The New Jew
By the 1920s, Australian Jewry had developed a philosophy of non-distinctiveness in everything except religion. Many Jews feared the distinctiveness that European immigrants carried through their language, dress and culture but realised that survival of their community within an Anglo Australian society depended on new arrivals. The opening of the NSW Jewish War Memorial Hall (commonly known as the Maccabean Hall) and Club Rooms gave Sydney’s Jews a meeting place where new arrivals could begin their assimilation into the local community. It also provided a much needed venue for young people to mix and mingle while strengthening their cultural identity through language, social interaction and sport.
Jewish sporting associations were established across Australia in the first decades of the twentieth century with the social side of competitive sport playing an important part in the revitalisation of Jewish communities around the country. Annual interstate Jewish sporting carnivals began in the 1920s, and in 1950 the first Australian team competed at the 3rd Maccabi Games in Israel.
Of the sports represented at these carnivals, including tennis, athletics, gymnastics and swimming, only cricket excluded women. As well as participating in sport, women also carried out more traditional roles as spectators and providers of food and refreshments at dances and other fund-raising activities associated with sporting groups.
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