By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — Thousands of people turned out Sunday evening to watch the Opening Ceremonies and Parade of Athletes of the JCC Maccabi Games — an event complete with one thousand athletes, three separate oaths and three national anthems.
Even Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had well wishes to offer the competitors.
In a taped presentation, Netanyahu commended each of the Maccabi athletes on their physical achievements and wished them well in the upcoming competition.
“I extend warm greetings to all of you in Dallas, Texas and JCC Maccabi Games,” Netanyahu said. “… You can rightly be proud of your Jewish heritage. You can rightly be proud of the Jewish state. In a region plagued by despotism and extremism the land of Israel stands out as a beacon of free rights.”
Netanyahu added: “I wish all of you success! Enjoy the games. Shalom!”
During the opening ceremonies — which took place in Moody Coliseum on the campus of Southern Methodist University — Master of Ceremonies Mark Elfenbein and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings lauded the many athletes who came to Dallas from around the world to compete in sports such as baseball, basketball, dance, tennis, swimming, golf, soccer, table tennis and volleyball.
The mayor — whose appearance was accompanied by the theme song of the classic Dallas television show — encouraged Dallas natives to be the best possible local ambassadors during the games, which run through Aug. 7.
“Let’s make this the very best it’s ever been — and show them what Dallas is all about,” Mayor Rawlings said.
This hearty sentiment was echoed by the videotaped testimonies of legendary athletes such as Troy Aikman that were played during the ceremony.
“Game on, y’all,” Aikman said during his segment.
Dallas Maccabi Games Co-chairs Ruthie Shor, Wendy Stanley and Dan Prescott made a brief appearance early in the ceremony.
Prescott announced to the audience that area volunteer efforts over the past four months has resulted in the collecting of over 40,000 pounds of food expected to provide 83,000 meals to hungry people here in Dallas.
“We are up for any challenge and take our roles as leaders seriously,” Prescott said.
After all teams made their appearances during the parade of athletes, Maccabi officials administered the official oaths to the coaches, athletes and spectators who were present.
On a musical note, Josh Goldberg sang three national anthems — American, Canadian and Israeli — to great fanfare from the audience.
Remembering Munich 11
Part of the ceremony was held in remembrance of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by terrorists during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
These include weightlifter David Berger, 28; weightlifter Ze-ev Friedman, 28; wrestling referee Yossef Gutfreund, 40; wrestler Eliezer Halfin, 24; weightlifter Yossef Romano, 31; track coach Amitzur Shapira, 40; shooting coach Kehatt Shorr, 53; wrestler Mark Slavin, 18; fencing coach Andre Spitzer, 27; weightlifting judge Yakov Springer, 51; and wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg, 33.
Meanwhile, Rabbi William Gershon, senior rabbi at Dallas’ Congregation Shearith Israel and president of the Rabbinical Assembly, delivered an impassioned invocation emphasizing both the historical nature of Maccabi and the long-lasting nature of the Jewish people.
“We are a strong people,” Rabbi Gershon said. “We are a mighty people, we are a proud people that never gives up. And nothing … nothing, can ever stop the Jewish people.”
The rabbi then turned the attention of the audience toward Hallie Barnard, a 7-year-old Denton second-grader who suffers from Diamond-Blackfan Anemia, a disorder of the bone marrow. This disorder is so rare, only 800 children in the world suffer from it, her mother said.
Hallie earnestly asked the audience for help finding a biological match and is sponsoring a bone marrow registry and drive in search of a stem cell transplant for anyone who can be helped.
“I am really worried about finding my match,” Hallie told the audience.
Hallie’s mother Elyse told a reporter that at least 200 people had signed up to be tested by DNA swab Sunday night. Hallie is currently taking steroids to stay well but once she develops a resistance, she will be forced to rely on blood transfusions every three weeks to survive.
“I can’t do this for her when she is sick in the hospital,” Elyse Barnard said to the reporter, indicating the information collecting efforts around her. “We haven’t yet found that match. She has been on the registry since she was 18 months old. She is 7 now and we haven’t found the genetic code.”
Amy Roseman, donor recruitment coordinator, for Delete Blood Cancer, said volunteers are trying to locate the same kind of genetic twin for Hallie that everyone has.
“We each have that genetic twin — and that could greatly help a person who needs a whole different immune system,” Roseman said.
Prospective bone marrow donors have to be in good general health and between the ages of 18 and 55.
A free swabbing kit can be ordered online at www.deletebloodcancer.org. To inquire further about helping Hallie, call Amy Roseman at 646-530-2911.