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October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘athletes’

Yad Vashem Marks Rio Olympics with Exhibitions on Jewish and Righteous Gentile Athletes

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

In the spirit of the upcoming Olympic Games set to open Saturday afternoon in Rio de Janeiro, Yad Vashem is dedicating two online exhibitions to commemorate Jewish and non-Jewish athletes. One Exhibition, “Jews and Sports before the Holocaust: A Visual Retrospective,” utilizes images and artifacts to portray different sporting events and competitions in which Jews participated. The exhibition features photos of Jewish athletes, including champion boxer Victor Perez, the Hapoel Football team from Poland, and the HaKoach Vienna Hockey team, competing at the Bar-Kochba International Sports Games in 1937.

Berlin, Germany, 1937, Hakoach Vienna in a soccer match at the Bar-Kochba international sports games. / Courtesy Juedischen Museum Im Stadtmuseum, Berlin; Yad Vashem Photo Archives

Berlin, Germany, 1937, Hakoach Vienna in a soccer match at the Bar-Kochba international sports games. / Courtesy Juedischen Museum Im Stadtmuseum, Berlin; Yad Vashem Photo Archives

The other online exhibition, “The Game of their Lives,” tells the stories of non-Jewish athletes who have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. The exhibition highlights the inspiring accounts of a dozen brave men and women – most notably the rescue stories of world-renowned Italian cyclist champion Gino Bartali, Slovenian Olympian swimmer Margit Eugénie Mallász, and Czechoslovakian soccer player Martin Uher – which truly embody the Olympics spirit of “social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

Jews in prewar Europe excelled in practically every part of society, and not only as scholars and teachers, doctors and lawyers: many were renowned athletes, too. Jews competed in the most coveted sporting competitions throughout Europe, including the Olympics.

Czechoslovakian Jewish girls’ soccer team and their coach, circa 1930. / Yad Vashem Photo Archives

Czechoslovakian Jewish girls’ soccer team and their coach, 1930. / Yad Vashem Photo Archives

Sports often served as a bridge between the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds. Friendships and comradely were formed between athletes from these two societies. During the Holocaust, some of these bonds would help save Jews, when non-Jewish athletes bravely risked their own lives to rescue their Jewish compatriots from Nazi persecution. These brave individuals, who stood up against the evil that prevailed at risk to their own lives, would later go on to be recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.


Israeli Special Olympics Teams Win 62 Medals at Los Angeles Summer Games

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Israel excels as the “start up” nation but as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted this week, Israelis also excel even when their abilities are compromised.

The prime minister made a special point of congratulating the Israeli Special Olympics team upon its return last week from the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Also attending the meeting were Special Olympics Association President Daniel Benaim, other senior association officials, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry Director General Eliezer Yavlon and Culture and Sports Ministry Sports Authority Director Dr. Ori Shefer.

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Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I want to congratulate you from the depths of my heart. We are proud of you; everyone in Israel is proud of you.

“Sixty-two medals is an amazing achievement. You are all deserving of great appreciation, first of all because you are champions. You competed and won.

“Even those who did not win, to reach the games and compete, this says that you have something special, something heartfelt that gives you strength, also with the help of your trainers and coaches whom I congratulate as well.

“But we know that it starts with you and you drew strength from your very souls. I very much appreciate this and I would like to tell you that you have brought great pride and honor to the State of Israel and to yourselves.

“Secondly, you must know that there is also national pride because you represent something special. You represent the human spirit, which can overcome any obstacle if you want to; it starts with wanting to.”

And then the prime minister added: “I ask that you invite me to the opening of the Special Olympics here next year. It will give me a chance to see you again.”

Hana Levi Julian

Maccabi Games in Germany Sparked Anti-Semitic Response

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

The director for international relations at The Simon Wiesenthatl Center on Monday called on German Justice Minister Heiko Maas to condemn “the Jew-baiting of Maccabi athletes” at the Maccabi Games in Berlin.

In a letter to the minister, Dr. Shimon Samuels praised Maas for “welcoming the Maccabi Games to Berlin as a gift that Germany, after the Holocaust did not deserve.”

But, he pointed out, “apparently not everyone shared those sentiments” expressed by President Joachim Gauck, who had said he was “very moved” that the Games had chosen Berlin.

