JCC Rockland’s annual Founders Award Dinner Dance is typically the organization’s largest event of the year.
This year, it’s bigger by far than ever before in its 24-year history, with more than 380 expected to attend Sunday evening at Rockleigh Country Club.
The event’s journal, produced by a committee headed by Paul Adler and Barry Kantrowitz, has raised half-again more than the most successful previous book, in part because of the prominence of this year’s honorees and their importance to JCC, says JCC Chief Executive Officer David Kirschtel.
And still, the event this time is prelude, one of 11 events across a year dedicated to the memory of the Munich 11 — Israeli athletes and coaches who died as a result of terrorism at the 1972 Olympics.
It’s all part of the walkup to the JCC Rockland Maccabi Games, which will bring together about 1,500 young Jewish athletes from Rockland County, across the U.S. and around the world.
The opening ceremonies here come Aug. 12, the same day as the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics.In its sponsorship of the youth games, JCC has joined the decades-long effort to see the International Olympic Committee observe a minute of silence for the Munich 11.
Family of the slain coaches and athletes have pushed for such recognition and would so dearly love to see it happen in London that they have come to Rockland to support the JCC Maccabi Games and JCC’s effort to see their loved ones honored on the 40th anniversary of their deaths.
Ankie Spitzer, widow of Israeli team member Andrei Spitzer, has spoken to JCC organizers via closed circuit TV and last year spent a week in Rockland visiting schools to speak about the Munich 11 and the need that they not be forgotten.
She is back in Rockland now, and spoke with Maccabi Games leaders Wednesday evening at JCC headquarters. A broadcast journalist, Ankie Spitzer, has been pressing the Olympic Committee for decades to honor her husband and the others, who were either slain or held hostage in their Munich quarters by Palestinian terrorists. Those who survived the initial attack later died in a shootout at a German airport.
On Sunday evening, Spitzer will be JCC’s guest when her husband is honored posthumously at the Founders Award dinner.
In September 2011, Ben Berger, the 94-year-old father of weightlifter David Berger, who grew up in Ohio, attended the dedication of a memorial to the Munich 11 at JCC headquarters.
Two couples — Bonnie and Alan Elkin and Ellen and Arthur Wagner — who made substantial contributions to fund Eric David Laxman’s sculpture of a stylized Olympic flame, are among Sunday’s honorees. Alan Elkin and Arthur Wagner are principals of Active International, which as a corporation sponsors a charitable giving program that has helped more than 600 local groups. Active also is a major donor to Change4Change, a JCC effort to collect millions of dollars in spare change to help fight hunger in Rockland and Israel.
Along with the Elkins and Wagners, the Founders Award will be presented to Linda and Larry Weiss in recognition of their impact on JCC through their leadership, insight and financial support. Weiss also coaches a JCC baseball team.
Michael Rosen, who died in 2011, will be honored with the Rubin Josephs Community Service Award and the J-Award for dedication by a not-for-profit employee, will be presented to Marla Cohen, editor of the Rockland Jewish Federation Reporter.
The dinner is the eighth of 11 Maccabi Games-related events, each dedicated to one or more of the Munich 11.
The ninth comes Monday, when 12 elite dancers among a group of 35 visiting high school students from Israeli will present a free exhibition at 7:30 p.m. at the Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School in New City.
A final prelude to the games will come June 10, when 21 sets of runners will carry the Maccabi Games torch from JCC Rockland to the fieldhouse at Rockland Community College, where the opening ceremonies will take place Aug. 12.
So far, 150 Rockland youths ages 12 to 16 are registered to compete along with about 1,200 from the U.S., Israel, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada, says JCC’s Kirschtel, a driving force behind the youth games. Both numbers are expected to grow.
Venues for the competition in baseball, lacrosse, golf, basketball and tennis, among other sports, will include Suffern Middle and High Schools, Clarkstown South High School, Ramapo’s St. Lawrence Center, Rockland Community College and West Rock Indoor Sports and Recreation in Bardonia.
The JCC now needs to recruit about 1,000 volunteers of all faiths to help during the week-long games. They also have only about 200 of the 450 Jewish families needed to host visiting athletes, so there’s much still to be done before the Opening Ceremonies on Aug. 12.