The Jewish sports club in Kalisz, Poland before the Holocaust
The "Jewish Gymnastics and Sports Union" was established in Kalisz, Poland in 1911, on the initiative of Jewish businessmen including the industrialist Meisner, who designated a hall in his factory for the union's use. At first, the hall was only equipped with a few rings. The youth, who habitually congregated in public parks, started to come, but the arrival of teenagers and children en masse was only possible after permission was obtained from the authorities. A coach was hired, and he ran the activities in German, with the help of four assistants. Equipment including mattresses, parallel bars and a vault was soon brought to the hall, and hundreds of teenagers and children would exercise there. The union expanded its activities, and started offering sports competitions, trips in the area around Kalisz and swimming lessons.
During World War I, many Kalisz Jews fled, and the sports union's activities ceased. After the war, most of the Jews returned, and activity resumed. Training moved to the Gutfreund dance hall. In the 1920s, Jewish and Zionist political parties in Kalisz started to establish sports clubs of their own. The Jewish sports clubs in Kalisz became an example for other Jewish communities in the area. These communities created sports clubs modelled on Kalisz, and the different clubs would host events and competitions.
In Kalisz, there was a Jewish rowing club with 250 members, including dozens of men and women who would compete in tournaments. The club invited a professional trainer for the summer. Members of the Jewish club in Kalisz participated in the Polish championships.
In 1937, the idea arose to send four oarsmen and their boat to a competition in Tel Aviv, in order to promote Jewish sportsmanship in Poland and in Eretz Israel. The trip was scheduled to take place in 1940, but due to the outbreak of World War II, it never happened.