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Remembering the 1972 Olympics

A Sermon deliverd at Manetto Hill Jewish Center on the 40th anniversary of the terrorist attack upon the 1972 Olympics.

Negunim (melodies) are an amazing thing. The Bal Shem Tov teaches us that a nigun (melody) can bring us from where we are to where we want to be. One such nigun (melody) is   מעין עולם הבא - "A Tast of the world to come" sung at the Shabbat table.

The words are very beautiful

מעין עולם הבא

A taste of the world to come

יום שבת מנוחה

The Sabbath day of rest

 כל המתענגים בה יזכו לרוב שמחה

All who celebrate Shabbat merit great joy.

When my Zayda (grandfather) would sing that nigun (melody) he would relax your mind and reach your soul.  Zayda’s voice would distract from all of your worries and bring the spirit of Shabbat into your heart and mind.

If I ever came close toמעין עולם הבא  A taste of the world to come it was at his Shabbat table.  I wish I could take all of you back in time to his Shabbat table in North Bergen, NJ to experience the Shabbat of my youth. 

I am going to ask you to venture into the realm of my memory.  Close your eyes and listen to the words my Zayda sung every Shabbat.

Did you feel it? מעין עולם הבא  A hint a taste of the world to come? Did you for a moment feel the inner peace of the world to come in your heart and in your mind?  If not I apologize that I am only a hint of what my Zayda was.

There is another way you can experience  מעין עולם הבא  A hint a taste of the world to come. A hint of what it will be like when God’s will permeates the world. When Ahavat Chinam (altruistic love) among humanity replaces Sinat Chinam (unwarented hatred).  A hint of what it will be like when all of God’s children come together to seek human excellence undivided by cultural, ethnic, religious or national barriers.

I am speaking about the Olympics.  Athletes from diverse nations come together ignoring the barriers that traditionally separate them.  For seventeen days they set everything and dedicate themselves -- to excellence, to fair competition on a basis of human equality.  The Olympics are מעין עולם הבא  A hint, a taste of the world to come .  A world of honor, pride, and Shalom for all humanity.

40 years ago the beautiful model of the Olympic Games was marred by an act of terrorism. Eleven Israeli athletes were murdered in an act of brutal terrorism.  A small group of terrorists known as Black September broke into the Olympic Village with a message of death and destruction.

Ankie Spitzer is the widow of Israel’s Olympic fencing coach murdered in the attack.  Ankie spearheaded a petition to the International Olympic Committee for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony "for the memory of the eleven Israeli athletes, coaches and referees murdered at the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich... and to promote peace."  Over 100,000 people have signed the petition.  President Obama, Governor Mitt Romney, and the U.S. Senate have all called upon the Olympic Committee to dedicate a moment of silence.

The Olympic Committee has refused.  They argue that the request for a moment of silence is a political statement with no place in the Olympics, taking sides in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. 

My dear friends, God does not check passports.  If the athletes murdered at the 72 Olympics were Palestinian I would similarly support a moment of silence.  Because we are all children of God, created in God’s divine image.   The attack in Munich was not simply an attack on Israelis, who we relate to as Jews.  It was an attack on one of the finest manifestations of our humanity, the Olympic spirit of solidarity and peace.

I pray for the day when all of the Children of Abraham will come together in the Olympic spirit of solidarity and peace.  On that day we will truly demonstrate our love and respect to our common God. In the words of the prophet Zachariah (14:9)  “On that day, the Lord shall be one; and God's name, One.”

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Ranger Sewer July 30, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Sir: This is simple and sad :The Olympic Committee has refused to HONOR the Israeli athletes becuase they SUPPORT the people who did this. Rabbi, We as AMERICANS must NEVER FORGET who our TRUE FRIENDS ARE. May GOD BLESS the eleven Israeli athletes, coaches and referees murdered at the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich. Rabbi, THANK YOU for your work.
Joe Dowd July 30, 2012 at 06:54 AM
I was honored to be present at this memorial service at Friday night's Shabbat. I'll have a story Monday on the experience.
fred July 30, 2012 at 11:25 AM
"In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King
Ranger Sewer July 31, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Fred sir: AMEN !
Mike Klubok August 01, 2012 at 01:28 PM
It is unfortunate that there was not a moment of silence to honor those who were murdered at the Munich Olympics during the opening ceremony. As Rabbi Senter said and I agree, "If the athletes murdered at the 72 Olympics were Palestinian I would similarly support a moment of silence."

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