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50 Years Since Munich: The 1976 Memorial Service at the Shaar



This past week, on September 5-6, we marked 50 years since the awful tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli athletes. On July 12, 1976, less than a week before the Summer Olympics in Montreal, a memorial service was held at the Shaar. The memorial was a community-wide event, organized by Jewish leaders across the city.


The Montreal Gazette reported over 1,800 people in attendance, including massacre survivor Esther Roth, the widows and relatives of three of the murdered athletes, as well as 60 members of the 1976 Israeli Olympic team. 


Also in attendance was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who read out Psalm 103 as part of the service, as well as Quebec Premier Robert Bourrassa, Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, and International Olympic Committee chair Lord Killanin, among many others. This was the seating plan for the service:




Security for the memorial service was heavy. The building was sniffed by three RCMP dogs for explosives before the Israeli athletes arrived. Moreover "a Canadian Armed Forces helicopter hovered overhead and combat-ready stood guard around the synagogue" among other measures. 



An important detail to note is the memorial was not held during the Montreal Olympics itself, being the first Summer Olympics after Munich. In fact, according to the Shaar’s September 1976 bulletin, the reason this memorial was organized in the first place was following “the refusal of the Olympics authority to include a two minute ‘silence of memorial’ at the opening ceremonies of the Montreal Olympics.” As we know, it would be many, many decades until the International Olympic Committee would memorialize the massacre during active Olympic events. 



Read the Montreal Gazette article here



  1. The Gate of Heaven: The Story of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, 1846–1896 by Rabbi Wilfred Shuchat 
  2. July 13, 1976 (page 1 of 44). (1976, Jul 13). The Gazette (1867-2010).
  3. July 13, 1976 (page 3 of 44). (1976, Jul 13). The Gazette (1867-2010).


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Monday, June 17, 2024 11 Sivan 5784