Learning from Diversity

We all hear about London being a hugely diverse city, with over 7 million people of all different nationalities, religions and cultures living together. With the London 2012 Games now in full swing, this number has been increased hugely with athletes, coaches, officials and spectators flooding in from all corners of the globe to be a part of “The Greatest Show On Earth”.

In this JVN blog, I am sharing with you Rabbi Maurice Michaels’ Thought for the Day on 8th August on Radio 4. In his address he reflected on Monday night’s memorial event for the 11 members of the Israeli team murdered at the 1972 Munich Games, on his own experiences of volunteering for this year’s Games, and on the lessons we can learn from living in such a diverse environment. Here is an extract:

Walking through the Olympic Park the other morning, a youngster aged perhaps five or six came bounding up to me and gave me a high five. I don’t know who he thought I was in my volunteer’s uniform, but his enthusiasm was so contagious that I started looking around with a new perspective and noticed lots of other children and young people, their eyes excitedly taking in all that was going on around them and I thought what wonderful memories they will take into their adult lives.

But not all Olympic memories are so good. Last night I was at the Guildhall for a memorial ceremony marking the fortieth anniversary of the murder of eleven Israeli athletes, coaches and officials by terrorists at the Munich Olympics… What made this commemoration even more poignant was a conversation I’d had a few days earlier with another volunteer who was at Munich. He had been one of several hundred German school children who were part of the entertainment for the Opening Ceremony there and he told me that his memories were so confused as that happy time merged into the later massacre.

I’ve lived in the east side of London for many decades and remember it being a vibrant place that had happily and with great tolerance opened itself up to peoples from all lands and religions and cultures. Whether political refugees or economic migrants, there had always been a welcome. All got along together. They went to the same schools, bought in the same shops, enjoyed the same leisure facilities.

But this seems to have changed. There is much more separation in our lives. People from different groups can look at each other with suspicion – or perhaps fear. The atmosphere sometimes feels oppressive. The great first century Jewish scholar Hillel said: “Don’t separate yourself from the community.” I would interpret this not from an individual standpoint but from a collective perspective. Rejoicing in our diversity, together we can achieve so much more. My hope is that… in time we can look back on the Olympics with fond memories as being the paradigm of a united London.

Look out for a blog about the Munich commeomration event next week.

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Categories: Leonie's View

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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