Klinger stars on Jewish soil for Gloucestershire

Michael Klinger leads Gloucestershire onto the College Ground at the Cheltenham Cricket Festival in England. A frosted glass window featuring a Magen David can be seen in the background. Photo: Gloucestershire Cricket

HE may have recently brought up his 38th birthday, but it’s clear not even age nor life’s unexpected challenges can stop the run-scoring machine, Michael Klinger.

In his typically assured manner, the veteran opener dug in and led Gloucestershire to the top of the T20 Vitality Blast South Group Table with an unbeaten knock of 77 off 50 balls against Glamorgan during the Cheltenham Cricket Festival in front of a sell-out crowd at the College Ground.

Some more digging (in the archives) uncovered a rich Jewish history at the college and surrounding areas, where Klinger has spent the past six English summers in a place he calls his “second home”.

Cheltenham College was established as a Church of England Foundation in 1841 in a prosperous spa town west of England. In the classical department, among other subjects, boys studied Hebrew.

The picturesque College Ground Pavilion features two frosted windows in the shape of the Star of David. Klinger told The AJN, “I’ve noticed the Magen Davids but never thought much more or looked into it.”

According to the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail, a Jewish boarding house was situated opposite the college between 1892 and 1923. Corinth House was home to around 40 Jewish boys, allowing them to observe the Sabbath and attend the synagogue, as well as conduct the work of Saturday school, on Sunday.

From 1892 until 1914 the house was run by Ivan Nestor-Schnurmann a German and Russian language teacher.
In 1914, Corinth was taken over by Daniel Lipson, but in 1923 he had a disagreement with the college over the terms of his lease, which led to the end of the college’s official affiliation with the Jewish boarding house.
Some of the surnames of the boys who boarded at the house, were Cohen, Davis, Meyer, Nathan, Oppenheim, Solomon and Woolf.

Upon further investigation into Cheltenham’s Jewish roots, records of a community go back as far as 1823. In 2011, the UK Office for National Statistics had records of 160 Jews living among Cheltenham’s 115,000-strong population.

Historical and current Jewish sites all within three kilometres of the college include:
• The Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation was established in 1823 and reopened in 1939. It is still in use and can be found on Synagogue Lane off St James Square. In 2008, the Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Congregation opened in Cheltenham.
• The Montpellier Baths were used in the 19th century as the communal mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) and was situated less than 500 metres down the road from Cheltenham College.
• The Jewish Burial Ground on Elm Street was established around 1824. The cemetery remains in use and is maintained by the Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation.

On the cricket pitch, Klinger’s fine knock – which included seven fours and three sixes – came as no surprise. His preparation for the T20 Blast season was far from orthodox, but he never doubted his ability to return to his best when the time came.

“I retired in early March to be at home daily to help with everything from caring for Cindy, kids’ school drop-off, pick-ups and after-school and weekend sport activities – all while she was going through weekly chemo.”

Klinger praised the “amazing” help and support from family and friends in Perth and Melbourne.

“It gave me some real quality time at home for four months and then once results came back fairly positively from Cindy’s scans post- chemo we decided that I could come to the UK to play.”

The consummate professional that he is, Klinger prepared diligently, juggling his responsibilities at home with daily gym and running sessions and a few skills trainings with WA.

“Now I know if I keep preparing well for each game and have a clear but switched-on mind, I’ll be fine,” Klinger said.

“I’m always going to fail in some games – that’s the nature of T20 cricket, but if I can win a few games for my team off my own bat during the tournament and lead well then I’m doing my job.

“So far I’ve done that in a couple of games and hopefully I’ve got a few more match-wining innings in me.”

AARON FETTER