Jewish Sports Hall of Fame finds a permanent home

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The Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California finally has a place to call home.

On Sept. 29, more than 100 people gathered by the Jessica Lynn Saal Town Square at the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life to catch the first glimpse and feel of the Hall of Fame’s permanent, interactive wall.     

“[The wall] validates everything we’re doing,” said Hall of Fame treasurer Cheryl Arenson. “We have a presence in the Jewish community. We’re for real now.” 

The two-hour event began with a sports-inspired cocktail reception in the courtyard that had guests snacking on hot dogs and catching bags of peanuts tossed by high school students from Pinewood School in Los Altos Hills. They would pass around dessert later in the evening.

Before the state-of-the-art, outdoor wall was unveiled, KGO radio host John Rothmann emceed a ceremony that honored enshrined professional and student athletes and sports-minded community leaders with ties to the Bay Area.

Gary Attell represented his late uncles, title-holding boxers Abe and Monty Attell. He was joined by Betty Hersch May, whose father, Al Emmick-Cohn, also was a title-winning boxer.

Gary Shemano, a San Francisco investor and amateur golfer, and Tad Taube, chair of the Taube Family Foundation, rounded out the representative inductees.

The Sports Wall of Fame features a screen activated by touch.

Honored guests included Sandy Barbour, U.C. Berkeley’s athletic director; Andy Dolich, president of business operations for the 49ers; Dick Gould, director of tennis at Stanford University; Joanne Pasternak, director of the 49ers Foundation; Dave Rosselli, U.C. Berkeley’s assistant athletic director; and California State Assemblyman Ira Ruskin.

But the real star of the night was the wall itself.

Following an introduction of his board members, Hall of Fame president Jack Anderson invited Shemano, Taube and Linda Ach — daughter of the late Claude Rosenberg, who provided the initial funding for the wall — to pull down the sheet and uncover the prominent screen flanked by a collection of red, blue and green aluminum plaques.

“When somebody says ‘wall of fame,’ you think of the usual fixed static wall,” Anderson said. “You know, people have their names if they made a contribution. Ours is a living thing. It’s beautiful, and people were amazed.”

Similar to an iPhone, the Hall of Fame’s screen (which cost around $6,000) is activated by touch. Split into six categories, the wall provides information about inductees, youth programs, upcoming events, media highlights, the organization’s history and how to get involved.

Because the screen is digital, more information can be added at any time.

“The thrill for me is that, in a short period of time, we were able to really do something that is going to advance the mission statement I wrote,” Anderson said. “We want to remind the general public, as well as the Jewish community, of the contributions that so many Jews have made to the quality of life through sports.”

In 2006, the Hall of Fame inducted its inaugural class during a ceremony at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. The organization would continue to enshrine new classes of athletes, but never had a permanent place for their recognition.

Though the wind and chilly temperature kept many guests bundled up as they mingled near the weather-resistant wall, Hall of Fame board member Gary Wiener was quick to give the touchscreen a try, pulling up information about Shemano. There was a round of applause.

“You can stand there by yourself and navigate right through,” Wiener said. “People were amazed that it was so easy to interact with. Just like your computer, you can move from one thing to the next.”