At least two of my grandfathers were Turners in Germany, and thus directly had a hand in the founding of the Secular and Socialist Nation of Israel. “His 1900 call for a “Muskel Judentom” (Muscular Judaism) which appears below, refers in passing to other influences on the creation of this movement. In actuality – and perhaps with some irony – it was the German gymnastics “Turnen” movement, begun a half century earlier, combining physical fitness, patriotism, and social causes, which served as a model for the emergence of Jewish pride through sport. The “Deutsche Turnerschaft” (German gymnastics movement) championed the idea of “mens sana in corpore sano” – a healthy mind in a healthy body – and made gymnastics the basis of a political program fostering patriotism and social/political awakening, and already included Jewish members in the early 1800’s.
The Turnverein and Forty-Eighters helped found Israel and the Republican Party.
The Forty-Eighters were Europeans who participated in or supported the revolutions of 1848 that swept Europe. In the German states, the Forty-Eighters favored unification of the German people, a more democratic government, and guarantees of human rights. Disappointed at the failure of the revolution to bring about the reform of the system of government in Germany or the Austrian Empire and sometimes on the government’s wanted list because of their involvement in the revolution, they gave up their old lives to try again abroad. Many emigrated to the United States, the United Kingdom, & Australia after the revolutions failed. These emigrants included Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, and others. Many were respected and politically active, wealthy, and well-educated. A large number went on to be very successful in their new countries.
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