How Tennis Opened Its Courts to Jews

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.

Read more at Commentary

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

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus