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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4286
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1943-2008
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 8.37 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Maccabi Union of Great Britain x Union of Maccabi Associations in Great Britain and Northern Ireland


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Maccabi Union of Great Britain (Union of Maccabi Associations in Great Britain and Northern Ireland), like all other 'Maccabi' organisations, takes it name from the Jewish hero Yehuda Ha'Maccabi, leader of the successful National military revolt against the Syrian-Greek oppressors of the Jews in the period of the Second Temple. The festival of Chanukah commemorates this victory.

The first Maccabi organisation was established in Istanbul, Turkey in 1895. At that time, a Jewish National resurgence movement started and it was felt that physical fitness and capability in self defence were increasingly necessary qualities for the Jewish community to develop and enhance. Soon afterwards other clubs were founded elsewhere to encourage the development in Jewish youth of the mind, body and spirit prevalent in the tradition of the first Maccabeans. Some of these clubs were known as "Bar Kochba" (the name of a Jewish fighter for freedom), "Hakoach" (strength) and "Hagibor" (the strong man).

As the network of Maccabi clubs expanded Territorial Organisations were created to co-ordinate activities at national levels. The slogan "A healthy mind in a healthy body" was adopted, along with the greeting "Hazak Ve'Ematz" (be strong and courageous) and the emblem, which is the word Maccabi (in Hebrew) drawn into the shield of David (Magen David), an ancient Jewish emblem.

In 1921 the Maccabi World Union (MWU) was founded at the World Zionist Congress in Carlsbad to serve as the roof organisation for all Maccabi Territorial and National Organisations. It became the co-ordinating body for the promotion and advancement of sports, educational and cultural activities and the State of Israel among Jewish communities world wide. The head office of the MWU is in Israel. It is governed by the World Congress, the assembly of elected representatives of Maccabi Territorial Organisations throughout the world. The Maccabi movement has become the largest Jewish Youth Organisation with clubs in 30 countries and a total membership of over 200,000.

The Maccabi Union Great Britain is the more commonly used shorter name of the Union of Maccabi Assocations in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This is just one of the Territorial Organisations, and like its counterparts across the globe, it exists to promote the active participation in sports and education of young Jewish men and women, in order to enhance their Jewish identity, values and commitment to the community. It has its own national executive which is elected annually and serves in a voluntary capacity. Its head office is currently in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. It was previously based at Gildesgame House, 73 Compayne Gardens, London, NW6 (named after Pierre Gildesgame CBE, who started out as Chairman of the Maccabi Association of London and became Chairman of the MWU in 1957).

In 2001 the affiliated clubs of the Maccabi Union Great Britain in the London area are Belmont; Brady; Bushey; Catford; Chigwell & Hainault; E.D.R.S; Ivri; Kadimah/Victoria, Kenton; Kinnor; Launchpad; Luton; Maccabi Association London; Southend-on-Sea. Affiliated clubs in the regions are Brighton & Hove; Cardiff; Dublin; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Liverpool; Leeds; Leicester; Manchester & South Manchester; Newcastle; Sheffield

Physical education is a primary tenet of Maccabi life. This is reflected in the sports competitions held regularly in each country as well as cross continent. The Maccabiah (the "Jewish Olympics") organised by the MWU is the zenith of World Jewish Sports and is held regularly in Israel every four years. The first of these games took place in Tel Aviv in 1932. These games have obtained worldwide recognition and the International Olympic Committee awarded the MWU an "International Federation of Olympic standard". Maccabiah seek not only to achieve high standards in sport but to bring hundreds of Jewish youth to Israel where they compete with each other and see the country. Cultural, educational and social events are always included as part of the offical Maccabiah programme. The International Maccabiah Committee (IMC) is the administrative arm of the MWU now responsible for the organisation of the Maccabiah Games.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Maccabi Union of Great Britain, 1943-2002. Please note written permission from the depositors is required to access these records.

