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At the Olympic Games: Memorial Service Held for Slain Israeli Olympic Athletes

More than 500 community leaders and former Olympians gathered in the Simon Wiesenthal Center here on the eve of the Olympic Games to participate in a memorial service for the II Israeli athletes slain at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Among the participants at the emotion-laden services were Mimi and Gur Weinberg, the wife and son of the late Moshe Weinberg, Israel’s wrestling coach who was the first victim of the Arab terrorist attack on September 5, 1972.

Other participants included Shlomit Nir-Toor, a member of the 1968 and 1972 Israeli Olympic swim teams and a national record holder in various events; Israel’s Consul General for the southwest United States, Jacob Even; and California Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy.

1972 WAS A TURNING POINT

Even, former commander of Israel’s National Defense College, told the standing-room-only audience that “the (1972) tragedy was a turning point for many countries in the free world that realized, for the first time, the threat of terrorism.” He added: “For myself and my fellow Israelis, symbolically the Olympic torch has been transformed into a perpetual light that will always remind us of the tragedy in Munich.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said that “what Jewish people have learned from their history is, when confronted by fire, they seek out the light, not the ashes. We would hope that the Olympic movement would finally come to grips with what happened in Munich.”

McCarthy called upon the International Olympic Committee to finally “make a fitting memorial to those whose lives were committed to the Olympic ideal and who fell victim to terrorism.”

RESOLUTION TO REMEMBER THE ELEVEN

A California state resolution proclaiming July 26 as “Remembering the 11 Day” was presented to Mimi Weinberg by Joseph Siegman, vice president of the U.S. Committee Sports for Israel and head of the Jewish Hall of Fame.

The sole representative at the service from the 1972 Israeli Olympic team was Nir-Toor, a mother of two who now serves as a therapist for disabled Israeli soldiers. Representing the International Jewish Students Network, she told the crowd that “not only did 11 Israeli citizens die at those (1972) Games, but the Olympic ideal may have also been killed.”

A visibly shaken Mrs. Weinberg told the audience in slow but impactful English that “it is my fervent prayer that young people everywhere learn from this tragedy not to follow in the cold-blooded footsteps of international terrorism, for who knows who the next victim might be. They may not be Jews or athletes.”

‘IT’S HARD NOT TO HAVE A FATHER’

Her 12-year-old son, Gur, born two weeks before his father’s tragic death in 1972, said in his remarks: “It’s hard not to have a father. I know he would have loved to be here in Los Angeles for the Olympics.” He concluded the service by reciting Kaddish for his father.

The service also concluded with a torch-lighting ceremony as the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, was sung. Among the torchbearers were Jean Newhouse, a non-Jew who won a gold medal in the 1932 Olympic Games in L.A.; Agnes Keleti, winner of 11 Olympic medals — including five gold medals — in gymnastics for Hungary and who now lives in Israel; Bud Jacobs, Great Britain’s 1984 Olympic wrestling team coach; and Dr. Andrew Strenk, also a non-Jew who is director of public relations for the L.A. Olympic organizing committee and a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic swim team.

The memorial service for the 11 slain Israeli athletes was sponsored by the Wiesenthal Center, the International Jewish Students Network and the Ad Hoc Committee for Remembering the Eleven.

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