Georgian England’s Jewish Boxing Champion

The grandson of Sephardi immigrants to Britain, Daniel Mendoza (1765-1836) grew up in a Jewish enclave in east London where he developed a reputation for brawling. He first participated in a professional fight at the age of fifteen, and then rode the wave of boxing’s popularity in England, and his own success, to become something of a celebrity athlete—and a source of pride to his fellow Jews. Wynn Wheldon writes:

Daniel Mendoza was not merely a revolutionary boxer, not only a Jew who raised the status of his community, not only a natural entertainer; he was also a writer. His Memoirs, probably written in 1808 but not published until 1815, is a vital document in the understanding of Jewish assimilation into English cultural life. It is written in rounded, Augustan English, and the journey of his life is presented in picaresque terms. . . .

While his Jewishness is not prominent in the book, it is never skirted around or ignored. He was clearly proud of his faith, claimed to have learned Hebrew to a highish standard, married a Jewish wife, brought up his children as Jews, honored his father and mother. He knew how to make and bake Passover cakes. He invariably fought as “Mendoza the Jew” and was known as “the Light of Israel.” Such was his popularity and the respect he earned that in very few of the two-dozen or so prints depicting him is there a suggestion of malicious caricature. Certainly he is identified as a Jew, but not as an alien. . . .

It was—is—thought by many that Mendoza’s example made Jews less vulnerable to insult or attack, that his prowess tempered traditional stereotyping of Jews as cowardly or passive, that he contributed to the thinking that allowed Blackwood’s magazine to declare in 1817 that “the idea of a Jew (which our pious ancestors contemplated with such horror) has nothing in it now revolting.” In his retirement, Mendoza trained a generation of Jewish boxers who helped establish Jews as bona-fide Englishmen.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: British Jewry, England, History & Ideas, Sports

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform