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Reviews: Sport and British Jewry: Integration, Ethnicity and Anti-Semitism 1890-1970 (2013), David Dee; Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here? The Story of English Football's Forgotten Tribe (2013), Anthony Clavane

Tom Plant

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Sport and British Jewry: Integration, Ethnicity and Anti-Semitism i8go- 1970, David Dee (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), ISBN 0719087608, pp. 240, £65; Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here?: The Story o/English Football's Forgotten Tribe, Anthony Clavane (London: Quercus Editions, 2013), isbn 0857388142, pp. 304, £9.99. The significant contributions of British Jews to the sporting achievements of the United Kingdom has often, as Anthony Clavane and David Dee emphasize in their respective works, been overlooked. As Dee notes, irrespective of the recognition given to individual Jewish athletes such as Harold Abrahams, the notion that Jews have long been involved with British sport goes "against the grain of perceptions of British Jews" (Dee, p. 1). Both authors explicitly set out to illustrate not only British Jewry's significant contributions to sport in Britain but also the profound effect that sport in all its forms has had on Jewish life, thought, and identity in Britain since the late nineteenth century. In Sport and British Jewry: Integration, Ethnicity and Anti-Semitism 1890-1970,</page><page sequence="2">Sport and British Jewry , David Dee 179 the first book of its kind systematically to explore British Jews' engagement with sport, Dee aims both to refute a number of stereotypes and omissions regarding Jewish involvement in British sport (here he is careful to avoid a celebratory chronicle of Jewish achievements) and to explore the effect that sport had on Jewish life in Britain. Dee is less concerned with British Jews' impact on sport than with the effect of sport and physical recreation on Jews' relationships with non-Jews, both positive and negative, and on British Jews' conceptions of their own sense of identity. These themes form the centrepiece of Dee's analysis and, through case studies ranging from Abrahams to the British Union of Fascists (buf) to British golf clubs, they are woven together into an impressive account that highlights the complexity, fluidity, and multidirectional nature of British Jews' relationship with sport. Clavane's focus is much more specialized, though no less ambitious. More journalistic in style than Dee's work, Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here?: The Story 0/ English Football's Forgotten Tribe attempts to trace Jewish involvement in English football from the mass migration of the late nineteenth century through to the present day. While sharing Dee's interest in the effect of football on the Jewish community, Clavane is much more concerned with writing Jews back into English footballing history, seeking to counter the myth of Jewish absence from the sport but also highlighting the pivotal role that Jews have played in the transformation of English football into a global industry. Yet the driving themes of Clavane's work share much with those of Dee: Clavane engages thoroughly with sport's role in the integration process, and in particular the tensions between what he terms "becoming English" and "staying Jewish" that sport engendered, and draws thoughtful conclusions as to the complex place of antisemitism within football. Clavane's approach allows him to trace the arc of football's evolving relationship with the Jewish community, which in turn enables a thought-provoking exploration of the changing nature ofjewish/non-jewish relations since the 1880s. Clavane and Dee argue that sport was a critical element of the angliciza- tion of recent Eastern European migrants in the period before 1914. The use of sport as part of this process, particularly within Jewish youth move- ments, has been explored before: Sharman Kaddish, Susan Tananbaum, and others have demonstrated that sport was intended to transform the physiques and values of migrants, and their children, into those ofupstand- ing Britons. Such accounts have often placed sport at the periphery of the anglicization process, yet Dee and Clavane each contend that sport was in</page><page sequence="3">180 REVIEWS fact one of the central mechanisms of anglicization. Dee offers a detailed exploration of the way in which competitive sport between Jews was used to foster British values and characteristics, stressing particularly the efforts of the Jewish Athletic Association to ensure that participation in sports did not conflict with Sabbath observance, thereby ensuring that the anglicizing benefits of sport could be shared by all. Yet Dee also attempts to move beyond the role of sport in shaping the migrants' values and characters. As he persuasively argues, competitive sport with non-Jews was explicitly used to challenge antisemitic notions of Jews' inability