitzer, widow of murdered Israeli fencer Andrei Spitzer, said that Lord Sebastian Coe, chair of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, had sent her an invitation to the Aug. 6 memorial event at the Guildhall.

“That’s the memorial that we are organizing ourselves! And he wrote to tell me about it?” the paper reported she angrily said.

She called the Guildhall event a “way out” for the Olympic organizers, according to the newspaper. “It means the event doesn’t have to be in the Olympic Village or during the opening ceremony, so it will let them off the hook,” she reportedly said.

Another memorial event, organized by the country’s Zionist Federation, will take place this summer as well.

More than 50 British members of Parliament have signed a motion calling for a minute’s silence. The effort is backed by the German Bundestag, about 100 members of Australia’s Parliament, the Canadian Parliament and the U.S. Senate.

Senate passes Munich 11 moment of silence resolution


The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the International Olympic Committee to observe a moment of silence at the 2012 London Olympics for the Munich 11.

The Senate resolution, which passed Monday,  is part of a larger global effort calling on the IOC to honor the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were murdered at the 1972 Games in Munich by members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the measure.

A similar resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) was passed unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee but has not been brought to the House floor.

William Daroff, The Jewish Federations of North America’s vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office, applauded the Senate’s action.

“According to the Olympic Charter, ‘The goal of Olympics is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,’ ” Daroff said in a news statement. “As we approach the 40-year anniversary of this massacre, we hope everyone—especially members of the IOC—will embrace that Olympic spirit and come together to honor the memory of the slain Israeli athletes and coaches.”

An ongoing worldwide petition seeking a moment of silence at the London Games that was organized by the athletes’ families was rejected by the IOC. Several countries have passed resolutions requesting that the IOC remember the fallen athletes with a moment of silence.

While IOC officials have participated in memorial ceremonies hosted by Jewish communities, the IOC has not commemorated the ‘72 tragedy during the Games other than the day after the massacre.

House panel urges IOC to honor Munich 11


The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed a resolution urging the International Olympic Committee to honor the Munich 11 with a moment of silence at the 2012 London Olympics.

The non-binding resolution, which was sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), was the latest action by Congress to call on the IOC to honor the 11 Israeli athletes who were taken hostage and murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Members have drafted letters to IOC President Jacques Rogge urging the committee to reconsider its decision to not hold a moment of silence on the 40th anniversary of the Munich killings during the opening ceremony of the London Games.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement following the committee’s passage of the resolution in which she called the IOC’s refusals to hold a moment of silence “indefensible.”

“A minute of silence would be a small, well-deserved and overdue tribute to the brave Olympians and police officer who lost their lives,” she said in the statement.

During a rescue attempt to free the hostages, the Palestinian terrorists killed nine Israeli athletes and one West German police offer. Two Israelis were killed in their rooms during the initial hostage-taking siege.

IOC officially rejects moment of silence for Munich 11


The International Olympic Committee officially rejected a request to hold a moment of silence for the Munich 11 at the London Olympics this summer.

The request to hold the moment of silence at the Opening Ceremonies was initiated by the families of the athletes. This summer will mark the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Olympics by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Israel has regularly requested a moment of silence for the Olympics every four years, and the IOC has consistently turned down that proposal.

“The IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions. Within the Olympic family, the memory of the victims of the terrible massacre in Munich in 1972 will never fade away,” IOC President Jacques Rogge wrote in a letter dated May 15.

The Jewish Community Center of Rockland County, N.Y., a member of the JCC Association, and Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Israeli fencing Coach Andrei Spitzer, initiated an online petition in mid-April seeking a moment of silence at the London Games that has garnered some 38,000 signatures from around the world.

“The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games,” Spitzer wrote in a letter accompanying the petition.

The Israel National Olympic Committee will hold its own memorial ceremony during the games, as it has at every Olympics. Rogge pledged that IOC representatives would attend the ceremony.

“Unfortunately, this response is unacceptable as it rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Thursday in a statement. “The terrorist murders of the Israeli athletes were not just an attack on people because of their nationality and religion; it was an attack on the Olympic Games and the international community. Thus it is necessary for the Olympic Games as a whole to commemorate this event in the open rather than only in a side event.”

Rogge’s letter was in response to an official request filed by Ayalon last month.

The American Jewish Committee on Thursday called on the IOC to reconsider its rejection. “The 40th anniversary of that tragedy is a perfect opportunity for the Olympics to properly honor the memory of those innocent Israelis,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The IOC refusal to hold a moment of silence during the London games opening ceremony, which will be watched worldwide, is simply shameful.”

Reps. Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel, both New York Democrats, and the Anti-Defamation League had in recent weeks also called on the IOC in letters to approve the moment of silence.

IOC rejects moment of silence for Munich 11


The International Olympic Committee apparently has rejected an online petition seeking a moment of silence for the Munich 11 at the 2012 London Olympics.

Emmanuelle Moreau, the IOC’s head of media relations, told The Jerusalem Post that the Games this summer would not have a moment of silence honoring the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

“The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes who tragically died in Munich in 1972 on several occasions and will continue to do so,” Moreau told the Post. “However, we do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games.”

Moreau told the newspaper that the IOC is represented at a reception that the Israeli National Olympic Committee usually hosts during the Olympic Games in memory of the athletes. The Israelis were killed by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. 

The petition launched in mid-April has garnered nearly 25,000 signatures from around the world.

The Jewish Community Center of Rockland County, N.Y., a member of the JCC Association, initiated the petition with Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Israeli fencing Coach Andrei Spitzer.

“The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games,” Spitzer wrote in a letter accompanying the petition.

“I have no political or religious agenda. Just the hope that my husband and the other men who went to the Olympics in peace, friendship and sportsmanship are given what they deserve. One minute of silence will clearly say to the world that what happened in 1972 can never happen again. Please do not let history repeat itself.”

Iran protests Olympic logo


Iran is protesting the logo for the 2012 Olympic Games, saying it spells the word “Zion.”

Mohammad Aliabadi, head of Iran’s National Olympic Committee, accused the British Olympic organizers of “racism” in a letter to International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, the Iranian ILNA news agency reported, according to news agencies.

The emblem, which features jagged shapes representing the numbers 2012, has been criticized in the past for its design, which organizers say is modern and intended to catch the attention of the younger generation.

“The use of the word Zion by the designer of Olympics logo in the emblem of the Olympics Games 2012 is a very revolting act,” Aliabadi wrote, warning that if it was not changed it could “affect the participation of several countries, especially like Iran which insists on following principles and values.”

The International Olympic Committee has rejected the complaint.