What does cricket have to do with the Jewish world? New exhibition in London tells all!

Jul 4, 2023 | Jews in Sports

Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, owned by the Marylebone Cricket Club (the MCC) and known to cricketing fans simply as Lord’s, is widely referred to by cricket fans across the world as the Home of Cricket. (Cricket, for those who aren’t familiar with the sport, is, in short, a bat-and-ball game which is played between two teams of eleven players on an oval-shaped field.)

Cricket fans will know that Australia just defeated England to take a 2-0 lead in the best of five-game series in the Ashes, the biennial test series played between the two cricketing powerhouses. (For those unfamiliar with the Ashes, it’s the name which has been given to the test series between the two countries after Australia won its first test on English soil in 1882 and an obituary was famously published in the British newspaper, The Sporting Times, which stated that English cricket died and that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

A hullabaloo surrounded the recent Lord’s test, after English wicketkeeper, Cameron Bairstow, was dismissed in controversial circumstances, setting the stage for the Australians to take the win on the last day.

While recent history may be well-known, Lord’s is also home to the world’s oldest sports museum in the world, established in 1864, to offer sports fans with the opportunity to learn all about the history and development of cricket. In June, a new exhibition, cricket and the Jewish community, opened at the museum.

The exhibition, which was curated jointly by two Jewish MCC Members, Zaki Cooper and Daniel Lightman KC, tells the story of the Jewish community’s relationship with cricket. It’s the first in a new Community Gallery, which will become a permanent area for rotating displays about different communities’ bonds with cricket.

“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,” Head of Heritage and Collections at the MCC, Neil Robinson, said. “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.”

“We are delighted to have worked with MCC on this landmark exhibition,” Cooper and Lightman said. “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 exhibition, which will run until 2025, includes four sections: (i) Jewish Cricketers and Influencers; (ii) Cricket, Anti-Semitism and Identity; (iii) Notable Characters; and (iv) Grassroots, Maccabiah Games and Israel.

The MCC Museum can be accessed either via a Tour of Lord’s or by ticket holders on match days.

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