The Game of Their Lives (CLOSED)

Jewish Athletes prior to 1948

Opening: January 15, 2012

Exhibition Curator: Adi Rubinstein | Yael Zeevi

Exhibition Designer: Yael Zeevi

The Game of their Lives – Achievements in Spirit and Sport, Jewish Athletes prior to 1948

From the United States to Tunisia, South Africa to Brazil, Jews have been among the leading figures in world sports for years. They dominated world boxing, introduced method into the game of soccer, and won Olympic medals along with Nobel Prizes. The myth of the gaunt Jew did not stick. None of them felt weak or listless. This story – a true story of might and ability, of admirable achievements and astonishing determination – lies at the core of this exhibition.


Daniel Mendoza, 1789. The Jewish Museum of London

Although it is a popular way of dividing up the world, especially when watching competitive sports, this exhibition does not pit well-loved heroes against villains worthy of contempt. The portraits presented here are of people and teams determined to succeed at all cost. They loved and they hated, they rose to the top and sometimes crashed to the bottom. The careers and indeed life trajectories of some of them were marked by their Jewishness, but above all they were people among people, athletes among athletes. Some of them were idolized; others reviled and subjected to heaps of scorn. Either way, their talent, dedication, and perseverance made them unique individuals, and their achievements have helped shape the image of the Jew in the eyes of the world.

For the exhibition we selected Jewish sports figures who operated at the international level, whose Judaism played an important role in their lives, and whose achievements extended beyond the world of sports. The athletes and institutions featured here were all obvious, necessary choices for inclusion, but the exclusion of others was not a simple decision. Still, though many worthy names do not appear here, we believe the human portraits offered in the exhibition sketch the story of the Jewish people in a new and unexpected way, against the backdrop of the modern land of legends – the sports field and arena.

Initiator and Curator: Adi Rubinstein

Curator and Designer: Yael Zeevi

Head of the Curatorial Department: Smadar Keren

Production and Curatorial Assistance: Eran Litvin

The exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Rene’ and Susanne Braginsky Foundation, Switzerland, Israel Friends of Beit Hatfutsot, Austrian Culture Forum, Tel Aviv, W. Rosenstein Ltd, Botschaft der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – Tel Aviv, Steve Greenberg, USA, National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism.

On display until June 4, 2012.