The Story of Jacob Lewin: Everton's First Foreign Player?

EFC Heritage society attempt to pick up the trail of Swede, Jacob Lewin, whose appearances for Everton's A team just before WWI perhaps make him the club's first Jewish and foreign player.

Rob Sawyer 09/07/2014 18comments  |  Jump to last
On behalf of EFC Heritage Society

The latter stages of the Nineteenth Century were a time of terror and turmoil for the Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi communities living in south-western Imperial Russia (present-day Ukraine and Poland). Anti-Jewish riots, or Pogroms, were not a new phenomenon but the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 provided a catalyst for fresh wave of anti-Semitic violence. The persecution precipitated a wave of Jewish emigration in search of sanctuary. Sweden, due to its close proximity, saw Ashkenazis settle in some number in the 1880s and 1890s.

Slightly ahead of the main wave of immigration were Baruch Israëlevitsch Hodish and his wife, Olga. Settling in Landskrona, a coastal town 140 miles from Gothenberg, the couple had six children, from Samuel born in 1875 through to Jacob (or Jakob) in 1890. To aid their assimilation into Swedish society, the parents became known as Maurice and Hulda whilst the children adopted their mother's maiden name of Lewin (also spelt Levin).

Orgryte IS team, 1909. Jacob Lewin back row fourth from right.

Jacob was blessed with footballing talent and became a right-back with Örgryte IS – debuting in 1907 against “Rangers” in an 8-2 victory. With Jacob still in his teens he won a league championship winner's medal in 1909. Playing alongside him for Örgryte was Axel Englund who would go on the marry Jacob's elder sister, Bertha. Jacob was called up to the national team a year later as Sweden thrashed Norway 4-0 in Oslo. He went on to represent his country at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics in a match against the Netherlands. His sixth, and final, international appearance came in November 1912 against Norway.

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This appears to have been a pivotal moment in the twenty-two year-old's life. Jacob followed the route taken by many others and sailed to England. It is unclear if his intention was to settle there or use it as a staging post on the long journey to a new life in the USA. He headed to Liverpool where his elder sibling, Josef, was already residing. Here Jacob came to the attention of Everton F.C. director J. Davies. At a board meeting, held on 25 April 1913, Davies proposed that the club take a look at the Swede when the new season got underway. The board minutes record:

Mr. Davies submitted the name of Jacob Lewrin (sic,) a Swedish Amateur International right fullback. Age 23, height 5ft 9 ins., weight 12 stone 10 lbs and it was resolved to afford him a trial in August.

Swedish national team circa 1912. Jacob Lewin back row second from left.

Jacob was selected to make appear once in a practice match and twice for the A team (the club's third team). After this trio of outings he was not mentioned in the Everton minute books again. Perhaps Jacob was not up to the standard required or maybe the red-tape connected with employing a foreign player put the Blues off taking things further.

Jacob's trail goes cold until 9 January 1925 when he wrote to his sister, Bertha, back in Gothenburg. His address was given as 26 Keble Road, Bootle and he signed his name as the anglicised “Jack”. In the missive he told Bertha how life was tough for his brother Josef (referred to as “Joe”) and his children and that they had booked their passage to the USA on 24th January to join Josef's eldest son Olaf (Eloph) at 1257 Forest Avenue West, Detroit. Records indicate that Josef may also have participated in the First World War. In Jacob's letter he also expressed concern that Bertha had not replied to his previous correspondence. His disquiet was well-founded – tragically, and unbeknownst to Jacob, his sister had passed away the previous September.

New research by Carl-Johan Johansson of has established that Jacob remained on Merseyside for the rest of his life. In 1930 (using the name Jack Levine) he married Burton-on-Trent-born Mabel Maddox, who was employed as a boarding house manageress in Liverpool. . At the outbreak of the Second World War Jacob was residing at 8 Larkfield Close in Aigburth; his occupation was listed as a cold storage superintendent. His was already a widower, Mabel having passed away a year previously. At only 55 years of age Jacob suffered a stroke and died at Liverpool Royal infirmary on 10 December 1945. Jacob died intestate and without children so his estate passed to his brother, Josef (sometimes anglicised to Joseph) who had been employed as an interpreter on the RMS Baltic, sailing out of Liverpool. Josef subsequently became a shipping clerk; his descendents remain in Merseyside – they support Liverpool FC.

Jacob, in those two A Team appearances against Southport Park Villa and Marine, unwittingly wrote a chapter in Everton's history as, perhaps, the first foreign player to represent the club. Aside from David Murray (a South African with family links to the UK) Everton did not have a first-team player from beyond the British Isles and Channel Isles until Stefan Rehn – a Swede like Jacob – endured an all-too-brief brief spell with the Toffees in 1989.


