From 2010 to 2012: Eleven Events to Honor the Munich 11

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The 2012 JCC Maccabi Games® are dedicated to the Munich 11–the members of the Israeli delegation murdered by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics. The JCC Maccabi Games®, an annual Olympic-style sports event for teens, includes a tribute to the Munich 11 each year. Over a two year period, JCC Rockland has and will produce and host 11 events all in memory of the Munich 11.  Some events honored specific athletes, coaches and referees, other events honor of all eleven men.  The descriptions of each event are as follows.

Ankie Spitzer speaks to student at Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School in her first trip to Rockland.

1. Rock the Games. On November 6, 2010, David Kirschtel, JCC Rockland’s CEO, was joined at Kfar Maccabiah in Israel by the families of the Munich 11, including Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Andrei Spitzer, one of the slain Israelis, as he announced Change4Change, a hunger relief project that had students in Rockland County and Mosenson High School located in the Mosenson Youth Village in Hod Hasharon Israel, in the hopes of collecting 11 million coins – one million in memory of each of the athletes. Local business, Active International, a corporate trading company in Pearl River, and Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern sponsored the project.

Spitzer visited Rockland County to speak about the events at local schools, to local officials, and with civic groups. Spitzer met with Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef in New City.

That week culminated with “Rock the Games” a dinner and torch ceremony honoring the Munich 11 athletes and local Rockland leaders.

Children in the Temple Beth Sholom youth choir perform at "Hanukkah in Harmony".

2. “Hanukkah in Harmony”. On December 8, 2012, this event was held in memory of David Berger. At our annual community-wide Hanukkah celebration, we were joined via live videoconference by David’s father (Dr. Ben Berger, sister (Barbara Berger) and niece (Dalit Gulak).  T-shirts of the picture of David Berger to be worn by our 2011 JCC Maccabi Games® athletes were unveiled and distributed.

3. Film: Berlin 36. On April 10, 2012, as part of the JCC Rockland’s Jewish Film Festival, Berlin 36 was shown In memory of Kehat Shorr. Berlin 36 is a 2009 German film telling the fate of Jewish athlete Gretel Bergmann in the 1936 Summer Olympics. She was replaced by the Nazi regime by an athlete later discovered to be a man. The film is based on a true story and was released in Germany on September 10, 2009.

Local artist Eric David Laxman poses with the Munich 11 sculpture in his studio.

4. Munich 11 Sculpture Unveiling. On September 25, 2011, the 39th anniversary of Munich on the Jewish calendar, JCC Rockland introduced the first memorial sculpture in the United States in honor of the Munich 11. The family of Munich 11 Olympian David Berger, originally from Cleveland, was present for the event.

The sculpture, prominently located outside the entrance to the Rockland Jewish Community Campus, was dedicated by Ilse and John Lang, Bonnie and Alan Elkin, and Ellen and Arthur Wagner. The sculpture by Eric David Laxman is of an abstract flame; surrounding the base of the flame are the names of the Munich 11.

5. Walk4Change. Immediately following the Munich 11 sculpture unveiling, the Jewish community of Rockland joined together for an 11-kilometer walk to raise money for the Change4Change program. At the donor luncheon that preceded the unveiling, a keynote address was given by retired NFL quarterback and former JCC Maccabi Games® athlete Jay Fiedler. Over 500 people attended the event, and raised over $20,000 in honor of the Munich 11.

6. Rock the Games 2. On November 5, 2011, this event was dedicated to the memory of the Munich 11 and was a follow up to Rock the Games from the year before.

The Jr. Maccabi kids light the hanukkiah at the Community Candle Lighting.

7. Hanukkah Community Candle Lighting 2011 took place on December 22, 2011. In memory of Yossef Gutfreund, Eliezer Halfin, Mark Slavin, and Moshe Weinberg. The entire Rockland community again joined together in the spirit of Hanukkah to commemorate the holiday and remember four of the Munich 11. A special presentation about their lives was made by Daniel Sonnenschein, the Rockland community shaliach.

8. Founder’s Dinner Dance. JCC Rockland’s largest annual event was held on April 1, 2012 in memory of Andrei Spitzer, the fencing coach for the 1972 Israeli Olympic team. With over 400 people in attendance, it was the largest Dinner Dance in the agency’s 24-year history. Ankie Spitzer, Andrei’s widow, again joined us in Rockland to speak at the event and receive the posthumous honor for her husband.

9. Hod HaSharon Dance Performance. On April 2, 2012, twelve elite dancers from a group of Israeli high school students visiting Rockland performed for the community at Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School in New City. The event was held in memory of Ze’ev Friedman, Yossef Romano, Yakov Springer and Amitzur Shapira. Among the dances was one that was choreographed specifically in memory of the Munich 11.

10. JCC Maccabi Games® Torch Relay. On June 10, 2012, the Rockland community collectively brought the Games torch from JCC Rockland to Rockland Community College, the location of the Opening Ceremony in August. A short program honoring the Munich 11 followed at RCC to kick-off the final march toward the Games this summer, followed by a barbeque for our JCC Maccabi athletes, and junior athletes.

11. JCC Maccabi Games® Opening Ceremony. On August 12, 2012, The Opening Ceremony took place at the Rockland Community College Field House. The event  included over 5,500 athletes, coaches, host families, volunteers and spectators, and launched a week of competition, friendship and Jewish culture. The centerpiece of the ceremony was the Munich 11 tribute in honor of the 40th anniversary of the event.