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Jewish sport since prewar Czechoslovakia

its history and the contemporary situation in Czechia with milestones in 1879 – 1919 – 2019: altogether 140 years of the Jewish sports movement 


The start of Czech Jewish sport dates back to the times of prewar Czechoslovakia in the regions of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Slovakia and Zakarppathia. There are just a few books about it e.g. Makabi yesterday, Makabi today by the Slovak author Peter Bučka but we can find a lot of information in the Czechoslovak prewar newspapers and books published in Czech and German.

To all Jewish sports clubs, there is one detail most common - they were created around the year 1900 and most of them were established by athletes coming from previous sports clubs and due to the existence of Austrian-Hungarian monarchy mostly with German names. The expansion took part, especially after the WW1.

The number of Jewish sports clubs in prewar Czechoslovakia reached 100 before the year 1939.
Historically first was the Jüdischer Turnverein Boskowitz – JTV established in 1879, renamed in 1898 to Makabi Boskovice and JTV für Mährische Ostrau und Umgebung in 1898, since 1918 Makabi Moravská Ostrava; in 1901 JTV Erster Olmützer and JTV Ungarisch Hradisch, since 1918 Makabi Olomouc and Makabi Uherské Hradiště.

Afterwards, other clubs in the following cities were established – Prostějov, Znojmo, Brno, Praha, Jihlava, Mikulov, Bratislava, Kroměříž, Opava, Hodonín, Vítkovice, Most, Plzeň, Teplice, Podivín, Strážnice, Ústí n. Labem, Nový Jičín, Karlovy Vary, Ružomberok, Košice, Chomutov, Pohořelice, Ivančice, Hranice, Kyjov, Třebíč, Bohumín, Náchod, Opava, Cheb, Bánovce n. Bebravou, Pardubice, Fryšták, Banská Bystrica, Orlová, Bardejov, Berehovo, Těšín, Prešov, Uherský Ostroh, Kežmarok, Liptovský Mikuláš, Vrútky, Chust, Užhorod, Jablonec, Šaštín, Malacky, Hlohovec, Nitra, Trnava, Topolčany, Liberec, Sereď, Nové Zámky, Lučenec, Pezinok, Nové Město n. Váhom, Uherský Brod, Piešťany, Svitavy, Prievidza, Trenčín, Velké Šurany, Dunajská Streda, Žilina, Děčín, Český Brod, Trutnov, Přerov, Holešov, Poprad, Galanta, Brandýs n. Orlicí, České Budějovice, Holíč, Vrbové, Komárno, Levice, Velké Kapušany, Mukačevo, Tačevo, Berehovo, Miroslav, Myjava, Trstená, Dolný Kubín, Levoča, Povážská Bystrica, Krompachy, Rožňava, Spišská Nová Ves, Michalovce, Čadca, Dolný Kubín, Kremnica, Falknov n. Orlicí, Mariánské Lázně, Šaľa, Ilava, Martin, Liptovský Hrádok, Humenné, Zlaté Moravce, Šahy, Vrůtky, Sabinov, Trebišov, Sečovce.
(Clubs in Czech, Moravian and Silesian region; clubs in Slovakia and Zakarppathia.

Historical photos below from the years around 1935 show some summer and winter sports of Jewish athletes from Olomouc and Prostějov – in this time there were sports events in tennis and skiing (cross country as well as the alpine) but also in football, handball, volleyball, athletics, swimming, table tennis, gymnastics, box, ice-hockey





























Czech Makabi Union

The idea of the Jewish sport came from Dr. Max Nordau (1849–1923), who presented it in Muskeljudentum in Basel on the 2nd zionist congress in 1898. After first clubs in the Turkish city, Konstantinopol in 1895 and Bulgarian Plovdiv in 1897, Bar Kochba Berlin in 1898 were established. Until 1903 twenty other Jewish clubs established „Jüdische Turnvereine“ in:

Bulgaria (7), Czechia/Moravia (5), Galizia (1), Germany (5), Austria (2).

