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Historians discover identity of two more Jewish League footballers

August 9, 2015 – 9:20 pmNo Comment

By Ashley Browne:

Herbert Rapiport

An image of Herbert ‘Bert’ Rapiport. Picture: blueseum.org

As part of the AFL’s Multicultural Round activities, historians have discovered the identity of two more Jewish League footballers.

It was long thought St Kilda premiership defender Ian Synman, who made his debut for the Saints in 1958, was the first Jew to play at League level. However, the honour now belongs to Herbert ‘Bert’ Rapiport, who played three games for Fitzroy in the 1897 – the first season of the Victorian Football League.

Five years later, Barney Lazarus played seven games for Carlton.

Rapiport is listed in the AFL’s record books as Herbert, but his actual first name was Henry, which probably explains why researchers from the Australian Jewish Historical Society didn’t make the association until this week.

Rapiport didn’t play in the VFL until he was 31, but he was a regular for the Maroons in the VFA before then, having played before that for Normanby, the club considered to be the forerunner of Fitzroy.

He also turned out for a few non-official games for Carlton in the late 1880s, including an exhibition game at the MCG for A G Spalding, a visiting American whose family started the famous sporting goods chain.

Lazarus was recruited to Carlton from Carlton Juniors, having played his early footy at Princes Hill. After he retired he relocated to Sydney and married in 1912. He died there in 1962, aged 83.

His Jewish identity wasn’t known until earlier this week, when Carlton historian Tony De Bolfo named him in a team of multicultural Blues players, in this instance because he was born in London.

This piqued the interest of Carlton supporter and part-time genealogist Bernie Kuran, who soon found that a Barnet Lazarus, whose dates of birth and death matched that of Barney Lazarus, was buried at Sydney’s Rookwood Jewish Cemetery.

Rapiport and Lazarus join Synman (St Kilda), Keith Baskin (South Melbourne), Henry Ritterman (Melbourne), Michael Zemski (Hawthorn), Mordy Bromberg (St Kilda), Trevor Korn (Melbourne), Julian Kirzner (Essendon/North Melbourne) and Ezra Poyas (Richmond) on the list of Jewish League footballers.

Jewish lineage traditionally comes from the mother, which means North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein, whose father is Jewish, technically doesn’t qualify. But other branches of Judaism adopt a more liberal approach and would accept Goldstein as a member of the faith if he wished.

Other players with a Jewish background include the Krakouer clan–Jimmy, Phil, Andrew and Nathan–who are descended from an English Jewish convict Theodore Krakouer, who married a local Noongar woman. Recently inducted Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee Michael O’Loughlin had a Jewish grandfather, and Jacob Stengel, a Czech Jew who escaped Nazi persecution and arrived in Australia during World War II, marrying an indigenous woman from the Rakkukan mission in South Australia.

Former Fitzroy forward Gary Lazarus and former Essendon and Fremantle utility Dean Solomon also have Jewish ancestry.

* From the August 14 to October 31, the Immigration Museum in Melbourne will host a photographic exhibition showcasing multiculturalism in Australian Football.

Highlights include rare photos of players from both private and AFL collections. Visitors to the Immigration Museum during the exhibition dates can present any game ticket from multicultural round and receive a two-for-one entry.

For details go to: www.museumvictoria.com.au/immigrationmuseum/

This article was originally published on afl.com.au, and can be viewed here.

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