to integrate by demon- strating that Jews were able to be just as fine sportsmen as the British, and by ending migrant Jews' supposed isolation from British society. By far the most important contribution made by both authors to the study of the process of integration, however, is their assessment of the way in which sport also provided an informal and individualized mechanism through which those Jews outside the remit of establishment organizations began, in a haphazard manner, gradually to acculturate themselves. As Dee notes, there was nothing inevitable about this process, nor was it driven by attempts at social control. Rather, he argues that individuals recognized that the assimilation of a middle-class British sporting spirit would greatly aid their integration into non-Jewish society and thereby facilitate greater social mobility. Dee's analysis of the life and career of the sprinter Harold Abrahams offers a persuasive boost to this argument. The author notes that for Abrahams and his brothers it was their sporting successes, rather than their intellectual or educational abilities, that were key to their acceptance at Oxbridge and in wider society. Indeed, Abrahams himself saw sport as the key to this acceptance. Beyond the formal anglicization initiatives of the established community, which primarily targeted poorer migrants, sport therefore remained key to the continued integration of British Jews, even those from more privileged backgrounds such as the Abrahams family. Clavane's work reinforces this. He demonstrates that for footballers such as Louis Bookman, a Lithuanian Jew whose family had settled in Ireland, being a good player went some way towards persuading non- Jews to accept his foreignness. Yet it is Clavane's examination of those on the periphery of football - the spectators, journalists, managers, and owners - that further draws out Dee's notion of haphazard and informal integration through sport. For spectators in particular, Jewish and non- Jewish alike, Clavane argues that sport gradually became a common denominator that levelled social, cultural, and religious differences.</page><page sequence="4">Sport and British Jewry , David Dee 181 As one of Clavane's interviewees relates, football was "a broad church, an open synagogue. Nobody cared what you did on Saturday morning if you were at Maine Road [then the home ground of Manchester City] on Saturday afternoon" (Clavane, p. 88). As such Clavane illustrates how at least some Jews understood sport as an agent of integration and, for all of their love of the game itself, in part embraced it for that reason. Both authors are clear that this informal process of integration was not always sought by British Jews but, rather, occurred incidentally to their engagement with physical recreation for the purposes of enjoyment. A recurring theme throughout both works is that sport acted as an important site in which Jewish identities were negotiated and reconfigured, and that through this process sport helped to create a secular and hybridized British Jewish identity. Sport, they argue, facilitated the gradual erosion of Jewish identities in that increasing numbers of British Jews began to play and watch sport on the Sabbath, thereby undermining religious and ethnic ties with the community. Dee stresses that sport was only one factor in declining Sabbath observance, yet suggests it was a vital one, exacerbating pre-existing trends for religious decline. Indeed, as religious observance declined through the twentieth century this enabled greater attendance at sporting events, and sport gradually became a bigger draw for many Jews than the synagogue. Yet each author also emphasizes that this process was frequently challenged both on a community level, with communal leaders stressing the dangers of too much sport and too much acculturation, but also, significantly, by individuals, who themselves placed limits on sport's acculturating process. Dee highlights many Jews' selective attitudes towards sports and religious observance, exploring the motivations of those who refused to smoke while watching football matches on the Sabbath, or the Jewish boxers who proudly displayed both the Union flag and the Magen David on their shorts. Clavane goes further, suggesting that by the 1970s attendance at the synagogue in the morning followed by a football match in the afternoon had become a new Sabbath ritual for British Jews, and that for many Jews this ritual symbolized a mutually constructive relationship between Jewishness and Britishness. Indeed, Clavane argues that football did much to foster such "cultural miscegenation" (p. 79). Throughout these discussions of integration and identity both Clavane and Dee are at pains to stress that the Jewish interaction with sport was never uniformly positive. As they and other historians of the British Jew-</page><page sequence="5">182 REVIEWS ish community have persuasively argued, the need for a formalized angli- cization process - in which sport played