Wrestling with the Ethics of the Sochi Olympics


The following is reprinted with permission from MyJewishLearning.org. We thank them for their words on this year’s Olympics which we know is weighing heavily on our readers’ minds. 

By Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

Sochi peace logoThe more I read and learn about what has been happening in Russia, the more I am afraid for its citizens. The attention that the fairly recently implemented “anti-gay propaganda” law is getting is certainly high on the list of reasons to be concerned. What begins as fines quickly becomes imprisonment. There is already more than enough evidence that creating an environment of state-sponsored discrimination against a section of the population based on an essential part of their being leads to violence against those individuals. There are numerous accounts of LGBT Russians being attacked by vigilantes and thugs.

We should all be concerned by these stories. As a Jew, and as a lesbian, I cannot help but think about Germany in the 1930s. We teach that history precisely so that we might better recognize the early signs of state-sponsored prejudice that can quickly escalate into something more. I don’t think I’m being reactionary. I’m truly and deeply concerned.

What does this mean for the Sochi Olympics, and beyond the events of the Olympics themselves. I admit, I find myself at a gut level drawn to the idea of boycott – of simply not watching. But I’m not convinced that this is an effective or meaningful response at this stage.  I would have supported the International Olympics Committee if they had made a decision to relocate or cancel the games at an earlier juncture, and I also recognize the logistical, legal, and political complexities of making such a decision.

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About Lindsey Silken

Lindsey Silken is the editorial director of InterfaithFamily based in Newton, MA. She can be reached at lindseys@interfaithfamily.com.

One thought on “Wrestling with the Ethics of the Sochi Olympics”

  • You should be commended for your stand speaking out against the discriminatory laws and practices by the current Russian regime. However, in a neighboring Muslim country, Iran, not only official oppression of gays and lesbians occurs on a regular basis, but numerous executions of homosexuals in the public squares of that Shiite state as well. As a Jew and a lesbian, I would have thought you would be outspoken in your condemnation of these heinous practices. I was unable to discover, to my disappointment, any public condemnation of that country’s execrable record vis a vix gays and lesbians by you. Please correct me if you are able.

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