- Jüdischer Sport und Jüdische Gesellschaft (Jewish Sport and Jewish Community)
This edited volume on the history of Jewish sport is a collection of twenty-six papers (nine in English [ENG], seventeen in German [GER]) some of which were previously presented at a conference in Berlin in 1998. This is not to say that the articles are not state of the art—many authors have reworked their topics and reference latest contributions to the field. Each essay is furnished with a summary and table of contents for the convenience of the reader. Most articles are illustrated by at least one photograph.
The volume is organized into six main sections: “Jewish Sport—Cultural, Religious and Political Basics,” “Assimilation, Exclusion and Anti-Semitism” (Murry Nelson on Basketball [ENG] and Rainer Amstädter on Alpinism [GER]), “Jewish Sport in Biographies,” “Jewish Sport under National-Socialist Rule” (in Germany) and “Jewish Women in Sport.” The section “Jewish Sport in Europe” holds further subsections featuring papers on Denmark (by Jørn Hansen [ENG]), England (Paul Yogi Mayer [GER]), Hungary (Katalin Szikora [ENG], Lajos Szabó [ENG]) and nine articles concerning Poland. While it is impossible to mention or even discuss each of the contributions here it is quite obvious that they differ widely in terms of length and depth of subject matter. Excluding the title page and summary, the articles range in length between five and twenty-nine pages.
Editor Toni Niewerth claims that the “unifying element of these essays . . . is the question of particular circumstances under which sport was able to develop in Jewish communities as distinctively ‘Jewish sport’ and how this development was influenced by the relations between the majority population and the Jewish minority” (p. 12). Moreover, the articles are supposed to show that “in a period of growing Jewish self-confidence on the one hand as well as increasing menace on the other, the Jews’ own sport thus became . . . an integral part of Jewish self-awareness and self-assertion” (p. 12). This period refers to the time between the two world wars; however, the first of the two introductory essays deals with “The Jewish Contribution to the Civilizing Process” (by Benny J. Peiser [ENG]), in which the author concentrates on ancient history only. The other article of this section, Max Nordau’s concept of Muscular Judaism (Petra Zudrell [GER]), elaborates on the classic topic concerning the role of sport in Jewish history. As an expert on Nordau’s biography, Zudrell evaluates Nordau’s commitment to Zionism and sport before the background of major discourses of his time. Referring to Hugo Ganz’s 1898 newspaper article “Assimilation or Regeneration?” she portrays the idea of Muscular Christianity as the role model for Nordau’s concept. It becomes clear that Nordau preferred the harmonious body culture of the German Turnen (gymnastics) over British sport, which he believed embodied specialization (p. 39). Unfortunately, this article lacks reference on the latest contributions to this topic. [End Page 355]
As suggested by the headings of the other sections, the authors follow up different methodological approaches. Classical reconstructions of male-dominated history through the lens of archival material are served as well as gender-informed studies on Antonie Straßmann (by Gertrud Pfister [GER]) and female American swimmers (Linda J. Borish [ENG]) focusing on Charlotte Epstein. Making use of original documents as well as oral history, Albert Lichtblau (GER) presents an insight into the role of sport for exile communities. His account on cultural transfer, i.e. Jewish soccer clubs in New York and Shanghai, is a major contribution on minority groups within a wider society. It shows that sport clubs may become the center of a small society in regard to fostering social contacts, doing business, and strengthening ethnic identity.
Another excellent paper is the overview on Jewish sport in Denmark by Jørn Hansen (ENG) in which he illustrates Hakoah’s exceptional role as a place for refuge as well as a site...