By Allon Sander

GLESENKIRCHEN, Germany – Around 1900, the English way of life was the embodiment of modernism for the rest of Europe. The social changes enabled citizens at the bottom of the ladder to become gentlemen – the highest level one could reach outside of inheritance.

One of the pillars of this lifestyle, British sports, was based on fair play, and caught on throughout the continent. Sociologist Detlev Claussen claims that while conservatives opposed such development and supported athletic and gymnastic movements – team, elitist and non-competitive sports – the Jews happily accepted the British way.

As such, the Jews were an engine for spreading sports throughout Europe. Much of the popularity of not only soccer, but also volleyball, table tennis and basketball, was due to the involvement of Jews as organizers, managers, coaches and athletes. Since Max Nordau coined the phrase “muscle Jew” at the 1898 Zionist Congress, the idea spread among not only Zionists, but also – contrary to typical stereotypes today – Europe’s Diaspora Jewry.