Book Review: Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?

The story of England’s Jewish community’s contribution to the national game was crying out to be told, and Anthony Clavane tells it brilliantly in Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?

While Jewish players may have been in short supply in English football history, in the boardroom, in particular, England’s Jewish community has made a huge impression. This includes two early architects of the Premier League, David Dein (Arsenal) and Irving Scholar (Spurs).

And it’s Tottenham Hotspur that has famously become most associated with the Jewish community. In the early 20th century, when Spitalfields was the hub of London’s Jewish population, many would rather take the train from Whitechapel to White Hart Lane of a Saturday rather than the bus out to West Ham’s Upton Park in order to confirm to Shabbat (Sabbath) travel laws.

They were often greeted with the refrain “Does your rabbi know you’re here?”

Language and songs directed towards Jewish players and fans – particularly those of Tottenham Hotspur – has often been loaded with antisemitism throughout the history of the game, even now.

The Jewish contribution to England’s national game is not restricted to north and east London; among others, Clavane highlights the role of Leslie Silver at Leeds United and David Bernstein who helped make Manchester City attractive to foreign takeovers by his focus on merchandising and the move to the City of Manchester Stadium.

On the pitch itself, Clavane looks at the players and managers who made an impact. Among them Mark Lazarus, scorer of Queens Park Rangers’ winning goal in the 1967 League Cup final, and David Pleat, who famously kept Luton Town in the top flight and took Spurs to the 1987 FA Cup final. The career of Avram Grant, the Israeli backed by the biggest Jewish club owner of them all, Chelsea’s Roman Abramovic, is also chronicled.

Israeli players get a shout, from the first – Liverpool’s signing of Avi Cohen in 1978 – through to Ronnie Rosenthal, the culprit of that miss, the controversial Eyal Berkovic and the creative magician Yossi Benayoun.

Anyone with an interest in Jewish history or football history in general will love Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?

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