We can see that the progress in the following years was interrupted by WW1. 
In 1919 the Czech Makabi Union was established in the meeting of Jüdisches Turnerschaft and on

27.4. 1921 „Maccabi World Union“ (also with other territorial organizations of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Yugoslavia, Poland and Switzerland) in Carlsbad - Karlovy Vary.

The year 1929 is the year of the 1. European Maccabi Games (EMG) and they were held in Czechoslovakia, in the city called Ostrava from 27.  to 30.6. 1929.

The importance of such a sports event is testified in the contemporary newspapers. The newspaper article points out the World Jewish Congress decision of organizing the First Jewish Olympics:

I. WORLD MACCABIAH GAMES in Palestine in the year 1932, and so Ostrava is an important city in the history of worldwide Jewish sport.

(See in the Jewish Newspapers - Židovské zprávy roč. XII/č. 27/5.7.1929)

The most important sports events of Czechoslovak prewar Maccabi or the participation of Czechoslovak Jewish athletes:

The national Makabi festivals in Czechoslovakia:
 I. 03. – 05.7.1921 BRNO
 II. 28. – 30.6.1929 OSTRAVA
III. 04. – 06.7.1937 ŽILINA

Participation of the Czechoslovak Makabi before WW2:
 1938 X. Sokol festival Praha
Maccabi sport festivals
1. – 8.9.1921 Karlovy Vary

Prewar Makabi games
15. – 30.8.1925 Wien
04. – 06.7.1930 Antwerpen
23. – 27.7.1933 Praha

World Maccabi Winter games
I. 02. – 05.2. 1933 Zakopané, Poland
II. 18. – 24.2.1936 Banská Bystrica, Czechoslovakia

It is interesting that the participants of the 2nd Maccabi World Winter Games had 50% discount on the Czechoslovak state railway tickets – you can see it on the membership card of Lisl Karpfen (born 1914 in Olomouc), who was also a good tennis player and who managed to escape to the USA in 1939. She passed away at the age of 100 in 2014 and her original documents and photos are with her descendants in San Francisco.



​​​​​​​​​​​​​The situation of the Jewish communities as well as of the Jewish athletes in Czechoslovakia was really tragic after the WW2

​It took some years to reestablish Czechoslovak Jewish communities. Most of the Jewish communities were nearly completely destroyed during WW2. For example, in Olomouc out of the prewar Jewish community of 3,500 people, only 90 survived (!) and 50% of them have emigrated few years after the WW2. From 10,000 members of the Jewish community in Ostrava, more than 8,000 did not survive and after WW2 most emigrated to Israel.












To re-establish some of the Jewish sport clubs took many years.
After November 1989 the political switch also helped to the Jewish sports movement. Jindra Bauer, Jáchym Kanarek, Pavel Rubin, Petr Wellemin, František Fendrych, Beata Bartošová, Zuzana Jančaříková, Rudolf Dub, Roman Gronský and others made a lot of effort to help and expand the clubs. The sport has been mostly organized since 1990 in Prague by the Jewish sports club Hakoach. There were not only athletes from Prague but also from other regions. Even with other sports clubs being established, the sports club Hakoach still remains as the biggest and most active club in Czechia at the moment. There are approx. 300 athletes in all Czech Jewish sport clubs and most of their members are participants of LHH – Summer Hakoach Games every year. They also participate in other summer or winter Jewish national or international competitions.

Some Jewish athletes are also members of non-Jewish clubs or sports federations where they can compete on a higher level. Hakoach also started to work with youth groups in Czech Jewish Lauder school in Praha.

The Czech Jewish athletes participate in the local sports events but also internationally e.g. on the Hanukkah swimming competition in Vienna or in Germany in the international football „Lea a Max Bartfeld – Pokal Tournament“ (founders of the football club Bar Kochba, Leipzig) under the motto „With football against the racial discrimination and antisemitism", where the football team SK Hakoach – Lauder school participated with the financial support of Hakoach.

To coordinate and arrange the participation of Czech Jewish athletes internationally – especially in EMG and WMG, the Czech Makabi Union was reestablished in Karlovy Vary on

8th April, 2018.










There were not only the representatives of the Czech sports clubs but also the chairman of the EMC - European Maccabi Confederation - Mordechai - Motti Tichauer. After the discussions, the protocol of the reestablishment of the Czech Makabi Union was signed (first established as Makkabi Č.S.R. in 1919). The founders of the UMCR - Czech Makabi Union in Karlovy Vary were sports clubs Maccabi Brno, Hakoach Praha, Maccabi Olomouc and Makabi Karlovy Vary – represented at least by one delegate. UMCR is also in contact with two other clubs Maccabi Steinitz Praha and Hagibor Praha.

All other steps could be done after the official and by the court-approved registration on 15th June 2018. The support of sports activities of UMCR members is one of the basics in the constitution. The aim is to unify members of Jewish sports clubs, coordinate their activities in Czechia and also to represent them in the negotiations with the government and state institutions as well as with the international and national Jewish communities, Czech Jewish federation etc.

To cooperate with international Jewish sports organizations as the representative of the Czech Jewish sports clubs, especially with the MWU-Maccabi World Union and EMC European Maccabi Confederation.

It is necessary to mention, only those Czech clubs that have 100% of „alias“ members (they fulfil the condition to have the members in some local Jewish community) can be in the UMCR.
In few weeks after the registration the bank account was arranged, and the discussion of UMCR about web pages, logo etc. started the nomination of the Czech team for 15. EMG Budapest started in September 2018

Only few days after the foundation of the UMCR the 28th MWU congress UMCR delegate was in Ramat Gan.











​All delegates approved the new 58 members, executive board of MWU, for next period 2018 – 2022 incl. the new president Jack Terpins (born 1948) as well as new plenary.
Among 42 members of the plenary, there are just 9 from Europe. One of them is Roman Gronský, who was elected as the UMCR chairman in Karlovy Vary. He is active in the sports movement for
a long time and speaks several languages.

On this occasion, the delegates exchanged experiences and presented the next continental Maccabi games: 


15th European in Budapest (27.7.- 8.8.) and 14th Panamerican in Mexico City (7.-17.7.)


The Czech team had the aim to continue with good results on the 15th EMG 2019 in Budapest. Small Czech team won some medals in the previous Maccabiah. Unfortunately, there was no archery or sport shooting in Budapest (very successful sports events for the Czech team on previous Maccabiahs). The Czech team was expected to win some medals in swimming, half marathon, chess, triathlon, table tennis, etc. There was also a plan to send a Czech futsal team to Budapest.


 Altogether there were approx. 2500 athletes from 40 European countries including Israel, Argentina, Brasil, South Africa, Mexico, Canada, Uruguay and the USA.
The entry fee was € 990/participant (golf players + €50), therefore the board of the UMCR contacted the Czech Jewish Federation, the EMC, and also local Jewish communities, local state institutions and other sponsors. 
Some of the athletes also asked individually the local authorities and sponsors for support.

The 2nd Czech participation in March 2019 and estimate participant numbers:
•- badminton (1)
•- bridge (4 )
•- futsal (9)
•- golf (3)
•- maccabi men (1)
•- swimming (5)
•- halfmarathon (9)
•- table tennis (4)
•- chess (2)
•- tennis (1)

The conditions of sports events as well as of the accommodation of the 15th EMG 2019 were presented at the beginning of April 2019 in Budapest. We were shown the stadium for the opening ceremony, area of the University „Ludovika Campus“ with several venues for the table tennis, badminton, sport shooting, bridge, chess, basketball and also the swimming centre on the Margaret island, tennis area, fencing hall, area for other events incl. handball, football, field hockey, futsal etc.

