This Month In Jewish (TMIJ): July 2012

Hey kids, welcome to This Month In Jewish: a monthly installment for TC Jewfolk where we recap all the important (and some unimportant) stories you may have seen this past month. We’d love to stay and chat, but we don’t want to miss the bike ride, so let’s get started…

… with Hilary Clinton. H Dubs visited Israel earlier this month and said that the United States and Israel are on the “same page” about Iran. I don’t know what page she was referring to, but I hope it’s not Page 74. That page sucks. Seriously, Israel doesn’t want Iran to get nuclear weapons and will go to war to prevent that from happening; that’s the page Israel is on. Is the USA prepared to do the same? My Magic 8 Ball says, “Don’t count on it.”

Magic 8 Ball, is TMIJ the best? “Reply hazy, try again.”

The Israeli government, on the other hand, is not on the same page; they’re not even on the same book. After joyously mocking the union of Shaul Mofaz and Bibi Netanyahu in our first TMIJ segment two months ago, we feel such sadness in reporting that the marriage didn’t work out and the once-giddy couple has decided to divorce. The two proud parents really really wanted their more religiously inclined children to be able to join the military—just like the rest of their children (besides supermodels)—but they disagreed on who would drive the kids to the bus stop. Even their marriage counselor couldn’t keep them together.
Then Mitt Romney criticized Dr. Obama for “lecturing Israel’s leaders,” right before he lectured Britain’s leaders about how to run an Olympics. Romney’s gaffes don’t faze one Sheldon Adelson, however. If you haven’t heard of Sheldon Adelson, he’s a Jew, he owns casinos, and he’s funding Mitt Romney’s campaign. Jewish Democrats are urging Romney to give the money back, after Adelson made some questionable decisions about prostitutes in China. But asking a politician to give money back is like asking a fish to sing the ABCs. It’s not a language they speak. We like Sarah Silverman’s idea a bit more.

We turn now to the athletes on the TMIJ all-purpose, non-specific, no-MSG sports roster. The newest edition is star forward for the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team, Lior Eliyahu. Six years ago the Orlando Magic made Eliyahu the 44th pick of the NBA draft, and it looked like he was about to finally fulfill his dream of playing basketball in a warm city with a bunch of Jews. Alas, the Magic, then the Houston Rockets, never called, and six years later he’s still stuck in boring Tel Aviv. But earlier this month, your own Minnesota Timberwolves traded for this star-crossed Israeli, which means Eliyahu might finally be able fulfill his dream of playing for some NBA team, any NBA team. Bueller?
Like Eliyahu, Minnesota-bred hockey player Evan Kauffmann had dreams of competing in the top league of his chosen sport. When the NHL didn’t call, Kauffman found success playing for the Düsseldorf Metro Stars. Yes, that’s in Germany, the same country his grandfather emigrated from after spending most of World War II in a Concentration Camp. ESPN shared his story in a great video about what it’s like for Kauffmann to live, and work, and thrive in the country that enslaved his grandfather. Time heals all wounds, but it’s important to never forget.
To that end, the Olympics started last Friday. We added 46 athletes to the TMIJ roster—the 38 athletes representing Israel, and the eight Jewish American Olympians. Some are already done, but we wish the rest the best of luck.
And then there’s that petition
The Modern Olympic Games were first conceived in 1894, by a French aristocrat with the silken name of Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He saw the modern Games as a way for nations of the world to compete in sport, believing that friendly competition would encourage mutual respect and understanding between cultures and even prevent hostile nations from waging war. “The important thing in life is not the triumph,” he said, “but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
It’s a message that speaks to the struggle that the families of the Munich 11 have been fighting for 40 years. Yet they seek a type of resolution that they tragically will never achieve. Their fight for official recognition of the massacre by the IOC sounds a lot like the desire for revenge. And as countless action movies and vigilante biographies will tell you, the satisfaction of getting revenge never quite equals the hurt of the original loss. If those examples are less than satisfying think about the fates of the member of Black September; all but one have died, yet the fight for respect for the slain athletes lives on.
We don’t mean to say that their fight is unimportant or hollow. We can understand why the families and friends of the slain athletes keep fighting, but why everyone else? This year the call for recognition was joined by thousands of people, all of whom signing a petition calling for a minute of silence at the Opening Ceremonies. Why so many? Why now?
Deborah Lipstadt (and others) make a compelling argument that “Jewish blood is cheap,” that if these had been American athletes we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But if it had been American athletes there would have been a minute of silence at the very next Olympics. Why there wasn’t one in Montreal for the Israeli athletes, I don’t know. Maybe because Jewish blood is cheap. But that was then, and this is now. While we, and most of the world, would agree that what happened in Munich 40 years ago is despicable, there are some people—whole countries even—that still consider what happened a good and noble thing. (Countries like Iran; they’ve waffled on whether their athletes will play Israel’s, with the athlete most likely to face an Israeli already bowing out with a gut infection.)
Coubertin envisioned a contest where the cares of the world could be set aside for a while, and the only things that mattered would be what the athletes brought to the playing field, and what they left of themselves on it when the game was over. The Olympics are a time to celebrate similarities between cultures, not emphasize differences. By granting a minute of silence, especially during the Opening Ceremonies, the IOC would have been saying that Israel’s struggle is more important than the struggles of other nations (or peoples without a nation) in a way that transcends the action on the field of play.
If anything, hold a minute of silence before the start of play at the events that the Munich 11 died for—that’s five minutes of silence. The families get their silence, we all get to pat ourselves on the back for doing a good thing, and a country like Iran doesn’t have to worry that their athletes will mourn for athletes from a country seen as illegitimate. And ultimately, the memorial will occur on the field, the place where the fallen athletes and coaches should have been.

Finally, like a Yom Kippur Happy Hour, here’s some stuff that didn’t fit:
A quiz to see how Jewish you are, with such unbiased questions like: “What’s more important to you, a giant advertisement for a notoriously shallow city, or a wall that’s stood for 2,000 years and represents the history of an entire culture?
Hitler Ordered Protection for his Jewish Army Commander” You think this is the start of a heartwarming story (or at least as heartwarming as any story can be that starts with, “Hitler Ordered…”). Hitler’s commanding officer in WWI was ancestrally Jewish, and Hitler apparently liked the guy enough to spare him from deportation… until 1942. Then they shipped him away like all the rest.
Hava Hershkovitz step forward for you glamour shot, you are officially Miss Holocaust Survivor! Some see this as rude and insensitive to the millions of victims and survivors. Some see this as empowering for those who survived. And some see this as a total cash cow. Get the Osmunds! Get Trump! Hell, get Regis on the phone! With 200,000 survivors still living (and that’s just in Israel!) this thing could go on for decades!
An openly gay, ex-Muslim man is about to be ordained as a rabbi.
Woody Allen on Israel. He’s so articulate it’s just not fair.

That’s all for this month; next month be on the lookout for these hot stories:
Israeli Olympic Athlete Competes, Earns A For Effort
Local Deli Owner Resting All His Hopes On New Hummus Smoothie
Profiles In Courage: Rabbi Jesús McCarthy

One last thing: Sometimes something happens in the world that defies explanation and makes it hard to tell jokes. This month, we unfortunately lived through two such events. The first was a bombing in Bulgaria of a bus filled with Israeli tourists. The other was the mass murder in Aurora, Colorado at the midnight opening of The Dark Knight Rises. Our hearts go out to the victims of both acts of terror. Not knowing what else to say, TMIJ highly recommends expat comedian Benji Lovitt’s excellent, sober piece about what this all means.
(Photo credit: chiaNisse)