This collection reflects how the Maccabi organisation functions on an international, European and national level. The hierarchy of authority is evident in the way the series of records have been organised. The Maccabi World Union, International Maccabiah Committee and European Maccabi Confederation are represented in the holdings mostly through official reports. However, although the records for the Maccabi Union of Great Britain start with the official minutes of what was to become the National Executive Committee, it is the personal correspondence from key figures in the Union, for example Eric and Beryl Rayman, which greatly enhance our understanding of this organisation.

It is apparent from the records that the Maccabi Union GB has many related parts to it. This demonstrates the level of organisation involved and fund raising necessary to run a major youth movement. The Maccabi Foundation, an independant body, has, as its main purpose, a funding function for Maccabi activities. This itself was previously linked to a company called Maccabi Stadium Limited. The Maccad Agency Limited, also no longer functioning, charged commission from companies to advertise in Maccabi Union publications. This commission was most likely ploughed back into the Union's activities.

The Maccabi Century Club took over the activities of the Sportsmen's Century Club in 1992. This club was founded by generous, wealthy men who ran one fundraising event per year at the Dorchester Hotel. The "Century" referred to the fact that this stag dinner function cost 100 pounds per head for 100 people. By 1992 the cost of the ticket had risen to 500 pounds and the number of attendees increased. Fine speakers, fine food and wine and top names in cabaret ensured a memorable evening. Over 33 years these dinners raised over 1,000,000 pounds to keep the Maccabi movement alive. The Maccabi Century Club continued this work with a slightly altered structure, that is, that the fundraising work is shared with the Maccabi Centurions. This Club is no longer operating.

By far the most comprehensive series of records is that of sports events and games. The Maccabiah is covered from the 3rd to the 16th Games. A set of photographs of the 1950 Games is of particular interest as it shows not only the opening cermonies in Israel but members of the team from Great Britain and the competitors as they take part.

The involvement of the Maccabi Union Great Britain in the Maccabiah, European and North American Games is known to us mainly through the personal papers of Ken Gradon who served the Union in many capacities. Ken Gradon was a key figure in the development of the Maccabi Union because he has served at all levels. He was, among other roles, President of the Maccabi Union Great Britain, Honorary President of the European Maccabi Games, a member of the International Maccabiah Committee on a personal basis, nominated to stand for committees of the Maccabi World Union and standing on the British Maccabiah Organising Committee.

The photographic collection includes meetings, conferences, dinners and other events held between the 1940s and 1960s with particular reference to Maccabi Association London depicting speakers, audiences and assembled groups, the Jewish Welfare Unit ambulances, and the opening of the Maccabi running track at Hendon Stadium in 1953. Among the ephemera there are football league trophies, sports caps and T-shirts, commemorative pennants, banners and plaques.

Besides the Maccabiah, individual sports are represented through the files of affiliated sports groups such as the Maccabi Southern Football League and Wingate Football Club, as well as the Union's own records of certain sports and their annual tournaments, such as table tennis, athletics and cricket.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Dutch, Hebrew, French, Polish and Spanish.

System of arrangement:

The records have been arranged into the following series:
LMA/4286/01 Maccabi World Union;
LMA/4286/02 European Maccabi Confederation;
LMA/4286/03 Union of Maccabi Associations (Maccabi Union Great Britain);
LMA/4286/04 Maccabi Foundation;
LMA/4286/05 Maccabiah Games and other sporting events;
LMA/4286/06 Photographs, Ephemera and Audio-visual.

Conditions governing access:

Access by written permission only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records remains with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in four accessions between 2000 and 2008.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also the Belmont Synagogue (LMA/4280) collection which contains Belmont Maccabi Club photographs and other records (and was deposited at the same time as the Maccabi Union).

Publication note:

For further information please consult the LMA Information Leaflet: "Records of the Anglo-Jewish Community at London Metropolitan Archives"; available to download here: (URL correct Feb 2010).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Description prepared in March 2010. Updated November 2017.

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