How Tennis Opened Its Courts to Jews

Feb. 15 2021

Last fall, the Argentinian Jewish tennis player Diego Schwartzmann won a stunning victory over the two-time champion Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open, and is now ranked as the ninth-best player in the world. Rick Marin notes that in “a sport increasingly dominated by NBA-height goliaths, . . . Schwartzman is an unlikely, and likable, David.” Moreover, Marin writes:

he’s unapologetic about his Judaism, from his bar mitzvah onward. “I am Jewish and in Argentina . . . all the [Jewish] people there know me,” he has said. He’s the descendant of Holocaust survivors on both sides, including a grandfather who made a daring escape from a train headed for the camps. . . . If he were to win Wimbledon, the Australian, U.S., or French Opens, he’d be the first Jew to win one of tennis’s four most prestigious events in four decades.

Marin, taking the occasion to survey the history of Jewish tennis-playing, notes:

Anti-Semitism did crush careers. The Russian-born Daniel Prenn fled the pogroms to Berlin and was the Weimar Republic’s top player until the Nazis forced his expulsion from the prestigious Rot-Weiss club and announced, “The player Dr. Prenn (a Jew) will not be selected for Davis Cup in 1933.” He moved to England, where Michael Marks (the Polish Jew who co-founded Marks & Spencer’s) let him play on his private indoor court, but his career had effectively ended. A similar fate met Ladislav Hecht, a self-taught Czechoslovakian player who rose to number 6 in the world and won the title at the first Maccabiah Games in 1932. He escaped to the United States three days before the Nazis invaded his homeland.

Through the 1960s, tennis remained a restricted WASP domain. Hence the rise of Jewish country clubs like the one Philip Roth employed as a cultural signifier in Goodbye, Columbus. . . . Schwartzman himself learned to play at the Hacoaj JCC club in Buenos Aires, founded in 1935 as the “Club Náutico Israelita” (“Israelite Rowing Club”) for Jews barred from the city’s other sports facilities.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewish History, Argentina, Philip Roth, Sports

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine