(JTA) — Renowned broadcaster Chris Berman and a German Jew who once said hockey “saved me and my family from the Holocaust” are among the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame’s annual class of inductees.
The 2023 class, shared exclusively with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, includes athletes and sports figures from across sports and around the world — from water polo to fencing, and from the United States to Hungary.
Jed Margolis, president of the hall of fame, told JTA that the 11 inductees were selected from a list of 150 nominees submitted through an open process throughout the past year. A confidential election committee of around 20 athletes, past award winners and sports experts voted on a smaller list of approximately 30 finalists.
“I’m first of all impressed with how there’s no shortage of qualified people — world record holders, people who’ve been at the highest level of their sport and voted into their particular sport hall of fame,” Margolis said. “You would think that we may run out of people, but we’re getting great nominations all the time.”
Margolis added that honoring Jewish athletes can help push back against stereotypes that Jews may not be athletic — most infamously depicted in the 1980 film “Airplane!”
“If you take a look at the numbers of who we represent worldwide, what are we, about 0.02% of the world population, and we’ve won about 0.03% of the Olympic medals. So we’re boxing above our weight, so to speak,” Margolis said.
The 2023 class brings the hall’s total to 448 members since its inauguration in 1981. Shoe designer and Maccabiah athlete and philanthropist Stuart Weitzman is also being honored, as are the recently retired editors of the Jewish Sports Review magazine.
The Hall, which is housed at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport in Netanya, Israel, will recognize this year’s honorees at its next induction ceremony in July 2025. Inductees are announced annually, but the ceremony itself is held every four years, when the Maccabiah Games take place.
For now, here’s what you need to know about this year’s honorees.
Rudi Ball, ice hockey
A member of the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, Ball (1911-1975) was one of two Jewish athletes to represent Germany at the 1936 Winter Olympics, held in Germany six months before the Berlin summer games that drew the world’s attention to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.
During Ball’s playing career, which spanned from 1928 to 1952, the right winger won eight German championships and a bronze medal in the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
When the German Olympic Committee threatened to remove Ball from the team because he was Jewish, his teammates threatened to boycott the Games. According to The Guardian, Ball may have struck a deal with the Nazi regime, agreeing to play for Germany if his parents were allowed out of the country. He later said, “I am the one who owes hockey. It saved me and my family from the Holocaust.”
Chris Berman, broadcaster
Award-winning broadcaster Chris Berman has been an anchor for ESPN’s flagship program “SportsCenter” since 1979, a month after it launched. Berman, 67, has primarily been the face of the network’s football coverage, but he has also anchored the U.S. Open golf tournament and the NHL Stanley Cup Finals and has done play-by-play for Major League Baseball games as well.
Nicknamed “Boomer,” Berman was raised in a Jewish family in Irvington, New York. He is a six-time recipient of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association’s National Sportscaster of the Year award, an inductee of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame and has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
David Blatt, basketball
David Blatt is a decorated former basketball player, coach and executive whose career has included playing at Princeton University; professional basketball leagues in Israel, Italy, Russia, Turkey and Greece; and a stint as head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
Blatt, 63, who was born in Boston and grew up attending a Reform synagogue, moved to Israel in 1981, where he served in the military and played professionally for more than a decade before turning to coaching.
Blatt won championships and coaching accolades throughout his career, and has also played in the Maccabiah Games and coached in the Olympics. He led the Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals in his first season as coach, and received a ring for the team’s championship the following year, despite being fired halfway through the season.
Deena Kastor, track & field
A Boston-area native, Deena Kastor is an eight-time national champion in cross country who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics and holds U.S. records for the 10-mile, 15-kilometer and 8-kilometer women’s road races. She previously held the U.S. record for women’s marathon and half marathon.
Kastor, 49, is a member of the National, New York and Southern California Jewish Sports Halls of Fame, and has also earned various honors from USA Track & Field.
Ilona Elek-Schacherer, fencing
Born in Budapest to a Jewish father and Catholic mother, Ilona Elek-Schacherer (1907-1988) would go on to become perhaps the greatest woman fencer of all time.
Elek-Schacherer competed in three Olympics for Hungary between 1936 and 1952, winning two gold medals and one silver medal. She also won 10 gold medals, five silver medals and two bronze medals in World Championships spanning 1934 to 1956. (It is unclear how she spent the war years.)
She won more international fencing titles than any other woman.
John Frank, football
John Frank is a two-time Super Bowl champion tight end with the San Francisco 49ers who has enjoyed a successful second career as an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) with a focus on hair restoration surgery.
Frank, 60, also played football at Ohio State University, where he set a school record for receptions by a tight end and was twice honored as an Academic All-American. He was the team’s most valuable player his senior year.
Frank also co-founded the Israeli bobsled team and is a member of the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame, the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Merrill Moses, water polo
Merrill Moses is a three-time Olympic water polo goalkeeper who earned a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won the 1997 NCAA water polo championship with Pepperdine University.
Moses, 45, also played for the U.S. team in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and won gold medals at three Pan American Games in 2007, 2011 and 2015. He was inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame in 2021 and is also a member of the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Moran Samuel, rowing
Moran Samuel is an Israeli world champion paralympic rower and basketball player. After suffering a spinal stroke in 2006, Samuel became paralyzed in her lower body.
Samuel, 40, played for Israel in the 2013 European Wheelchair Basketball Championship in Frankfurt. As a rower, she represented Israel at the Paralympic Games in 2012, 2016 and 2020. She won bronze and silver medals, respectively, in the latter two tournaments. Samuel also won a gold medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships.
In 2012, Samuel won a race in single scull competition at a rowing tournament in Italy, but the event organizers were unable to play the Israeli national anthem — so she sang it herself.
Mordechai Spiegler, soccer
Considered among the best Israeli soccer players ever, Mordechai Spiegler’s crowning achievement was helping Israel qualify for the 1970 FIFA World Cup, the last time the country did so. He scored Israel’s only World Cup goal in history.
Spiegler, 78, was captain of the Israeli Olympic team that reached the quarterfinals at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and his 32 national team goals were a record until 2021. Spiegler also coached for many years in Israel. He is a member of the Israeli Football Hall of Fame.
Outside of Israel, Spiegler played for the vaunted Paris Saint-Germain club and for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, where he was teammates with the Brazilian soccer legend Pelé, who died last month.
Dwight Stones, track & field
Los Angeles native Dwight Stones is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist in high jump, including at the 1972 Munich Olympics, which was marred by the terrorist attack that killed 11 members of the Israeli delegation.
Stones, 69, won 19 national championships in his 16-year career, and still holds multiple world records. In 1984, he became the first athlete to both compete and be an announcer at the same Olympics. He has since served as a television analyst, including at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Stones is a Maccabiah Games alum and is a member of the U.S. Track Hall of Fame, the California Sports Hall of Fame and the Orange County Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Ariel Ze’evi, judo
Ariel Ze’evi is a retired Israeli judo champion.
Nicknamed “Arik,” the 45-year-old Bnei Brak native won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics as well as four European championships and a silver medal at the 2001 World Championships.
He also competed in the 1997 Maccabiah Games, two International Judo Federation Grand Slams (including a 2011 win) and two IJF Grand Prix.
The IJSHOF is also honoring shoe designer Stuart Weitzman with its lifetime achievement award and longtime co-editors of the Jewish Sports Review Ephraim Moxson and Shel Wallman with an award of excellence.
Weitzman is a Maccabiah pingpong medalist who has supported Maccabi USA with millions of dollars of support.
Moxson and Wallman recently concluded a 25-year run producing the Jewish Sports Review, a bimonthly magazine identifying Jewish athletes from college through professional sports.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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