Jews played basketball? at an average height of 5’8???? NO WAY! – Book Review: Jewball

I’ll admit, what drove me to read this book was its quasai-offensive title. Yup, part of me was just a lil’bit offended when I see a title called Jewball – until I saw the bi-line: Neal Pollak – an MOT if ever I was.

So, after downloading Jewball into my Kindle…and iPad……I started reading it following the atrocity that was Girlchild….hoping for a better outcome. I’d never read anything by Pollak before – apparently, he’s a pretty accomplished. He also used to write for the Chicago Reader – which admittedly, I never actually read – I only sometimes read the Savage Love section with my hairdresser – but whatevs.

Back to the book; Pollak is good. The book is good. I actually just ordered his latest – Stretch: the makings of  Yoga Dude – as a result of how much I enjoyed Jewball.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, what’s up with the title? There’s no way in HELL that Jews ever played basketball… can they? they’re all short! (ehem, I happen to know several tall Jews…and by tall, I mean over 6′. one of them is actually 6’7″!). But, indeed lovers, there was a time that Jews played the game like few others. They hung with the big boys and fought discrimination thru their love of the game.

Thanks LA Times for having such a great photo!

The SPHA (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association), a true-life team in the late 30s, was in for the fight of their lives. With no thanks to their coach, the team finds themselves in a bit of a pickle with the Bund – America’s version of the Nazi movement in the 30s. The Bund wanted those “Jew bastards” dead – and certainly couldn’t tolerate humiliation. So, when tensions heat up between the Bund and Philly’s Jewish population, the team sets out to do just that.


According to Pollak:

The title Jewball represents a point of pride for me. The book is about Jewish basketball players in the 1930s, a time when global anti-Semitism was nearing its peak. In the U.S., though, Jews had started to move out of the immigrant ghetto and into the mainstream. They were getting educated. They were getting powerful. And they dominated professional basketball.


So in calling my novel Jewball, I’m honoring the memory and achievements of players like Inky Lautman, Harry Litwack, Gil Fitch, and Shikey Gothofer, many of whom have been forgotten by history. I want to reclaim their legacy and their unmatchable contribution to the world’s greatest game. People should know that Jewish men played the game hard and played it well.

Neal Pollak

Both entertaining and educational, I really enjoyed this book. It exposed a side I have rarely seen amongst my peeps….HEIGHT. hahah. Truly, though, I was impressed with Pollak’s style and subject matter. The characters were well developed and, to his credit, pretty accurate (I looked a few up!)

I’ll let you know what I think of Stretch….but in the meantime, Jew or Gentile (or whatever else) this book is a great read!

Rachael’s Grades:

Writing: A

Character Development: A

Plot: A

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2 Responses to Jews played basketball? at an average height of 5’8???? NO WAY! – Book Review: Jewball

  1. Litterachi says:

    Any mention of Howie “Hershey” Carl in the book?

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