Zionism in Europe
The Maccabi Sports Society

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Around the turn of the XIX century, Max Nordau, the powerfully speaking advocate for the Jewish people coined the phrase “muscle Judaism,” which enflamed the hearts of Jewish youth with wild enthusiasm. In all Jewish centers of the world, “Blue-White” hiking clubs formed which developed later into Jewish sports associations that mostly received the name “Maccabi” and which had the goals of refuting the fairytale of Jewish physical inferiority and teaching Jewish youth to strengthen their physical and moral powers. Also, the Maccabi World Organization with its headquarters in London (latter, Paris) was founded which laid down the fundamental ground rules for the Maccabi movement which clearly showed the difference between the efforts of the Jewish sports associations and those of all other nations. Sport for the Jewish youth is not an end in itself, but a means to a goal. High performance is certainly worth striving for, but it is not the only goal. Jewish youth must never forget that our people have survived to the present day, not thanks to the strength of its bodies, but first of all to the strength of its intellect. For that reason, hand in hand with physical training, their minds must also be nurtured to familiarize them with the principals of the Zionist movement and to prepare them for Eretz Israel (the land of Israel.)*

photo: Max Nordau (1849-1923)

During the Second Zionist Congress in Basel Switzerland in 1898, renowned Zionist leader Dr. Max Nordau gave a motivational speech to those assembled there. He said in part:
"The history of our people relates to the fact that we were once strong physically...but today that is not the case. Others succeeded in degenerating us physically. They had the ghetto Jews of the Middle Ages into sorrowful weaklings, haggard and unable to defend ourselves in the narrow alleyways of the ghetto...Nobody can deny us the necessary physical activity needed to make our bodies healthy again.

We will renew our youth in our aging years. We will develop wide chests, strong arms and legs, a brave look. We will be warriors. What is lacking physically, we will develop through exercise. But our recovery to health is not only through the body, but also in the spirit, for as Hebrews will attain more achievements in sport, so will our self-confidence improve. Long lives Sport! Hebrew sports clubs go forward and bloom."

From all of this was founded a youth movement, Maccabi Hatzair, i.e. Young Maccabis. The first youth group was formed in Germany in 1926, in addition to the adult Maccabi movement. Three years later at the World Maccabi Conference in 1929, it was decided that all adult Maccabi organizations work to create their own Maccabi Hatzair groups. The first of these youth groups was established in Eretz Israel in 1933, and soon many more of these groups were established throughout the ►►

* - From "History of the Jews of Bukovina,"  p. 167. Article: "Jewish Sport in Bukovina" by Dr.  Heirich Rubel (Tel Aviv).  Translated by Jerome Silverbush.  Photo from Wikipedia.





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