BY PAMELA D. STERN
Munich 11’s 40th anniversary is approaching soon and some people don’t even realize what Munich 11 is and was. Munich 11 was when 11 Israeli athletes went to the Olympics in Munich and were killed by a terrorist group (Black September) which happened on live TV. Much like the terrorist attacks which ironically happened here on September 11, these athletes were never given a moment of silence. Each year that commerates the anniversary of the attacks on America at the moment that each plane hit, there is a moment of silence. These athletes and coaches were never given a moment of silence.
The Munich 11 families have been asking the International Olympic Committee for a minute of silence out of respect for the 11 athletes killed in the Olympics since the 1976 Olympic Games. This year marks 40 years and it is important because the honor has never been given to these families and it is about time. Ankie Spitzer (wife of killed fencing coach Andrei Spitzer) said she has never seen such activity and media coverage in the 40 years since she has been fighting for this.
The Jewish Community Center of Rockland, through petitions and social media has been trying to educate people and raise awareness about Munich 11. The Maccabi Games which will be taking place in Rockland during their opening ceremonies will honor Munich 11 and have a moment of silence. The Maccabi Games (like a junior Jewish Olympics) is being hosted by JCC Rockland this year beginning August 12th. Two years ago when this was announced the CEO David Kirschtel announced that the Games would be in honor of the Munich 11.
Dr. Leszek Sibilski, who is a Sociology professor at Catholic University of America and a former member of the Polish National Olympic cycling team in the Olympics, has been teaching Sociology in Sports course. This class was introduced to the Munich 11 tragedy and students from this course got deeply involved in this cause. They watched the documentary and they decided to take action. They wrote to the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and asked for 1 minute of silence for these athletes who lost their lives. While these students proceeded with their quest for a minute of silence, one factor was missing-Social Media.
Donna Schmidt, Minute of Silence Campaign Manager of the Rockland Jewish Community Center (JCC) contacted Dr. Sibilski. After reading 1 of the articles about his class’s involvement, in getting a moment of silence for these athletes. The Rockland JCC then partnered up with Dr. Sibilski and his students to be their platform of social media. “We are a perfect match with the Rockland JCC. We became great partners with Donna and the board members and communicate on a daily basis now. We were coming from different angles but for the same project and same beliefs. This is a complex and intense project but, we are acting in behalf for people who can’t speak for themselves. We won’t be able to return their lives to their loved ones. ”said Sibilski.
Sibilski praises his students and said,” All of my students showed me their mature behavior. It tells me that someone before me coached, trained, and educated them in a proper way to be able to approach intercultural and global issues within our society.
Dr. Sibilski’s class was featured in an Israeli Newspaper-Yediot Aharonot with the headline-Lesson from America and a picture of the class.
Oshrat Romano-Kandell, who was 6-years-old when her father (Yosef Romano, weight-lifter) said her reaction if they did have a moment of silence for her father and the other athletes from Munich 11 would be,”How wonderful it would be if this happened! I would first take a deep breath and I would be moved to tears. After so many years of struggle of Ankie and my mother Ilana, side by side, 40 years of telling the story, 40 years of fighting and pleading, they also should be allowed to finally return to a normal life. I would tell the President of the Olympic Committee that I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his historical and righteous decision. Better late than never.”
Congresswoman Lowey and Congressman Engel were contacted by the JCC Rockland and have been involved in trying to get a moment of silence for the athletes who were killed during Munich 11. As soon as they heard about this they wanted to get involved in it. Both Congresswoman Lowey and Congressman Engel are happy to be involved in this and think that it is the right thing to do. Lowey & Engel have introduced into congress a resolution for this. No action has been done yet, as these things take time said Matthew Dennis, Lowey’s Communication Director. Once a resolution is introduced into congress, it needs to build support (there are several petitions online for this), then there needs to be a vote. Even if congress passes the resolution, there is no guarantee that the Olympics would take steps that congress asked of them.