London — For the British Jewish community, the most memorable moment of the London Olympics may be a somber one.
On Aug. 6, several hundred people are expected to attend a commemoration for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches murdered by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“From conversations across the community, the key thing people are engaged in around the Olympics is that they want to see a commemoration of Munich,” said Peter Mason, director of the London Jewish Forum.
While a ceremony organized by the Israelis and the local community takes place during every Olympic Games, this one marks the 40th anniversary of the massacre. The International Olympics Committee continues to reject international calls for a minute of silence during the opening ceremony on July 27.
But the community also has made a point of joining the general air of celebration sweeping London in the run-up to the Games. In the past year, nearly every Jewish school, youth group and charity has run Olympics-related activities. And during the Olympics, London’s Jews will welcome thousands of Jewish visitors with social events, synagogue services, guides to Jewish London and, in the Olympic Village, pastoral care.
The welcoming efforts are being coordinated by the Jewish Committee for the London Games, which was established by the London Jewish Forum and several other community organizations.
For one of the organizations, Maccabi GB, which runs sports programming for the Jewish community, the Olympics has been “a springboard to get people involved. At every opportunity we’ve linked to the Olympics,” said project manager Jessica Overlander-Kaye.
Maccabi GB worked with more than 15 Jewish organizations on more than 30 events, ranging from talks about the roles of Jews in sport to Olympics-themed sports days in Jewish schools, and liaising with students who want to write good luck cards to the Israeli delegation. An annual community Fun Run was expanded this year to reach 2,000 people, including British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
For Overlander-Kaye, become involved in Olympics-themed activities through Jewish groups is “about being part of something smaller and bigger at the same time. It’s an opportunity to be part of the Olympics while connecting to the Jewish community. Viewed backwards, it reflects very well on our community, on our mentality about working from the grass roots, that we encourage people to get active and engaged. We make it easy for people.”
She is particularly proud of the work that Maccabi did this year in encouraging people with disabilities to become involved in sports. In June, the group held an event that saw the able-bodied and non-able-bodied play sports together.