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Recalling Franco Harris’ ‘immaculate reception’ and the Pittsburgh bar mitzvah celebration it sidelined



(JTA) — For many Jewish sports fans, major moments in sports history and Jewish milestones are entwined in memory. The Jewish Sport Report, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s weekly sports newsletter, is one place where those memories can be explored.

Today, we’re bringing you a recollection by David Eisner connected to Franco Harris, who died Tuesday — three days before the 50th anniversary of a historic catch he made as a Pittsburgh Steelers running back. Long before Eisner was an assistant secretary in the U.S. Treasury, where he worked from from 2018 to 2021, he was the football-obsessed younger brother of a boy whose bar mitzvah fell on the same day as a Steelers playoff game.

Here’s what Eisner told us about the day that sports fans know as the date of football’s “Immaculate Reception” — a Christmas-season pun on Harris’ feat.

This week was bittersweet for football fans, but especially for Pittsburgh Steeler fans. Legendary Steeler running-back Franco Harris passed away on Tuesday, and Friday marks the 50th anniversary of Franco’s Immaculate Reception, the play that the NFL designated the greatest in its 80-year history.

I was lucky enough to be at Three Rivers Stadium in my hometown 50 years ago to see the game on the afternoon of December 23, 1972.  But my memory of the game — and the catch — are only one many from that weekend.

First, it was the Steelers’ first playoff appearance in the team’s long (40-year) history. One of the original franchises in the NFL, the Steelers had been, for most of the years since 1932, one of the league’s worst — they had never before reached the playoffs. So, for long-suffering Steeler fans, and especially for longtime season-ticket holders like my family, this game was a very special event.

Game day was also a very special occasion for my family. It was the day of my brother Ken’s bar mitzvah at the Conservative synagogue we attended in Pittsburgh, Beth Shalom. Ken did a great job leading shacharit, the preliminary prayers, and reciting his haftarah. I am sure that no 13-year old ever had to manage the clock with the precision Ken demonstrated that day; there were more than a few in attendance who were keeping close watch, given the 1 p.m. game time.  And, no question, more than one attendee prayed harder for a Steeler miracle than they had ever prayed before.

My father was able to obtain extra tickets for the game from his friend and client, Jack McGinley, brother-in-law of the Steelers’ founding owner, Art Rooney. So immediately following services, a dozen or so male family members (and probably one-third of the rest of the synagogue) had a quick kiddush and headed to the stadium. “Lucky” Ken got to stay behind for lunch with the “ladies,” glued to his radio as home games were then blacked out on television.

One of the reasons Ken has ascribed for his all-star performance that day was the autograph of (none other than) Franco Harris that I slipped into his hand before services. I had obtained that autograph the day before when my father and I went to the airport to greet some out-of-town family and met Harris there; he was there to meet his parents, and graciously penned his signature for us.

I must admit that my memory of the play exists mostly from the 1,000 times I have watched replays. I suspect that, like me, most fans in the stadium that day looked down in disappointment when Raider Jack Tatum violently knocked the ball away from Steeler John “Frenchy” Fuqua and missed seeing Harris’ miracle catch live. I will never forget the joy I felt, however, as I watched Franco sprint into the end zone for the Steeler win, and the excitement we felt when my cousin Cary and I stormed the field with thousands of others to embrace Franco and the other players as they celebrated the victory.

This week, however, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ken’s bar mitzvah, we mourn the loss of the great football player — and man — who turned a special day for our family into a sports history day for the ages. May the memory of Franco Harris be for a blessing.

One interesting side note: The “Immaculate Reception” pun was first uttered on air by a Jewish sportscaster, Myron Cope, who added color to Steelers broadcasts for 35 years. Cope, whose last name was actually Kopelman, was the first football announcer inducted into the National Sports Hall of Fame; his catchphrases included some drawn from Yiddish, including “feh!” and “yoi!”

But Cope did not coin the phrase: A woman called him after the catch but before his broadcast to suggest it, and he credited her by name on air, noting that she was Christian. The woman, Sharon Levosky, was in fact a Presbyterian, but she said many people mistook her for being Jewish because of her last name and recalled more than 20 years ago that Cope had not asked about her religion.

Want to share your own Jewish sports story? Email us at — and sign up for the Jewish Sport Report, if you haven’t already, to make sure you don’t miss a memory.

The post Recalling Franco Harris’ ‘immaculate reception’ and the Pittsburgh bar mitzvah celebration it sidelined appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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.

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Local News

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.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

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.)

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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.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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