“Meanwhile, the Olympic Stadium Has Become a Venue for Multi-cultural Athletic Events”

The 14th European Maccabi Games (EMG) are beginning tomorrow, 27 July 2015, in Berlin. More than 2,000 Jewish athletes from 36 countries will compete in 19 sports from football to fencing to chess. To accompany the games Tamar Lewinsky and Theresia Ziehe are producing a series of portraits with interviews, introducing a new member of the German delegation from Berlin every day here on the blog. They conducted the interviews on the grounds of the TuS Maccabi in Berlin’s Grunewald where Stephan Pramme also shot the portraits.

Alec-Ilya Pivalov (28), soccer

Young man in a room in front of a a bar with a football

Alec-Ilya (28), soccer © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Stephan Pramme

Alec, why are you taking part in the European Maccabi Games?

It’s a terrific athletic event where you can meet a lot of interesting people from many different countries. By now there’s also a familial atmosphere in the German delegation so it’s just really nice to have the opportunity to participate. And of course it makes you and your family proud.

In 1936, Jewish athletes weren’t permitted to participate in the Olympic Games. Does the fact that some of the competitive events will take place in Berlin’s Olympic grounds – which were built for that Olympics – play a personal role for you?

There is an ambivalence because of course I know the history of this stadium. But in the meantime I associate it with other events: for instance, it’s the place where Hertha BSC (Berlin’s soccer team) plays, and to me, that’s a very multi-cultural club featuring players from various religious backgrounds. The stadium was built back then but today it stands for multi-cultural athletic events. I’m glad that the EMG is happening there. It underscores the fact that times have changed, that we’ve all advanced, and that Germany has become a very modern and open country.

What does it mean to you, to compete for the German delegation?

I grew up in Germany, in West-Berlin with many Jewish friends. I never had the feeling that we weren’t welcome here. After I joined the German delegation, I noticed at the first tournament that the other countries accepted us and looked forward to the event. Of course, they would ask us how it is to live in Germany. Most of them have very positive associations though. We represent Germany as Jews. That is some message!

Tamar Lewinsky, curator of contemporary history, and Theresia Ziehe, curator for photography, are keeping their fingers crossed for all their interviewees at the European Maccabi Games!

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