After this visit, the UMCR made the final 3rd EMG entry (till 30.4.2019). There were some changes among the members of the Czech team as some of them cancelled the participation in Budapest for different reasons (low number of futsal athletes in Czechia, health or financial problems, due to work or cancelling of some sports). The final number of the 15th EMG was only 12 Czech athletes.








The Czech team in Budapest 2019 with only 12 athletes, but 7 of them won at least one individual medal and 2 other ones won in team competitions.              












The Czech medal winners of the 15th EMG 2019 Budapest

  (60+ = age group of athletes older than 60)
R. Gronský, swimming masters 60+      8 medals: 5 gold and 3 silver:
Gold: 800m, 400m and 200m freestyle, 200m ind. medley, 50m backstroke;

Silver: 50m freestyle, 50m butterfly, 100m freestyle

P. Eisner, swimming masters 60+           6 medals: 5 gold and 1 silver:
Gold: 50m and 100m freestyle, 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly; silver: 800m freestyle

David Steiner, swimming and maccabimen 2 medals: gold 1500m freestyle and silver maccabimen

Šimon Bělík, 2 medals - table tennis:     silver team open and bronze men open

Jana Žáčková – halfmarathon women: silver

Matan Fuks - halfmarathon men:          silver

Pavel Rubín/Petr Bělík/Šimon Bělík:     silver – team open/table tennis

Eliška Richterová – chess women:          bronze




EMG - European Maccabiah Games since 1929

Year  / Nr. /  Place  / Country /Number of athletes /Number of particip. countries/sport events


1929 01st  Ostrava, Czechoslovakia        800               10 countries/ tennis, football, hockey, gym

1930 02nd Antwerp, Belgium

​1959 03rd  Copenhagen, Denmark

1963 04th  Lyon, France
1979 05th  Leicester, England

1983 06th  Antwerpen, Belgium

1987 07th  Copenhagen, Denmark

1991  08th  Marseille, France
1995 09th  Amsterdam, Nederland

1999 10th  Stirling, Scotland
2003 11th  Antwerp, Belgium                    1400                46 countries/ 13 sport events
2007 12th  Rome, Italy                                 1700                35                    / 15
2011   13th  Vienna, Austria                        2000

2015  14th  Berlin, Germany                      2050                30

2019  15th  Budapest, Hungary                2511                  42                    / 18



The world´s biggest international Jewish sports event:

                             Maccabiah in Israel                          



          Maccabiah   countries  athletes    CZ athletes

 •01.  1932               18         390
•02. 1935              28      1.350
•03. 1950              20         800
•04. 1953              22         892
•05. 1957              20         980
•06. 1961               26      1.000
•07. 1965              25      1.200
•08. 1969              27      1.456
•09. 1973              26      1.499
•10.  1977               34     2.694
•11.   1981                33     3.150
•12.  1985               37     3.639
•13.  1989               46    4.417
•14.  1993               48    5.100
•15.  1997                50    5.569
•16.  2001               46    3.300
•17.  2005               55    7.326
•18.  2009               50    7.510

•19.  2013                 70    9.000               8               

          •20.  2017                 78    9.400               6


          At the end of November 2019, there was also a very important event 

       taking place in Czechia:  the EMC Congress in Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad)











The world biggest sports event after the Olympics and Paralympics

 - the 21st Maccabiah - is due to covid-19 pandemic postponed to 2022.


The question remains: Will the EMG in 2023 will be held in Czechia or not?

         Aims of the Czech Makabi Union
Be attractive especially for the young Jewish generation in Czechia
• Support young Jewish athletes
• Give a chance also to masters age groups to compete
• Support the cooperation among athletes as well as among members of Jewish communities
• Support international Jewish relationship, cooperation and the basic Maccabi idea - Zionism

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