(JTA) — On one wall of the dining hall at the Indiana University Hillel sit 36 framed photographs of Jewish alumni who have made an impact in the sports industry, from athletes to executives. It’s the IU Jewish Sports Wall of Fame.
One of those pictures is of Josh Rawitch, who has had a long career as an executive in baseball. At first, Rawitch told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, he questioned whether he was truly worthy of being honored alongside fellow Hoosiers like Mark Cuban, the billionaire businessman and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, and Ted Kluszewski, a four-time All-Star with the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds in the 1950s.
But then Rawitch thought about the location of the wall, and who it might impact.
“You’re going to have young people, 18, 19 years old, walking in there looking at the wall, seeing all these people who are up there who have gone on to do significant things in the industry,” Rawitch said. “That’s actually pretty cool. That actually inspires them. If I was 18 and I’d have walked in and that wall had been there when I was a freshman, I would have thought, ‘that’s really cool.’ I would love to be like one of those people someday.”
Rawitch knows a thing or two about halls of fame: He’s the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. He said institutions like the one he leads are important “repositories for history.”
“I think having a hall of fame of any kind in any city essentially does two things — it honors people who are really good at what they do, and it documents the history of what’s gone on in that industry,” he said.
The display that honors Rawitch in Bloomington is just one of many halls, walls and exhibits across the United States and the world — many of them small — that honor Jewish greatness in sports. From Southern California to Philadelphia, St. Louis to Washington, D.C., similar organizations and institutions recognize Jewish athletes, coaches, executives, media members and beyond.
Why so many?
“We want to call attention to that because of the antisemitic trope that Jews are not good soldiers, farmers or athletes. We need to overcome that,” said Jed Margolis, who runs the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel, which has honored over 400 athletes since 1981 and is housed in Netanya after being founded in the United States. “It’s simply not true. And telling the stories out there will help inspire people and lay to rest some of those falsehoods which I think are important to overcome.”
In the fight against antisemitism, Steve Rosenberg, who chairs the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, said “the best defense is a good offense.” The Philadelphia hall, which inducted its first class in 1997 and has moved locations multiple times, has 183 total inductees, including former NFL tight end Brent Novoselsky and longtime 76ers broadcaster Marc Zumoff.
“We shine the light on the great accomplishments of Jews in sports. And we need to do more of that in the world,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg added that he thinks there should be even more halls of fame, for Jewish actors, architects, poets and so on, “so that we can celebrate our accomplishments, not in the way that we pat ourselves on the back, but that we can talk about all the great things that we do as a people.”
For Craig Neuman, the chief programming officer at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center, a key feature of Jewish culture is the sense of connection Jews feel when they discover that a celebrity is Jewish. That sense of pride is clear in the work Neuman does with the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, which has its own hallway at the JCC.
“I can’t imagine any other place in the world where you would say, ‘I feel connected to this other country, or these other people, by sheer virtue of our religion,’” Neuman said. “There’s some pride that’s involved with that.”
Like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame seeks to recognize the most elite athletes — Jewish world record holders, Olympians and the like. Or, as Margolis put it: “We’re looking for the best of the best: the Hank Greenbergs, the Mark Spitzes, people like that.”
At the local halls of fame, the criteria are different. Rawitch likened it to the dynamic between national versus state and local politics.
“As the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I think it’s pretty clear that we are honoring the absolute greatest who ever played or worked within the game of baseball nationally,” Rawitch said. “Clearly, that should be harder to get into than, say, the California Baseball Hall of Fame or the New York Baseball Hall of Fame. But I don’t think it should diminish if you’re a recipient of that. It should be an honor for anybody who’s named to any sort of hall or wall of fame.”
Inclusivity is central to the local halls of fame.
“I think we want to, on some level, send a message that says, ‘hey, just because you’re not in Cooperstown doesn’t mean that you didn’t have an impact in the world, on your sport, in your community,’” said Neuman.
But that doesn’t mean the standards for entry aren’t high. In fact, in St. Louis, candidates for induction must possess more than just athletic accomplishments — there’s also the “mensch factor.”
“When you are in a position where people might look up to you because of some accomplishments, and whether it’s because you’re an athlete, or you’re a politician, or a lawyer or whatever the profession that puts you in the public’s eye, there’s a certain responsibility that comes along with that,” said Neuman. “It’s a great example to set that, yeah, this guy was a great baseball player, but he was also a great human being as well.”
The St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame has 84 members inducted across eight classes dating back to 1992 — including Chicago Cubs ace Ken Holtzman and basketball legend Nancy Lieberman. The last group was enshrined in 2018.
Many of those inductees represent more than the typical professional sports — baseball, basketball, football, soccer and hockey. There are racquetball and handball players, even a hot air balloonist. (Whether that counted as a sport was a topic of debate for the selection committee.)
In Philadelphia, a similar conversation was held around whether poker should qualify — in that case, poker was allowed, but it turned out the candidate in question wasn’t actually Jewish.
For Rosenberg, recognizing people from a diverse range of sports is an important part of the work, especially as he works to engage younger members of the community.
“I want the young people, particularly the young Jews, to know that there’s a place for you, no matter if you’re a golfer, a swimmer, a gymnast, a baseball player, whatever you want to do, that you can go on to achieve greatness and that greatness will be recognized,” Rosenberg said.
He added that very few people stop by the hall of fame.
“The reality is, if I stood at the hall of fame on any given day, people that are coming in just to see the hall of fame, we couldn’t get a minyan,” Rosenberg said, referencing Judaism’s 10-person prayer quorum. “Maybe over the course of a year. But we do get the sort of incidental traffic, people that are going to the JCC for other activities.”
The Philadelphia hall’s journey to the JCC was not a simple one. The collection used to have a permanent space at a local YMHA, featuring typical sports artifacts like bats and jerseys. Then it moved into the Jewish federation building — until September 2021, when Hurricane Ida caused severe flooding that destroyed much of the hall of fame’s memorabilia. The current exhibit at the JCC is more two-dimensional, Rosenberg said.
One of the Philadelphia inductees is Arn Tellem, the vice chairman of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and a longtime agent who represented A-list athletes like Kobe Bryant. Throughout the 2000s, Tellem was regularly ranked among the top agents in all of sports, and he is a member of the Southern California, Michigan and Philadelphia Jewish Sports Halls of Fame.
By the time Tellem got the call from the Philadelphia hall in 2015, he had received his fair share of recognition. But that didn’t make this honor count any less for the Philadelphia native. Rosenberg said Tellem “couldn’t wait to come” to the ceremony, bringing three tables worth of supporters with him.
“Arn Tellem isn’t doing this for recognition, or for money, or for fame,” Rosenberg said. “He has that. It means something to him.”
That sentiment seems to be shared by honorees from across the halls. Rosenberg added that he has seen some inductees moved to tears by the news. When Chris Berman, the ESPN broadcaster who has anchored the network’s flagship program “SportsCenter” since a month after it launched in 1979, was honored by the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, he was “very touched,” said Margolis.
Lauren Becker Rubin, a former star lacrosse and field hockey player at Brown University, was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
“It was a big honor for both me and my family,” Becker Rubin told JTA. “I think the connection of celebrating both the athletic achievement and the community makes it meaningful on another level.”
Becker Rubin, who is now a mental performance coach, is also a member of Brown’s athletic Hall of Fame for setting numerous school records in both sports during her college career. But being recognized by her local Jewish community was a particularly special honor, she said.
After her induction, Becker Rubin joined the hall’s board. “Celebrating positive achievements and putting out positive messages about Jewish athletes is a good counter to the negative rhetoric that is out there,” she said.
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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.
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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