The 2012 Summer Olympics are beginning in London, England. The Olympic Committee won’t remember the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered in Munich forty years ago. But I will, and I hope you will, too.
As a quiet, little New York City Jewish girl visiting my father in Miami glued to a far off world on the television, I wanted to be just like Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut, all smiles, gliding across a balance beam. Olga Korbut vaulted to Olympic fame in Munich, Germany in 1972. And I jumped to childhood glory somewhere near Dadeland, in Florida. She paused with her hands and arms just gracefully so. And I did that, too, with my limbs in all sorts of directions, like a traffic signal gone wild. When Olga finished her floor exercises she grinned a grin better than I could ever have while eating a box of yodels. And then to be like my little girl hero, I ran through the grass and stood still when the music stopped.
I was getting ready to watch Olga back flip the uneven parallel bars. I was planning my Cinderella fairy tale wedding to Mark Spitz, an American Jew who won seven gold medals and wore a hot moustache. And then I turned on the television, and saw masked men with guns on someone’s terrace. The man reporting the news told me this was coming from Germany, from the Olympic Village. These men, may they be further away then they came from that year, had taken over the Israeli team’s rooms. This was happening to them because they were Jewish, the first time I, born decades after the Holocaust, had ever seen such a thing happen to a group of people because they were Jewish. Sitting alone in a bedroom, I was scared.
Thirty years after the Holocaust, I lived in a little part of New York City that was settled by Germans and Jews. We lived and mixed just fine. My mother shopped at the local deli, Lutzen’s, for the best roast beef and German potato salad. But when my family spent summers on the Connecticut side of the Long Island Sound, my mother with blue eyes and blonde hair always warned me to never tell people who I was, wwho I am. A Jew. My mother had grown up during the Holocaust, here in the USA. She was an opera singer who was told in order to succeed she would need to get a nose job to “fix things.“ And my mother was always worried what people would say about who we were.
I couldn’t understand my mothers concerns. Then Munich happened. And that was my first experience, as a little girl growing up real fast, that things were indeed different. I was worried that the men who killed these innocent participants in the Olympics for being Jewish, Israeli Jews, would come for me, alone in an American bedroom. I was reminded through a massacre in Germany, those 40 years ago this summer during the Olympics, of who I am. A Jewish girl who likes to eat chocolate, still can’t do a cartwheel, who will always flip over a poster of hot American Jewish man who wore only his swimmies, a hot moustache and seven gold medals.