a key role - was born in part from a fear of antisemitism. Recent controversies over antisemitic chanting at football matches in Britain have triggered fresh discussions regarding an- tisemitism in the game, yet the precise relationship between sport and an- tisemitism remains underexplored. Dee in particular attempts to rectify this, demonstrating that sport was linked to both organized and social antisemitism and that this was based on Jews' supposed racial differences in their sporting outlook and demeanour, in addition to ethnic prejudice. Dee demonstrates that sport was often central to the propaganda of organized antisemitic groups such as the buf, who utilized sport as a means of representing Jews as eternal outsiders. Buf propaganda portrayed Jews as operating a "hidden hand" with British society; accusations of Jewish racketeering were used to further the buf's claims regarding Jewish power in Britain, thereby underlining Jews' supposed threatening nature. The organization also depicted Jews as lacking a British "sporting attitude", a difference that was ascribed to racial differences between Jews and Britons. Depictions of Jews as racially unsporting were contrasted with the buf's presentation of themselves as the epitome of British sporting masculinity, further serving to underline the otherness of the Jews. Such conclusions are a valuable addition not only to the study of organized antisemitism but also to histories of British intolerance more broadly. Clavane does not tackle the issue of organized antisemitic discourses surrounding football, but both authors engage in thoughtful discussions regarding the social elements of antisemitism. Shifting from the buf to British clubland, particularly golf clubs, Dee shows that Jews were often subjected to exclusionary practices as a result of pervasive ethnic stereotypes: Jews were portrayed as clannish, flashy, and unsporting and therefore unsuitable for membership in what were often exclusive clubs. Jews responded by forming their own clubs and Dee thus demonstrates that the exclusionary attitude towards Jewish social mobility (increased Jewish involvement in golf was largely driven by their move into the suburban middle classes) which scholars have identified in other sections of British society in this period also extended into the world of sport. Clavane too highlights less organized forms of antisemitism within football, from racially motivated chants to persistent negative references to key figures' Jewishness. Clavane emphasizes that antisemitism has existed throughout the history of English football: in 1948 the</page><page sequence="6">Sport and British Jewry, David Dee 183 Reading footballer Leslie Goldberg changed his name to Les Gaunt after experiencing antisemitism, while in the twenty-first century Chelsea's Roman Abramovich was immediately cast as a shadowy figure from the dark, unknowable East even as his presence triggered a decline in open antisemitism among Chelsea fans. Here Clavane, supported by Dee's conclusions, makes a vital point: that although antisemitism placed limits on the sporting acceptance ofjews, sport also simultaneously acted to limit and reject antisemitism. Indeed, both authors demonstrate that attempts to disprove antisemitic accusations were a central element of Jewish participation in sport. Sport, they argue, provided a mechanism for an assertive Jewish response to antisemitism. Dee develops the example of Jewish boxing successes to demonstrate that Jewish victories in the ring were used to counter wider negative stereotypes about Jewish weakness, while in the footballing sphere Clavane notes that the Jewish Chronicle lauded the physiques of Harry Morris and Leslie Goldberg as a direct challenge to antisemitic caricatures. Equally, organizations such as Wingate Football Club used sport to promote friendly rivalry between Jews and non-Jews in an explicit attempt to produce positive contact between the groups. Dee in particular expands such case studies into an examination of the divergent responses to antisemitism within the community, noting that sporting policies on antisemitism mirrored responses more broadly, in that organizations controlled by established British Jews tended to prefer behind the scenes diplomacy to the direct confrontation advocated by more working-class and immigrant groups. This exploration of the communal rejection of antisemitism is matched by a focus on the actions of individual Jews when faced with antisemitic hostility and, indeed, the consistent attempt to pull out the realities of day-to-day life is a strength of both works. Clavane and Dee demonstrate that for individual Jews, whether professionals or amateurs, sport became a vital way of fighting back against antisemitism, often literally. Both authors offer numerous examples of Jewish sportsmen who, provoked by antisemitic taunts from their opponents, responded with their fists. Here Dee and Clavane are able to uncover yet more of the complex way in which sport encouraged