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Point Guarden of Eden: Philadelphia as a Cradle for Jewish Basketball in the 1920s and 1930s

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dc.contributor.advisor Kitroeff, Alexander
dc.contributor.author Sherman, Matthew
dc.date.accessioned 2017-09-01T13:42:30Z
dc.date.available 2017-09-01T13:42:30Z
dc.date.issued 2017
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10066/19386
dc.description.abstract This study explores Jewish basketball in Philadelphia during the 1920s and 1930s – the interwar period. At the turn of the twentieth century, Jewish immigrants, hailing predominantly from Eastern Europe, arrived in the U.S. in mass waves. Many newcomers entered through the port at Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, which in turn transformed this portion of the city into a ‘Jewish Quarter.’ The children of these immigrant families, desperate to assimilate to an unfamiliar culture, leaned on basketball – a distinctly American game – as a vehicle for acceptance. Leading the basketball movement were three childhood friends and second-generation Russian descendants, Eddie Gottlieb, Hughie Black, and Harry Passon. Their passion for the sport, and vision for the Jews’ ascendance to the professional ranks, galvanized a community and created a definitive link between basketball and Jewish identity. The Jews’ emergence into the Philadelphia mainstream characterized the 1920s. Amidst a national climate of widespread xenophobia, immigrant Jews thrust their way into the spotlight by excelling at an American game. The progenitors of Philadelphia Jewish basketball, the aforementioned triumvirate of Gottlieb, Black, and Passon, passed the torch to the next generation of Eastern European immigrants during this decade. Eager to acclimate themselves and improve their social standing in this American urban space, the younger age group fully understood basketball’s utility. A recurring theme throughout this interwar period is the fact that Philadelphia Jews are playing an American game, but still managing to retain their ethnic identity. In the 1930s, this unique paradox shines through. By this time, the Jewish immigrants, having ingratiated themselves within the city, transformed basketball into their own community subculture. While basketball in the 1920s served as a method for gradual integration, basketball in the 1930s presented an opportunity for the Jewish community to congregate in their own designated spaces. This desire to isolate themselves represents the culmination of a twenty-year evolutionary process – from reluctant participant in an American sport to self-confident, self-sufficient pioneers of Philadelphia basketball.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of History
dc.language.iso en_US en
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
dc.title Point Guarden of Eden: Philadelphia as a Cradle for Jewish Basketball in the 1920s and 1930s
dc.type Thesis en
dc.rights.access Haverford Users Only


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