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Russian Jews Remember Israeli Athletes
Kathy Lally The Washington Post February 9, 2014|
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Copyright © Jim Young/Reuters
They gathered Sunday in sorrow and celebration, Jews saying a prayer for the 11 Israeli athletes killed by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Jews rejoicing that they could raise prayerful voices in Russia, once the land of the pogrom.
“If once Jews were afraid to show their Jewishness,” said Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia, “today they are proud.”
Ari Edelkopf, a Chabad rabbi who grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Sochi a dozen years ago to nurture a Jewish community here, read the names of the dead. Lazar recited the kaddish, a prayer for the dead. Later, he talked of happiness, miracles even. 
“The world has changed,” he said, watching as a Jewish man who had never worn tefillin — a box holding scripture and attached by a strap — felt it against his skin for the first time. 
“Once, that would have gotten you sent to Siberia,” he said. “Now it takes you closer to God. We see small miracles every day.”
The Sochi Olympics have provided a unifying moment, he said, offering Jews the opportunity to cheer loudly and openly for Jewish athletes. “We want to show we are proud to be Jewish,” he said, “so people around us will understand we are here to stay.”