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Raanan Rein. Ftbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina. Translated by Martha Grenzeback.

Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 2014. Illustrations. 240 pp. $85.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8047-9200-4; $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-08047-9341-4.
Reviewed by Dalia Wassner (Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, Brandeis University)
Published on H-Judaic (May, 2016)
Commissioned by Matthew A. Kraus

Sport, Ethnicity and Nationalism: Jews and Argentinas Ftbol


In Ftbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina, Raanan
Rein sets for himself and the reader the following challenge: Can we write the history of Argentine Jews without mentioning the Atlanta football club? (p. 164). Narrated at once against the backdrop of Jewish immigration into Buenos Aires, Jewish integration into the citys
neighborhoods, and the changing political reality of Argentina through the twentieth century, the transformation and growth of Club Atlanta (Club Atltico Atlanta)
is traced with an eye to the inclusion of Jewish players,
club membership, and club leadership. In his work, Rein
underscores the salience of sports as a valid lens through
which to approach not only immigrant integration into a
majority culture but also Jews participation in the very
formation of Argentine national identity. In undertaking
such a study, Rein participates in recent Jewish historical
scholarship that urges more subtle studies on ethnic and
national processes of belonging as they intersect with local histories.[1]

wright); Julio Jorge Nelson (n Julio Rosofsky, the journalist); and one of the exported crown jewels of modern Argentine Jewish literature, Csar Tiempo (born Israel Zeitlin). At the same time, Reins nuanced understanding of the changing political climate of the twentieth centuryinvolving a (qualified) invitation to European immigration, a total of six coups, the rise of
Peronism, and the tragic period of the 1976-83 military
dictatorshipis placed alongside a narrative of evolving
Jewish trends in national politics (socialism, communism,
and depoliticization) as expressed within the Jewish
sports clubs shifting periods of politicization. One example is Reins coverage of the Peronization of Argentine
sports and the clubs deliberations regarding naming the
stadium after Eva Pern (p. 104).
Having authored several founding historical accounts
of the Jews of Buenos Aires and their relation to key political figures and movements, Rein is uniquely positioned
to undertake the study of Jewish participation in Buenos
Aires neighborhood sports as it relates to their integration within national cultural identity, which he delivers
with an eye to new scholarship emerging in the United
States and England aiming to do the same in their own
contexts. Moreover, the authors personal connection to
the topic (his father-in-law provides authentic memorabilia and his relations are current Atlanta fans) gives texture to his abundant professional archival, oral, and photographic sources of evidence. In addition, Reins own
visual elaborations, be they maps of Buenos Aires neighborhoods that detail evolving Jewish settlement (map 1.1)
or tables graphing the growing stadiums by size (table
3.1) and charting evolving club rankings by year (tables

A preeminent historian of Jewish Argentina, Rein


places the history of Club Atlanta within an abbreviated history of Jewish immigration to Argentina, and
more specifically, within a localized history of Jewish
Buenos Aires replete with street names, neighborhood
landmarks, and now-famous inhabitants, to which he
adds the clubs intersection with non-Jewish cultural and
political personalities who contributed to the formation
of modern Buenos Aires, and at times, Argentina itself.
Rein thus addresses defining Jewish moments ranging
from the Semana Trgica to neighborhood claims to fame,
such as Manuel Gleizers bookstore (a landmark), and the
following personalities: Samuel Eichelbaum (the play1

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4.3, 5.1, 6.2, 7.1), are aided by Ariel Korobs detailed list
of Jewish members of the board of directors from 1970 to
1996 (table 7.2). These auxiliary sources of comparison,
mostly produced by the author, provide the reader with
a condensed forum for relevant statistics and a visual appreciation for the clubs evolution in terms of location,
membership, and rankings.

amples of what Jewish involvement with Club Atlanta


meant for Jewish Argentine ethnic identity are saved for
the introduction and epilogue, where Rein tells of a Yiddish teachers testimony noting that in the 1950s she altered her Monday classes to center on her students rendition of the weekend football game, or a reflection that
major works of Jewish Argentine literature (authored, for
example, by Manuela Fingueret and Ricardo Feierstein)
lend testimony to the centrality of football and Villa Crespo for Jewish Argentina. Likewise, extending the cultural reverberations to 2012, Rein mentions the contemporary telenovela Los Graduados where one of the central
familiesthe Goddzersspeak Yiddish, eat geufiltefish,
and are passionate for footballspecifically as fans of
Club Atltico Atlanta. Lastly, a bold and unique contribution of the work is a parting proposal to compare Jewish
Latin American identities vis--vis ftbol to Palestinian
Latin American identities (specifically in Chile, Peru, and
Argentina). This perspective suggests an interesting foil
with which to further the study of ethnic integration and
identity in Latin American nations not only in terms of
diverse societies of immigrants but also as a wider lens
through which to understand Latin Americas nuanced
relationship with immigrants from the Middle East.

