an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

a person who behaves in a good or specified way in response to teasing, defeat, or a similarly trying situation.

amuse oneself or play in a lively, energetic way.


Sports date back to the most ancient cultures worldwide – from the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs in the Western Hemisphere to Sumer, Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire in the East. However, historically, Judaism and Jewish culture did not often participate. That’s not to say all sports were forbidden, or no one played, but such activities were not revered or culturally significant to early Jews. Over time, the attitude toward sports evolved and games became more welcome. Formation of the Maccabi Movement in 1895[i] in Turkey, and continued expansion of the Maccabi Games formed in the 1930s[ii], paved the way for modern Jewish athletes—many of whom flourished professionally during the 20th century, as well.

Sports, or rather, sportsmanship is an invaluable tool learned while playing with a team, no matter the sport, game, or skill involved. Both a mental and a physical challenge, an exercise in stamina and problem-solving, participating in sports creates a well-rounded individual who can take learned skills and apply them in varying facets of personal and professional life. Sports teams extend the spirit of togetherness that runs through the Jewish community while individual sports support the notion of self-sufficiency and personal growth.

Engaging in sport is a longstanding tradition in the Dallas Jewish community, as evidenced by anecdotes and photographs in our collection from as early as the 1920s. Team sports such as football, baseball, soccer, and basketball are among the most popular, but other activities such as fishing, hunting, gymnastics, tennis, badminton, and chess are also popular pastimes.   From the Maccabi Games, to community center sports teams, community-sponsored teams, and personal hobbies, the Dallas Jewish community has raised avid athletes and athletic supporters since the early 1900s. The memorabilia and photographs in this exhibit aim to portray the long history of participation and community pride. The activities highlighted below are merely a sampling of sports offered and enjoyed in the community.



Aerial Tennis


The Boomer Girls were a team of male basketball players who wore drag and “performed” in character.

Aaron Family JCC Collection


The Ray Family Film Collection

Click here to watch sports-related home movies filmed in the 1960s donated by Alex Ray, which were digitized from their original 16mm format by the Texas Archive of the Moving Image in 2020. 

The Christmas Day Classic

For more than 50 years, a crew of local Dallas guys, and now their sons and daughters, too, meet up once a year – on Christmas Day – to partake in a rowdy game of football. Click here to watch our 2019 panel program with some of the OG’s.









Ping Pong


Other Miscellaneous Activities, such as…

Physical fitness, chess, bowling, karate, badminton, shotput and sportsmanship – as well as an appearance from former JCC Athletic Director Harold Zeitman.