The athletes had encountered a number of very unpleasant experiences during their time in Germany, some of which are not at all unfamiliar to older Jews who have grown up in the Diaspora.

According to Samuels, German Muslims engaged in “anti-Semitic taunting” of the athletes at the Hotel Estrel which hosted several of the teams. In addition, there were a number of neo-Nazi threats made against the athletes on the Internet. Leftist German journalist Silke Burmester also made some rather nasty remarks on the Twitter social networking site.

“What are these Jewish sorts festivals?” she asked. “Have the Jews had their own Olympic games since ‘36?” In a separate tweet, she posted, “The Jewish sport has again arrived in Berlin. What should that be: swastika-throw?”

Samuels wrote to the minister that the games had not reached their goal, noting that the first Maccabi Games held in Prague came as a response to the exclusion of Jewish athletes from national teams.

“Maccabi’s return to Berlin, to the very stadium built for Adolf Hitler, was to have been a vindication of the united democratic Federal German Republic.

“Instead, the Jewish contestants had to be warned not to wear Stars of David or kippot for fear of violence,” he wrote.

Samuels went on to urge Maas to “vigorously condemn this Jew-baiting and take all legal measures available to apprehend those who would return us to 1936. This anti-Semitism targets Jews directly on German soil. It cannot be argued away as ‘anti-Zionism’ or ‘anti-Israelism.’

“The ironic context of Jewish sports reincarnated in Berlin that reawaken dormant phantoms is as unacceptable for Jews as for Germans.”

Hana Levi Julian

An American Tragedy in Steubenville

Monday, March 18th, 2013

A significant number of American values failures came together to create the tragedy in Stuebenville, where two teenage High School football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Foremost among them is the American tragedy of sexualizing teen girls at an age where they are not yet women. Madonna sexualized herself in her mid twenties. Brittney Spears brought the age down to about eighteen. Not young enough for you? Miley Cyrus reduced it further to sixteen. One wonders when our culture will feel that even sixteen is not a young enough age to sexually exploit girls.

Then there is the issue of sports as an emerging religion where those gifted to be athletes feel a sense of entitlement that often has them crossing lines to their own detriment. The idea that two High School football stars would think it acceptable to post pictures of a nude sixteen year old to their friends on social media shows how they thought the normal rules did not apply them. And this would be true even if there weren’t the far more serious conviction on rape. How sad that two young men have ruined their lives and done so much damage to a defenseless victim.

Next is the growing culture of alcohol abuse by minors. Alcohol played a central role in this unfolding tragedy with the essential argument on the part of the prosecution that the girl in question was so drunk there was no possible way she could give consent. One wonders why our youth are so inclined to heavy drink. Is it mere experimentation or is something deeper at work? Are they already, at so young an age, as unhappy as adults who have been battered by life and are therefore drinking negative emotions away? After all, no one in America really portrays the teen years as a bowl of cherries.

I passed my later teen years in an all-male environment in Yeshiva where the focus of my life was study. I certainly was a lot happier than the co-ed environment in which I was immersed in my early teen years where peer pressure, popularity among the girls, and a general self-consciousness made my life less enjoyable than it should have been.

Then there is the general tragedy of the absence of responsible parenting in America. The biggest question for me in this heartrending story was where were the parents? Where were they when the three teens left one party at 12:30 am to go to another? Where were they to monitor extreme drunkenness on the part of people not old enough to vote?

Many African-American young men are not raised with a father’s guiding hand. I was astonished, therefore, at the honesty displayed by Malik Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, when he said in a CNN interview that he had walked over to his son right after the guilty verdict and told him he loved him, essentially for the very first time. “I haven’t been involved in Malik’s life like I should have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents should be more involved in their child’s life… be a parent and not a friend.”

No one is better qualified to address this issue than President Obama who also grew up without his father and is by all accounts a very loving and involved parent himself. The President has addressed the subject only lightly, but it’s time that he make this an all-out campaign.

But the greatest tragedy made manifest in Steubenville is the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his humanity. When he looked upon the woman, she was stripped of her own dreams, her own opinions, her own aspirations. She was nothing but an extension of the white slave owner’s drives and ambitions. Like a third arm she existed to simply to do his chores.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/an-american-tragedy-in-steubenville/2013/03/18/

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