The author notes that Argentina was also host to


nodes of exclusion, which in some cases resulted in the
formation of discrete Jewish sports institutions, such as
the Hebrew Maccabi Organization (1928) and the Club
Nutico Hocoaj (1935). However, this is a study of Jews
inclusion of Club Atltico Atlanta as a neighborhood
sports club where Jews at times formed a substantial percentage in the clubs leadership and fan base, resulting,
perhaps most importantly, in a majority identity in the
public imagination. Substantiating the communal import for Club Atlanta, Rein details the clubs auxiliary
activities, including such recreational athletic competitions as karate and chess, the building of a skating rink,
musical and theatrical performances, film festivals, fashion shows, evening dances, fencing exhibitions, an onsite kindergarten, and family programing, among many
others.

Reins Ftbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina thus


serves as an invitation to cultural and social historians,
and to fans of football everywhere, to further explore the
significance and representation of Club Atltico Atlanta
in terms of a more complex understanding of Jewish integration into Latin America and of a Latin America integrally composed of Jews.

A consistent strength of the work is the authors detailed use of various archives in Buenos Aires (Archivo
de la Asociacin del Ftbol Argentino, Archivo del Club
Atltico Atlanta, Archivo General de la Nacin, and
Archivo Personal de Jorge Kolbowski), which offer insight into the existence, expansion, and success of the
club in terms of leadership, finances, player acquisition
and trades, and the centrality of political endorsements
from such figures as Juan and Evita Pern and Jorge
Videla. With the help of such archives, Rein documents
in detail Jewish participation in the clubs leadership, beginning in 1922 with Osvaldo Simn Piackin and reaching a high point in 1968 with Len Kolbowskis last term,
when Jews reached a majority on the board membership. At the same time, Rein documents overt manifestation of anti-Semitism during Atlanta games, providing
the troubling lyrics of certain chants that in some cases
express sympathy with Nazi goals and methods of genocide. Rein also documents the details of local cultural
figures participation in club communal events, which
drew, for example, such personalities as radio hosts Osvaldo Miranda and Elas Fort, the poet and artist Hctor
Gagliardi, the orchestra of Pedro Lurenz, and the singer
Roberto Quiroga.

Note

[1]. In this line of sports/ethnic inquiry in Jewish


studies, Rein builds on Latin American and global scholarship: Pablo Alabarces, Ftbol y patria: El ftbol y las
narrativas de la nacin en la Argentina (Buenos Aires:
Prometeo, 2002); Joseph L. Arbena, ed., Sport and Society in Latin America: Diffusion, Dependency, and the
Rise of Mass Culture (New York: Greenwood Press, 1998);
Michael Brenner and Gideon Reuveni, eds., Emancipation through Muscles: Jews and Sports in Europe (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 2006); Anthony Clavane,
Does Your Rabbi Know Youre Here? The Story of English Footballs Forgotten Tribe (London: Quercus, 2012);
Mike Cronin and Avid Mayall, eds., Sporting Nationalisms: Identity, Ethnicity, Immigration and Assimilation
(London: Routledge, 1998); George Eisen, Jewish Sport
History and the Ideology of Modern Sport: Approaches
Yet surprisingly, some of the most illustrative ex- and Interpretations, Journal of Sport History 25 (1998):

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482-531; Brenda Elsey, Citizens and Sportsmen: Ftbol and


Politics in Twentieth-Century Chile (Austin: University of
Texas Press, 2011); Franklin Foer, How Soccer Explains the
World (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004); Julio Frydenberg and Rodrigo Daskal, eds., Ftbol, historia y poltica
(Buenos Aires: Aurelia Rivera, 2010); Grant Jarvie, ed.,
Sport, Racism and Ethnicity (London: Falmer Press, 1991);
Haim Kaufman, Jewish Sports in the Diaspora, Yishuv,
and Israel: Between Nationalism and Politics, Israel Stud-

ies 10, no. 2 (2005): 147-167; Peter Levine, Ellis Island to


Ebbets Field: Sport and the American Jewish Experience
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Jeremy MacClancy, ed., Sport, Identity and Ethnicity (Oxford: Berg,
1996); Joshua H. Nadel, Ftbol: Why Soccer Matters in
Latin America (Gainesville: University Press of Florida,
2014); and Raanan Rein and David M. K. Sheinin, eds.,
Muscling in on New Worlds: Jews, Sport, and the Making
of the Americas (Boston: Brill, 2014).

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Citation: Dalia Wassner. Review of Rein, Raanan, Ftbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina. H-Judaic, H-Net
Reviews. May, 2016.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=43991
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