Sports and the American Jew

Sports and the American Jew

Sports and the American Jew

Sports and the American Jew

Synopsis

A collection of nine essays that delve into the relationship between Jewish Americans and the culture of sports. The book analyzes assimilation and acculturation, discrimination, gender, social class, and the building of a Jewish American community.

Excerpt

Steven A. Riess

Professional boxing has historically been a low-status sport that recruited its participants from among the poorest inner city youths who had few or no alternate means of gaining fame and escaping poverty. Prizefighting was proscribed virtually everywhere for most of the nineteenth century, because it was a dehumanizing blood sport, matches were believed to be fixed, and contests attracted disreputable crowds. Yet despite the sport's ignominy, boxing had a great appeal for impoverished second-generation Jewish youths, and it was the first professional sport in which many Jewish Americans participated. Their success in this sport surprised Gentiles who accepted conventional stereotypes about Jewish manliness and shocked first-generation Jews who regarded boxing as antithetical to their religious teachings and cultural traditions. Jewish Americans were not only prominent as prizefighters but also became even more eminent outside the ring in such supporting roles as trainers, managers, and promoters. This essay examines why second-generation American Jews became a major force in professional boxing, analyzes the decline and fall of the ethnic group as pugilists, and evaluates the extent of their success in the sport both inside and outside the ring.

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