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Slain Israeli Olympian David Berger Memorialized in Hometown Jewish Community

Our first event for Thursday, July 12 was a Daytime Coffee Talk conducted by our friend Dr. Sean Martin, Western Reserve Historical Society Associate Curator for Jewish History. The talk took place in The World Remade gallery at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, Ohio. This was the second in a series at the museum; the first pertained to the creators of the Superman comic strip and was held on June 7.

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On this occasion, the subject was the late David Berger, one of 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich. Berger was being memorialized at the Museum. His tribute read:

"Shaker Heights native David Berger started weightlifting competitively at age 12. After earning an M.B.A. and a law degree from Columbia University, he immigrated to Israel in 1970, becoming a sports instructor for disabled children and training for the country's Olympic team. At the 1972 Munich games, Berger and 10 teammates would be murdered by Palestinian terrorists of the Black September group."

Tragically, Berger was only 28 years old at the time of his death, and Dr. Martin did a fine job talking about his life in the context of other world happenings that were taking place at the time, particularly those pertaining to the state of Israel. Also present was the renowned local playwright Ms. Faye Smoliton, who wrote a play about Berger titled "A Form of Hope," based on conversations she had with those who knew him.

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Moreover, there were several people sitting among us that day who actually knew Berger or were classmates of his at Shaker Heights High School, where he graduated in 1962. Loving memories were shared, including those of a woman who, along with her boyfriend at the time, accompanied Mr. Berger and his girlfriend on double dates. 

More information about Berger can be found here. Since his death, Berger has been the recipient of several prestigious plaudits, such as having a local B'nai B'rith Youth Organization chapter named after him. 

Most notable is the David Berger National Monument that was created by the late Cleveland sculptor Mr. David E. Davis, which is now located at the Mandel Jewish Community Center of Cleveland.

The monument is described in the above link as depicting:

The five Olympic rings broken in half symbolize the interruption and cancellation of the Munich games by the tragic events, and the 11 segments on the rings represent each athlete whose life was taken. One of the segments is slightly different from the rest to symbolize the unique events in David's life that led him to the Israel Olympic team and to his death. But there is an upward motion in the broken rings to suggest the peaceful intent of the Olympics, a search for understanding, and hope for the future.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC   

 

 

 

Aimee Jannsohn