A new exhibition, Cricket and the Jewish Community, telling the story of the Jewish community’s relationship with cricket, has opened at the MCC Museum at Lord’s, Europe’s oldest sporting museum.
The exhibition is the first in a new Community Gallery, formerly the Brian Johnston Film Theatre, which will become a permanent area for rotating displays about different communities’ bonds with cricket.
This exhibition was curated jointly by two Jewish MCC Members Zaki Cooper and Daniel Lightman KC, the authors of the acclaimed book Cricket Grounds from the Air, together with the MCC Heritage & Collections Department.
The exhibition features the stories of well-known international and first-class cricketers from Australia, England, Ireland, South Africa and the West Indies. It also addresses cricket at grassroots level, in Israel and the Maccabiah. It uses cricket clothing and equipment, artwork, books, video and other material to tell the story of how the Jewish community has contributed to the game of cricket and considers the prevalence of anti-Semitism in cricket and its impact on Jewish cricketers.
The introductory text for the exhibition states as follows:
“Jews have contributed at all levels of cricket, both on and off the field of play. Jewish male cricketers have played Test cricket for Australia and South Africa, and perhaps more remarkably for the West Indies. Jewish batters have scored centuries for the West Indies as well as for Ireland and Scotland. Female Jewish players have been capped by England, Australia and Ireland. Jews have been umpires, administrators, journalists, patrons and have helped to develop the commercial side of the game. They have captained their countries, been Presidents of MCC and even baked cakes for Test Match Special.”
"For MCC it is a unique chance to explore the connections between cricket and community identity at all levels of the game"
Neil Robinson, Head of Heritage and Collections at MCC, said:
“The Community Gallery offers a ground-breaking opportunity for individual communities to tell their own stories of cricket in their own words, using the expertise and facilities of the MCC Museum. For MCC it is a unique chance to explore the connections between cricket and community identity at all levels of the game.
"That the first exhibition in the newly dedicated gallery should focus on Jewish cricket and cricketers is highly appropriate since it was an approach from Zaki and Daniel that formed the genesis of this project.”
Zaki Cooper and Daniel Lightman, who co-curated the exhibition with MCC, said:
“We are delighted to have worked with MCC on this landmark exhibition. We believe it to be the first one ever on the subject. As two cricket fans from a young age, we have always been fascinated by our community’s links to the great game. Short of opening the batting for England at Lord’s, this is surely the next best thing!
The exhibition is about Jews and cricket and hopefully brings to life how a small minority fell in love with the great game and used it to build community and to frame their sense of identity. It is a story not only about recurring prejudice and the frustration and elation of sport but also of integration and belonging. We hope that people who come to see it enjoy it and it leads to other communities telling their cricketing stories.”
The MCC Museum is accessed either via a Tour of Lord's or by ticket holders on match days.
The people highlighted in the exhibition include:
- Norman Gordon (1911-2014, South Africa), the first openly Jewish Test cricketer, and the first Test cricketer to live to 100.
- Sid O’Linn (1927-2016), who played for South Africa at both cricket and soccer, as well as cricket for Kent and soccer for Charlton Athletic, and whose Irish-sounding name concealed the fact that he had been born Sydney Olinsky, the son of a kosher butcher.
- Dr Ali Bacher (1942-), captain of the great South African team of the late 1960s and later a respected international cricket administrator.
- Ruth Buckstein (1955-), the only woman to have played Test cricket for Australia, who scored 83 in her only Test, against England, and two ODI centuries for Australia. Her ‘Baggy Green’’ Cap is included in the exhibition.
- Netta Rheinberg (1911-2006, England), who as manager of the England Women’s team’s tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1948-1949 owing to injuries played one Test. The only Jew to play for England, she and later became a respected administrator and cricket writer.
- Fred Trueman (1931-2006), the great Yorkshire and England fast bowler, who claimed to have discovered towards the end of his life that he was Jewish. The exhibition includes the ball with which Fiery Fred became the first man to take 300 Test wickets.
- Ivan Mordecai Barrow (1911-1979), the only Jew to have scored a Test century, for West Indies against England in 1933.
- Isaac Moses Marsden (1808-1884), the owner of the freehold land upon which Lord’s cricket ground is located. The conveyancing document by which he transferred the land to the MCC is exhibited.
- Sir Archibald Levin Smith (1836-1901), who played two first-class matches for the MCC in the 1860s before embarking on a distinguished legal career in which he ended up being appointed as Master of Rolls the year before his death, he having been President of the MCC the previous year. A photograph of him being sworn in as Master of the Rolls in 1900 has been loaned to the exhibition from The Royal Courts of Justice.
- Aileen Cohen, a Jewish woman who lived locally to Lord’s and started the trend of baking chocolate cakes for BBC Test Match Special.
- Michael Klinger (1980-), whose prolific run-scoring, particularly in one-day cricket, earnt him the moniker "the Jewish Bradman.”
- Mandy Yachad (1960-), the South African opening batsman whose religious garment (“Tzitzit”) that he wore when batting for South Africa in the first ODI it played, against India, after its readmission to international cricket in 1991, is exhibited.
Jewish figures who have recorded videos for the exhibition include:
- Julien Wiener (1955-), Australia’s opening batsman against England in the 1979-80 Test series.
- Adam Bacher, the South African Test batsman.
- Mandy Yachad, the South African opening batsman.
- Jason and Lara Molins, cousins who played for Ireland, Jason being the first captain to lead Ireland in a successful World Cup qualifying campaign.
- Steven Reingold, all-rounder who played for Glamorgan in 2021.
- Stephen Fry, the current President of MCC.
- Sir Ephraim Mirvis KBE, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.
- Michael Beloff KC, the Chairman of the International Cricket Council’s Dispute Resolution Committee.
- Giles Coren, the well-known newspaper columnist, food writer, and television and radio presenter.
- Ashley Blaker, the stand-up comedian.
- Sir Martin Sorrell, the businessman and philanthropist and founder of WPP.
- Sir Victor Blank, the businessman and philanthropist and former Chairman of Lloyds Bank.
The exhibition, which will run until 2025, covers the following sections:
1. Jewish Cricketers and Influencers
2. Cricket, Anti-Semitism and Identity
3. Notable Characters
4. Grassroots, Maccabiah Games and Israel.