Members of EFC Heritage Society
The Everton Collection (Minute Books)
Ylva Vihøj
Olof Schön
Gunnar Persson (researcher and author of: "1908-2008: all A-internationals for 100 years")
Kjell Hanssen (independent Liverpool FC historian)

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Reader Comments (18)

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Mike Gaynes
1 Posted 10/07/2014 at 22:32:43
Great read, Rob.

I'd be interested to know, from the historians on TW, what other Jewish players have worn the Everton shirt over the years.

Ray Roche
2 Posted 10/07/2014 at 22:47:01
Mike, I imagine Idan Tal was one.
Rob Sawyer
3 Posted 10/07/2014 at 23:20:37
A good question Mike. I would add Mickael Madar to Idan Tal. I'm sure they will be others I have not thought of.
Colin Glassar
4 Posted 10/07/2014 at 23:49:40
Very interesting article. There's a book called, 'Does your rabbi know you're here?' I've only browsed through it and the only players I recognised were George Cohen, Barry Silkman (now football agent) and Mark Lazarus. There are probably more but I don't remember their names.
Mike Gaynes
5 Posted 11/07/2014 at 02:13:41
Ray and Rob, great shouts. Tal should have been obvious (*smacking forehead and grumbling "of course"*), but I don't even remember Madar. Had to look him up.

That's why I love this board.

David Ellis
6 Posted 11/07/2014 at 03:26:09
Wonderful OP... but I'm not sure about the statement that there were no foreign players again at Everton until 1989.

Tal was also "foreign" in that he was an Israeli, and Van den Hauwe played for Wales but was of course Belgian – both in the team before 1989. Sheedy was also from the Republic of Ireland – and would presumably not be upstanding to sing God Save the Queen.

Rob Sawyer
7 Posted 11/07/2014 at 08:09:44
David, yes "foreign" is not strictly correct in this context but I wanted to keep the title concise. We have a long, proud, history of players from across the Irish Sea joining us and no offence was intended to them. Tal joined us in 2000. Van Den Hauwe is a good shout although he had been raised in London (born in Belgium) and held a British passport. I am sure there are others from overseas before VDH and Rehn who had trials without being kept on.
Graham Mockford
9 Posted 11/07/2014 at 12:34:31
Mike Gaynes,

Judas Barmby

Brian Denton
10 Posted 11/07/2014 at 13:30:30
Sheedy was born in the UK (Builth Wells, Wales); Leon Osman is of Turkish descent; etc etc Tricky business, this nationality lark.
Mike Allison
11 Posted 11/07/2014 at 14:46:23
The Irish were officially not counted as foreign in the UK, someone with a better grasp of history will probably explain how and why but you could start here:

And perhaps follow some of the links. It is complicated and not something I've studied in detail.

Idan Tal joined Everton in 2000, sometime after 1989. David, perhaps you are remembering Imre Varadi, who played for us between 1979 and 1981? Although he was born in England.

Kristian Boyce
12 Posted 11/07/2014 at 18:19:57
Vinny Samways and Mickel Madar were Jewish.
Paul Burns
13 Posted 11/07/2014 at 19:16:44
What was Imre "olly" Varadi's nationality?
Mike Gaynes
14 Posted 11/07/2014 at 19:31:14
Paul, he was born in the UK to Hungarian parents.
Örjan Hansson
15 Posted 15/07/2014 at 08:25:57
Really interesting read. I hope it one day could solve Jacob Lewin’s whereabouts. He probably took a liner over to America. But nothing yet has proved that to be the case.

Another question: Who is interested in knowing if Lewin played for another club in England (amatuer club)?

Gary Edwards
17 Posted 18/07/2014 at 06:45:20
I wonder if there's any connection to Lewin's the shirtmakers.
David Israel
18 Posted 19/07/2014 at 02:57:20
Tal and Madar are the only Jewish players at Everton whose names I remember, but at the back of my mind I have an idea there was someone else, in the '60s. Across the Park I can remember Avvi Cohen, Ronnie Rosenthal and a recent one whose name escapes me. Cohen was Israeli, Rosenthal I'm not sure.
Paul Burns
19 Posted 20/07/2014 at 10:39:27
Thanks Mike. I don't think I've ever met a Hungarian apart from Varadi and don't know anyone who's ever been there. What a strange place it seems.
Eugene Ruane
20 Posted 20/07/2014 at 11:01:50
Paul (19) - That’s kind of how I see Garston.

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