A Jewish Athlete: Swimming Against Stereotype in 20th Century Europe

A Jewish Athlete: Swimming Against Stereotype in 20th Century Europe

by Helen Epstein
     
 

In the American film Airplane, a stewardess asks a passenger whether he would like something to read. "Do you have anything light?" the man asks. "How about Famous Jewish Sports Legends?" she offers.

In fact, Jews in sports are anything but a joke: they've been winning Olympic medals since the modern Olympics began. This daughter's profile of Czechoslovak…  See more details below

Overview

In the American film Airplane, a stewardess asks a passenger whether he would like something to read. "Do you have anything light?" the man asks. "How about Famous Jewish Sports Legends?" she offers.

In fact, Jews in sports are anything but a joke: they've been winning Olympic medals since the modern Olympics began. This daughter's profile of Czechoslovak swimmer and water polo player Kurt Epstein traces the history of Jewish athletes in Central Europe and provides a detailed case study of one such life-long athlete. Epstein grew up a stone's throw from the Elbe River and began swimming before the First World War, when his town was still part of Austria-Hungary. In high school, he became a competitive rower and swimmer, challenging prevailing stereotypes about Jews and becoming a leading Czechoslovak water polo player and swimming coach, representing his country at two Olympic Games. In addition to describing the cultural background of the Epstein family in the Bohemian countryside, this essay examines Kurt Epstein's decision to participate in the 1936 Berlin "Nazi" Olympics, and follows him through a series of Nazi concentration camps back to Prague, where he was elected member of the Czechoslovak National Olympic Committee. After the Communist putsch of 1948, Epstein vowed to flee "in a swimsuit if necessary" and, at 44, emigrated to New York City where he became a cutter in the garment district, swam weekly at the St. George pool in Brooklyn, and served as Treasurer of the Czech Sportsmen-in-Exile-in the Western world.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013360921
Publisher:
Plunkett Lake Press
Publication date:
09/28/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Born in Prague in 1947, Helen Epstein grew up in New York City, where she graduated from Hunter College High School in 1965. She studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and became a journalist after the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia of 1968 when her personal account was published in the Jerusalem Post. She became a university correspondent for that newspaper while still an undergraduate. Subsequently, she studied at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and began freelancing for diverse publications including the New York Times.

Her profiles of legendary musicians such as Vladimir Horowitz, Leonard Bernstein and Yo-Yo Ma are collected in Music Talks that, like Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From, has been translated into several other languages. She herself is the translator of Heda Kovaly's Under A Cruel Star and Vlasta Schonova's Acting in Terezin. Her biographies of Joseph Papp and Tina Packer grew out of her journalistic work. She has an active speaking career and has lectured at a wide variety of venues in Europe, and North and South America.

She blogs for The Arts Fuse, a New England cultural web site.

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