a positive rejection of antisemitism. Clavane discusses how, as schoolchild, he himself placed the Queen's Park Rangers winger Mark Lazarus on a list of the greatest Jewish schtarkers, third only after Samson and Judah Maccabeus, while Dee relates how bouts between Jews and known fascist supporters offered a sense of legitimacy to more</page><page sequence="7">184 REVIEWS assertive forms of Jewish self-defence. Sport, the authors demonstrate, offered both a figurative and a literal means of "kicking anti-Semitism into touch" (Dee, p. 196). Each work therefore offers a complex analysis of the way in which sport simultaneously entrenched and eroded hostilities against British Jews, yet it is Dee's account which best illustrates the depth and complexity of the situation. Clavane's work at times appears more inclined to view the history of Jewish involvement in British sport in celebratory terms as an upward, positive trajectory in which tolerance and integration ultimately triumph over hostility and exclusion. Although Clavane is careful to emphasize the powerful presence of antisemitism in sport, particularly in the early years of his chronology, anti-Jewish sentiment is depicted as slowly decreasing from the 1970s, as in the discussion of Abramovich's impact on Chelsea. Indeed, this interpretation is maintained even as Clavane touches on examples of the "othering" of Jews in football. He argues that the entry of Jews such as Lord Triesman and David Bernstein into the select enclave of the English Football Association (fa) "represents, to my mind, the triumph of integration" (p. 241), even as he uncritically repeats Triesman's comment that he and Bernstein were chosen because the fa felt them to be "a bit exotic" (p. 235). Clavane is right to stress the way in which Jews have become increasingly integrated and accepted in British society, partly as a result of the influence of sport, and indeed his work enhances this conclusion, yet there is more depth and complexity to the situation of British Jews in the twenty-first century than the book suggests. There are also important subjects that remain unexplored in both authors' accounts of the impact of sport on the Jewish community, particularly the issue of gender. Both analyses are largely male-centric - Clavane's account offers little in the way of an assessment of Jewish women's view of or engagement with football, for example. This is perhaps understandable given that the sport has traditionally been dominated by men, a point that Clavane makes clear, yet this itself suggests that football did not quite have the community-wide effect on Jewish identity and integration that Clavane appears to suggest. Similarly Dee, though acknowledging the role of both boys' and girls' clubs in the anglicizing process, does not explore the extent to which there were specific gender differences within the "British" characteristics and physiques that physical recreation was intended to provide. Dee rightly explores the careers and experiences of Jewish sportswomen such as Angela Buxton,</page><page sequence="8">Sport and British Jewry, David Dee 185 yet as with Clavane there is little sense in his work of how Jewish women engaged with sport more generally, whether as amateur participants or as spectators. Such narratives would have served to enhance the already impressive explorations of the individualized process of acculturation that both authors undertake. Both books, then, make substantial contributions to the scholarship of British Jewry. Together, they act as a rejoinder to stereotypes of Jews as unsporting, consciously writing Jews back into the history of British sport. More importantly, they also demonstrate the profound effect that sport has had on Jewish life in Britain, from the formalized integration process to individual struggles with acculturation and hostility. Both Dee and Clavane make clear that sport has shaped how many Jews saw themselves, how they saw their relationship with non-Jewish society, but also how that society viewed British Jews. In short, the study of the Jewish relationship with sport tells us much about the evolution of what it meant to be both British and Jewish from the late nineteenth century through to the present, and it is difficult to envisage a comprehensive picture of these changes that does not refer to the impact of sport. Indeed, Dee and Clavane have each made significant contributions to the history of British sport, demonstrating both that it offers a powerful lens through which to examine issues of migration, ethnicity, and identity and that it has played a vital role in mediating the acceptance of migrant groups. David Dee and Anthony Clavane have produced thoughtful and stimulating accounts of the complex relationship between Jews and sport in Britain, and their works are valuable additions to scholarship on British Jewry, British sport, and the acculturation of minorities more broadly. Tom Plant</page></plain_text>

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