Sydney offers Jewish Olympians red-carpet treatment

SYDNEY — A Jewish Olympics Web site. Jewish drop-in centers. A permanent memorial to the Israelis slain during the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

These are just a few of the things Sydney's Jewish community is making available for the thousands of Jewish visitors who are descending on the city for the 27th Olympic Games, which begin today.

The Sydney Olympics Jewish Organizing Committee has produced an introductory brochure on the host city's Jewish community, "Guide to Jewish Sydney," which will be available at hotels, travel agencies and the drop-in centers during the Games, which run through Oct. 1. The group's Web site can be found at

According to Naomi Jones of SOJOC, "We've had inquiries from people coming from Israel, the United States, Europe, Bolivia, Canada and Ukraine, looking for all kinds of information, in particular where to go for Rosh Hashanah."

A number of finals events, as well as the closing ceremony, will clash with Rosh Hashanah. It is still uncertain whether Israel's athletes will be permitted by their government to participate on those days.

While religious services will be held in synagogues all over Sydney during the Games, Jewish athletes and others residing in the Olympic Village will have their own rabbi and chaplain, as well as a religious center.

Assisted by several leaders of the B'nei Akiva youth movement, Rabbi Mendel Kastel will conduct Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah services, and will also be on hand to offer counseling to those who missed out on a medal — or are feeling homesick.

Daily prayers and study groups will also be available.

Families throughout the Sydney Jewish community have volunteered to open their homes to visitors who require Shabbat hospitality.

Two Jewish community drop-in hospitality centers are also being established to welcome overseas and interstate guests.

The B'nai B'rith Center and Hakoah Club — a Jewish social, cultural and sporting club located in the heart of Jewish Sydney and 200 yards from the site of the beach volleyball events — will feature information booths, free Internet access, giant television screens, expert sports commentary, Jewish sporting exhibitions and kosher food, all hosted by volunteers.

Designated as the official Jewish home for the Israeli Olympic team, Hakoah Club's facilities will be utilized by the Israeli athletes during the Games and will record all Israeli results.

The club will also be the venue for "Shabbat Shalom Sydney," an Olympic Shabbat dinner for young adults on Sept. 22.

The Sydney Jewish community will dedicate a permanent memorial to the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by extremist Palestinians at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The ceremony, which will be attended by the entire Israeli Olympic team, will be held on Sept. 26 — the date of the 28th anniversary of the attack on the Jewish calendar.

Established at Moriah College, Sydney's largest Jewish day school, and sponsored by Israel's Olympic team, the Jewish National Fund and a host of Jewish communal organizations, the memorial is an eight-ton, marble-clad concrete base on which the names of the 11 athletes will be engraved.

The centerpiece of the memorial is a segment of volcanic rock brought from the Galilee in Israel, selected because of its resemblance to an extinguished Olympic torch, representing the Olympic dream which was expunged for the 11 slain athletes.

Eleven trees will be planted around the monument, and Hakoah Club will host an official reception for the Israeli Olympic team after the dedication.

On a cultural note, a selection of the Dead Sea Scrolls will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until Oct. 15. Part of the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, the exhibition is being held in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority and features 12 fragmentary scrolls, plus related archaeological artifacts from in Israel's Judean Desert.