My grandfather, Moritz Abraham, and his brother, Haim Abraham, belonged to leadership of the Maccabi sports organization, first in Rustchuk, Bulgaria (ca 1905? to 1908), then, starting in 1908, in Constantinople. Haim was particularly involved, being one of Maccabi Rustchuk's original founders and leader until his move to Constantinople in 1908. Upon his arrival, he joined the leadership of the organization with his brother Moritz.

MAccabi Bulgaria, 1903

The first national conference of Maccabi associations in Bulgaria (December 25-27, 1903). Seated from right to left: Haim Abraham, Shabbat Borochov, David Kalev, Aharon Manoach. Standing: Rachamim Borochov, Molcho, Emanuel Nissimoff, Adv. Moshaiv, Aharon Danon".

Haim was about 24 years old when this photo was taken.

(Photo source: "The Maccabi in Balkan states")

David Rimon ("HaMaccabi Be'Artzot HaBalkan" - The Maccabi in Balkan States):

On February 10th 1902 a group of youngsters founded the Maccabi association in Rousse (Rustchuk) under the name "A Jewish Association for Gymnastics and Music - Maccabi". In 1905, after an acute internal struggle, the Association defined itself as Zionist.

Thanks to the active help of the Jewish community, which wholeheartedly supported the first organisation of its youths, to the effective support of the World Zionist Organisation, to the enthusiasm of the youths' management and to the skillfulness of its leader, Heinrich* Abraham, Maccabi expended its ranks from 42 to one hundred members within a single year. During this year, the Association held 10 performances, designed its members' uniforms and inaugurated its flag.

* Note: Haim called himself "Heinrich" in Rustchuk after his return from Germany.

Upon their arrival in Constantinople in 1908, Moritz and Haim joined the leadership of the Constantinople Maccabi organization.

David Rimon:

A few weeks after the Young Turks revolution [July 1908], the brothers Haim Abraham and Maurice Abraham, members of Maccabi Rustchuk in Bulgaria, came to Constantinople. The brothers started working immediately upon their arrival and contributed a lot of their time and energy to the development of the [Maccabi] association.

Israelitischer Turnverein Konstantinopel

Postcard commemorating the 10th anniversary of the "Israelitischer Turnverein Konstantinopel" (Israel Gymnastic Club), 1895/1905

The Maccabi Sports Organization of Constantinople had evolved from the "Israelitischer Turnverein Konstantinopel" ("Israelite Gymnastic Association of Constantinople"). It was the first Jewish sports organization in Eastern and Central Europe and was founded in 1895 in Constantinople by Jews of German and Austrian extraction who had been rejected from participating in other social sport clubs.

Roman Sinkovsky ("Jewish German gymnastic system in Turkey until 1918"):

In 1908 the Israelitischer Turnverein changed its name to the national-Jewish "Maccabi". This renaming act followed naturally after the general assembly on May 25th 1908 when the club announced, for the very first time publicly, its national-Jewish conviction. This proposal originated by H. Abraham who declared that he was willing to hold his position (vice chairman) only in a national-Jewish turnverein.

According to the recollections of Sarah Cohen Eldar, Haim also "invented" Hebrew terms for gymnastics' commands.


Starting in May 1910 the gymnastic units were given in Hebrew and the club started organizing obligatory lessons of Hebrew for the members. The goal was the support of the national-Jewish idea and the prevention of the lingual and gymnastic-technical misunderstandings. The Constantinople Maccabi was the first national-Jewish club to use Hebrew.

Several Hebrew speaking men of Constantinople participated in creating the gymnastic terminology which was then sent to Jaffa (Palestine) for an appraisal.

The Jewish turners celebrated the commemoration of the Maccabbees with an annual gymnastic festival. On December 31st 1910, the program was started with the Ottoman anthem followed by the Zionist anthem ("Hatikvah"). Many Turkish officials and authorities were present, and some even gave speeches in one of the three official languages of the Maccabi - Turkish, Hebrew and French.


Below are a few photos of Maccabi activities from my grandfather's collection.

Jewish Sports Group excursion - Constantinople

Maccabi Group excursion - Constantinople, 1916*.
Haim Abraham, bearded, standing, far right.


Jewish Sport Group excursion - Constantinople, 1916*.
Haim Abraham, with the beard, is second from the right in the middle row.

*The 1916 date was inscribed by my grandmother and is most likely wrong as the Constantinople Maccabi had been forced to disband in 1914. Also Haim Abraham had shaved his beard after his marriage to Sarah Aaronsohn in 1914. These photos must have been taken some time between 1908 and 1914.

Maccabi Excursion

Maccabi Excursion.

Maccabi Soccer Team

Maccabi Soccer Team

Maccabi Soccer Team

Maccabi Soccer Team

Maccabi Soccer Team

Maccabi Soccer Team

Jewish Scouts - Cospoli

Jewish Scouts - Cospoli

This family history project started September 2009.
All photos and documents belong to the author and are © Daniel Abraham, except for maps and where indicated.
This is a work in progress. Please contact me if you have any more information to contribute.

Last Modified: Friday, December 7, 2018