JCC Association of North America
For immediate release
David slays Goliath—JCC’s action in 2012 yields IOC tribute to Munich 11 in Rio on Wednesday
After more than four decades of intransigence on the issue of memorializing the 11 Israelis murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has agreed to honor them in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, Aug. 3.
JCC Association of North America commends the action and salutes JCC Rockland, which pushed the IOC to pay tribute to the Jewish athletes. In 2012, as part of hosting the JCC Maccabi Games®, an Olympic-style sports competition for Jewish teens, the JCC launched an online petition seeking a minute of silence during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in memory of the slain Israelis.
“For more than 20 years, through our JCC MaccabiTM program, thousands of teens, volunteers and spectators have learned about what happened in 1972, and have remembered these proud Israeli athletes. For all that time, the JCC Movement was the only place that honored their memories at each opening of JCC MaccabiTM. Even as we celebrated our Jewish future at these events, we took time to remember this tragedy,” says JCC Association Chair Stephen P. Seiden.
“We’re extraordinarily proud that one of our JCCs chose to dedicate their Games to the memory of the Israelis that resulted in real change.”
In 2012, the JCC’s campaign went viral worldwide and yielded 112,000 signatures. Officials from JCC Rockland, along with Munich widows Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano presented then IOC President Jacques Rogge with the petition just prior to the London games and held a larger press conference publicizing the effort. Current IOC President Thomas Bach has told Spitzer that he wishes to avoid a repeat of that “trauma.”
The IOC has agreed to place a memorial within the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Village and conduct a memorial service in honor of the Israelis, who were held hostage and then murdered during the XX Olympiad in 1972 by members of the terrorist group Black September. While this year’s tribute falls short, the surviving family members will take part in the Rio memorial.
“We never imagined we’d get as far as we did,” says JCC Rockland CEO David Kirschtel. “Certainly we never thought we’d be standing in front of the IOC president with a petition. What they’re doing in Rio is long overdue, and to my mind, a good first step. The families are glad that after four decades, they are being taken seriously.”
Munich widow Ankie Spitzer, who has served as a spokeswoman for the families over the years, says this year’s progress never would have happened without the JCC’s support.
“We’d been struggling on our own for years, and they really put the wind in our sails,” she says. “It was amazing, and we are forever grateful. It’s a great message—that if you believe in something and are willing to work hard for it, even a relatively small JCC like Rockland can move mountains.”
The JCC Maccabi Games®, is the largest gathering of its type for Jewish teens in North America and is hosted in several communities during each summer since 1982. They have recently finished in Columbus, Ohio, and opened on Sunday in St. Louis. They will be held again next week in Stamford, Connecticut along with JCC Maccabi ArtsFest®.