Fútbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina

In This Review

Fútbol, Jews, and the Making of Argentina
By Raanan Rein. Translated by Martha Grenzeback
Stanford University Press, 2014
240 pp. $85.00
Purchase

Argentina earned a reputation for anti-Semitism thanks to its role as a post–World War II refuge for notorious Nazis and to the ugly racism of the military regime that ruled in the 1970s. But Rein, an Argentine Israeli historian, paints a very different picture of Argentina during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the South American nation opened its doors to European Jews. Having escaped the pogroms and poverty of eastern Europe, Jews in Argentina looked to the national pastime of soccer as an avenue for integration into a prosperous and dynamic society. By participating in soccer as players, members of athletic clubs, or mere spectators, Argentine Jews challenged Old World stereotypes of Jewish weakness and frailty. In particular, Rein shows that the soccer team Atlanta, which represented the Villa Crespo neighborhood of Buenos Aires and its relatively large Jewish population, came to be identified as a Jewish club and served as an object of Jewish pride—not unlike the Brooklyn Dodgers in the United States. Rein also salutes Juan Péron, who served as president of Argentina in the 1940s and 1950s, for promoting sports as a vehicle for creating a modern and progressive national consciousness as well as a means of upward social mobility.