Jews have stereotypically been considered people of the book rather than people of the jump shot, right cross, or home run. Yet for many East European Jewish immigrants, and especially their children, participation in American sport during the first half of the twentieth century became an important part of their pursuit of the American dream and a pathway to assimilation.
In Ellis Island to Ebbets Field, Peter Levine explores the importance of sport in transforming Jewish immigrants into American Jews. Drawing on interviews with celebrities as well as lesser known neighborhood stars, Levine vividly recounts the stories of Red Auerbach, Hank Greenberg, Moe Berg, Sid Luckman, Andy Cohen, Nat Holman, Benny Leonard, Barney Ross, Marty Glickman, Jammy Moskowitz, and many others who became Jewish heroes and symbols of the difficult struggle for American success. From settlement houses and street corners to Madison Square Garden and Fenway Park, their experiences illuminate a time when Jewish males dominated sports like boxing and basketball, helping to smash stereotypes about Jewish weakness while instilling American Jews with a fierce pride in their strength and ability in the face of Nazi aggression, domestic anti-Semitism, and economic depression. And Levine brings the story up to date with sure comparisons to the experiences of more contemporary Jewish athletes such as Sandy Koufax, "SuperJew" Mike Epstein, Mark Spitz, and Amy Alcott.
Be it the stories of Jesse Owens's Olympic triumph at the expense of Marty Glickman's disappointment, the baseball heroics of Hank Greenberg and his status as preeminent Jewish hero, the incredible exploits of championship basketball teams like the Philadelphia SPHAs, the nimble football feet of the "Jewish hillbilly," Marshall Goldberg, or the pummeling fists of "Battling" Levinsky, Ellis Island to Ebbets Field reveals a Jewish community full of conflict and hope, where sport--both watching it and playing it--served as a middle ground between minority and majority cultures, between ethnic and racial minorities, and between generations of people who were actively determining for themselves what it meant to be American Jews. Recreating that world through marvelous stories, anecdotes, and personalities, Levine enhances our understanding of the Jewish-American experience as well as the struggles of other American minority groups.
"Levine convincingly and repeatedly demonstrates the way in whch sport served as an important vehicle of assimilation and, perhaps more important, provided a vivid demonstration of Jewish strength, fortitutde, determination, and heroism in the face of anti-Semitic calumny at home and impending genocide abroad. Levine's social history of Jews and American sports weaves together this special perspective with bittersweet tales of achievement and
overcoming."--American Jewish Archives
"A scholarly exploration of the important role sport played in transforming Jewish immigrants into American Jews."--The Sporting News
"A valuable footnote to American sports history...Makes a major contribution to the field."--Publishers Weekly
"Ellis Island to Ebbets Field is a wonderfully evocative combination of sports and Jewish cultural and athletic life in our country. It tells the stories of Hank Greenberg, Nat Holman, Barney Ross, and many other famous and not so famous Jewish athletes with great insight and appeal."--W.P. Kinsella, author of Shoeless Joe
"Levine tells an important but little-known story."--Elliott J. Gorn, Miami University
"An engaging glimpse into an aspect of Jewish culture often overlooked and ignored. A home run."--Gary David Goldberg, creator of TV's Brooklyn Bridge
"For too long we have focused our historical attention on the political scene--wars and presidents etc. Peter Levine reminds us that sometimes our most revealing history comes from different arenas and playing fields."--Ken Burns, Filmmaker
"A fine study."--Dr. Linda J. Borish, Western Michigan University
"This is history at its best. Ellis Island to Ebbets Field offers much to appreciate and to savor."--Richard C. Crepeau, University of Central Florida