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Historian's research turned into documentary

Oct. 17, 2006

KALAMAZOO--A documentary film with Western Michigan University history professor Dr. Linda Borish serving as executive producer and historian had its premiere in early October.

Borish, professor of history and gender/women's studies, shares her expertise and research on American women's sport history in this first-ever film about Jewish women in American sport from the 1880s through the 20th century.

"Jewish Women in American Sport: Settlement Houses to the Olympics" is being presented by Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel and was screened Oct. 3 at the Cherry Hill, N.J., Jewish Community Center and Oct. 5 at the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Commack, N.Y. Borish is on the hall of fame's advisory committee and a research associate of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, Brandeis University.

The film has been in the works since spring 2003 when Borish teamed up with well-known Israeli and Chicago-based filmmaker Shuli Eshe, the film's director and producer, to develop and produce the documentary on the history of American Jewish women in sport based on Borish's original research.

Borish and Eshel used archival research, news footage, still images and interviews with athletes and historians to trace the early years of prominent American Jewish female athletes and sports administrators, culminating with the induction of the first class of women into the 2003 Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

The film examines such important Jewish sportswomen as Charlotte Epstein, recognized as the mother of women's competitive swimming, Senda Berenson, who studied the teachings of Dr. John Naismith in the 1890s to develop the first rules for women's basketball, and 1932 Olympic track and field champion Lillian Copeland. Current athletes also are highlighted, including LPGA professional Amy Alcott, Olympic gold medal skating champion Sarah Hughes, and ESPN sportscaster Linda Cohen.

"'Jewish Women in American Sport' reveals an untold history, yet one that is essential to the understanding of American society," says Dr. Marion Gray, history department chair. "Historian Linda Borish brings together three separate specializations - gender history, sport history and the history of ethnic groups - in an expertly conceived project. The partnership between Borish and experienced filmmaker Shuli Eshel is ideal, ensuring historical integrity, technical expertise and aesthetic quality in a film that deepens our insight into an important aspect of the American past."

For information on screening or purchasing the film, please contact Linda Borish, at linda.borish@wmich.edu, or Shuli Eshel, at eshelred@aol.com.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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