by Meredith Jacobs
Rosenthal? Could he be Jewish? Really? Who would have thought Jews played beach volleyball. Wait ... Sean? That doesn't sound Jewish. And Levay? From Cuba. Could he be a "Levite"? Oh, no, look, his father/coach is wearing a cross.
And, did you know Kerri Strug is Jewish? Strug, of the 1996 "Magnificent Seven" Olympic gymnastic team. Strug whom coach Bela Karolyi convinced to vault to gold on a broken ankle with, "You can do it!"
I wish I had known that at the time. But Strug, whose name doesn't set off Jewish radar, didn't make any references subtle or overt to her tribal membership. Not that she had to. But this year, maybe because of the yahrzeit we collectively wanted to observe for the slain Israeli athletes of the Munich Olympics, I was more sensitive, more aware, more on the lookout for Jews.
And perhaps because of that, I don't know which I was more excited about during the Olympics, the American medals or the Jewish medals.
Regardless of country, a Jewish athlete is mishpoche (family) - they play for our team.
I know we do it for everything, the "Who's a Jew" game. We send the emails around about the number of Nobel prize winners who are Jewish, we sing songs about all the celebrities who celebrate Chanukah, we get excited (or embarrassed) about Jewish politicians.
But athletes? I don't know. It seems a bissel more exciting. Nobel prizes we kind of expect. Olympic medals? That's cool.
It's our nose thumb to the joke about a "brief read" being the book about Jewish athletes.
So, yes, when Bob Costas remembered our slain athletes as the Israeli team walked into the stadium, we collectively held our breaths and took our simple moment of silence that the IOC refused to muddy their celebration.
But in the end, it wasn't the silence that we needed. In the end, what we needed, came from the young girl who chose to powerfully compete to the folk song that flows throughout our Jewish lives. The song we dance to at every joyful life cycle celebration. The song that somehow gets all who hear, be they Jew or not, to clap along, swept up by the wave of happiness.
When Aly Raisman performed her floor exercise to "Hava Nagila," when she made being Jewish as much a part of her identity as being an American, we received better than a moment of silence. Our slain athletes were honored by moments of sound - loud, raucous sound. Sound that trumpeted "here we are and here we will stay" that filled millions upon millions of homes around the world.
The terrorists failed to silence us in 1972. And Raisman reminded us why we should never be silent again.