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An Ocean Away, a Moment of Silence in Plainview

The Manetto Hill Jewish Center, like others around the world, finds a way to honor the Israeli athletes murdered 40 years ago.

In a single moment, silence spoke volumes in Plainview Friday.

A synagogue decided to do what the International Olympic Committee could not: Pay tribute to the Israeli athletes who were murdered by terrorists 40 years ago.

The memorial service was incorporated into the regular Friday Shabbat service at the which, like other synagogues and secular organizations around the world, found the IOC's decision incomprehensible.

But , the spiritual leader of the Plainview synagogue, used the service as an opportunity to find understanding and peace among the nations.

"My dear friends, I'm am certain of this: God does not check passports," Rabbi Senter said in his sermon. "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 image."

The most recent effort began with a petition spearheaded by Ankie Spitzer, the widow of one of the 11 Israelis killed in Munich by a Palestinian terrorist group known as "Black September."

More than 100,000 people signed the petition. President Obama, Governor Mitt Romney and the U.S. Senate, among many others, also supported the gesture.

The IOC refused, arguing a political statement had no place in the Olympics.

Senter countered with this message of peace and the higher meaning of Olympic competition:

"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."

The gesture by the Plainview congregation was duplicated in other Long Island synagogues.

"I am deeply saddened by the insensitivity of the IOC, which could easily have - and should have - marked the anniversary of this singular terrorist attack at the Olympics in this way," said , spiritual leader of the Community Synagogue in Port Washington.

There, the names of the 11 Olympic athletes, along with the one German police officer who tried to defend them, were read, followed by a moment of silence and prayer.

In Plainview, the memorial service fit seamlessly into traditional Friday night prayers. Photos bearing the names of the dead Israelis were printed in the special bulletin.

This excerpt was typical:

"We pray to You, Ah-do-nai our God: Comfort the families and friends of the Israeli athletes who continue to grieve and grant eternal life to those so cruelly robbed of life on earth....The Olympic message is one of peace, of harmony and of unity. Empower the International Olympic Committee as a force of reconciliation and respect."

The Congregation answered as one: 

"Teach us, Almighty God, to bring reconciliation and respect between faiths. As we pray for the peace of Israel, and for the peace of the world. May this be Your will and let us say: Amen.

Shortly after came Plainview's moment of silence. Its message still echoes.

You can read Rabbi Senter's entire sermon here.


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