The Jewish connection to the Olympic Games is as old as the modern Olympics movement. Unfortunately, some of the connections are tragic, like the murder of 11 members of Israel’s team at the Munich Games in 1972.
Last week The Jewish Week looked at some largely unknown parts of Olympic Jewish history. This week, the Olympics and the Holocaust.
In Olympic years, some People of the Book become people of the backstroke, the clean-and-jerk, and the high hurdles.
The Games, Summer and Winter, serve as a showcase for the best athletes, Jewish and non-Jewish. From A (Ruth Abeles) to Z (Eli Zuckerman), names like Mark Spitz and Kerry Strug are in the record books as well as Jewish history texts.
Beginning with 10 medals won by Jewish athletes at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, Jews have been a steady presence at the international competition.
To open a kosher restaurant, you have to lease the space, order food, buy pots and pans, train chefs in the laws of kashrut and hire a mashgiach.
In Athens on the eve of the Olympic Games, you also have to arrange for security guards.
“We’re very concerned about [security],” Rabbi Mendel Hendel said in a phone interview from Athens.
Zion Ozeri, globetrotting photographer who lives on the Upper East Side, packs a few camera bodies, several lenses and lots of film when he sets off on a working trip.
But that’s not the most vital part of his job.
“I have a big smile,” says Ozeri, whose pictures of Israeli families, with roots in native lands around the world, are featured in these pages. “People have to trust you. You have to convince them to allow you into their homes.”
The State of Israel does not have a state photographer, but if it did, he would be an 83-year-old native of Vienna.
David Rubinger came to Israel in 1939 as part of the Youth Aliyah movement, received his first camera in 1945, started his photo-journalist career by shooting pictures of Jerusalemites celebrating the UN’s approval of the Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947, and never stopped shooting.
At 4 she became part of history as the patient in a medical experiment — the recipient of a then-rare cornea transplant.
At 16, she made history again, because of a medical experiment she had conducted.
Taylor Bernheim, a junior at Ramaz day school in Manhattan, last week was named winner of a $50,000 second prize in the annual Siemens Westinghouse science competition.
In medieval times in the Middle East, translators in synagogues would render the reading of the weekly Torah portion from Hebrew into the vernacular Arabic or Aramaic.
Something similar took place in Manhattan this week.
During an academic conference in Boston last month, Sasha Toperich, a multilingual native of Bosnia-Herzegovina, presented a speech on recent political developments in the Balkans.
That was appropriate — Toperich is a diplomat.
Toperich also gave a concert during the two-day conference.
That, too, was appropriate — he’s a concert pianist.
Every year for the past quarter-century, Rick Landman has held the same Torah scroll during the hakafot dancing on Simchat Torah at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in Greenwich Village. The sefer Torah belongs to him.
‘Mom, do you have a minute.”
My mother was sitting at her desk in our family’s dank, basement business office. I was on my way to work.
“Sure,” she said. She turned away from her desk.
I took a breath. I was about to tell my mother something about me that would forever change my relationship with her and my family, something that those closest to me had suspected for a while, something that many people like me felt.