JCC inducts new class of athletes into Jewish Sports Hall of Fame

Fran Cohen speaks after her induction into the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Kate Gaertner

A beloved St. Louis Cardinals vice president, a sportswriter turned managing editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the head of the St. Louis marathon – these three and a dozen others were among those inducted into the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame last Thursday evening.

Fifteen athletes and leaders were among the sixth class of inductees, which was celebrated with a dinner and ceremony at the Jewish Community Center. The 15 are Howard Balzer, Ed Block, Fran Cohen, Harris Frank, Paul Gallant, Barry Goldstein, Hymen Goldstein, Stanley Goldstein, Chuck Gottlieb, Marty Hendin, Steve Leventhal, Nancy Lieberman, David Lipman, Jim Pollak and Sidney Salomon, Jr.

“It’s a lovely honor,” said Cohen, 81, an untiring advocate of women’s athletics. She was a member of the first women’s varsity field hockey team during her years at Washington University and won the first United States Racquetball Association’s National Singles Championship for women in 1970. “I’ve been involved in sports all my life, and it has had a great impact on me, as far as camaraderie, discipline, fun and health,” she said.

For Gallant, 76, being inducted into the Hall of Fame was significant because of the career it represents. “It’s not really my individual accomplishments that are meaningful-it’s what I’ve been able to do for others,” said Gallant, who ran his first marathon at 58 and helped to found GO! St. Louis, which has involved 150,000 people in its fitness programs. “Through sports, each of these inductees has been able to add something to their own value system, but more importantly, they’ve been able to give to a community,” he added.

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Interestingly, Lieberman, who co-founded Go! St. Louis with Gallant 10 years ago and is president of the non-profit organization, also was inducted into this most recent class of Hall of Fame. She has completed six marathons and dozens of triathlons, including three Ironman competitions.

Frank, 85, who co-founded the St. Louis Senior Olympic games, credited his colleagues and those who participate in the games for his award. “I was like Tom Sawyer-I told everyone how much fun it was to paint the fence and I sat back and watched while they painted,” he said. “I know I’m getting this award on behalf of an awful lot of people who worked awfully hard. I’m just delighted that it’s been recognized-for their benefit, not for mine.”

The evening also served to commemorate scholarship awards to young athletes in the St. Louis Jewish community. Emily Greenstein and Elliot Rosen each received the Martin Kodner JCC Maccabi Sportsmanship Award, which is given annually to one male and one female St. Louis athlete who has best displayed qualities of sportsmanship and fair play.

“It feels good to know that I’m being honored for my personality as well as for my achievements as an athlete,” said Emily, who will be a senior at Parkway Central next year.

“It’s nice to be able to represent what I stand for and what I believe in, as well as representing my heritage,” added Elliot, also a rising senior at Parkway Central.

Eight other young athletes received the Scholar-Athlete Award including Simone Bernstein, Ben Friedman, Rebecca Gollub, Brad Gordon, Joey Greenstein, Abby Sophir, Eli Weigley and Sarah Wieder.

For Joey Greenstein, who attended Kirkwood High School and will attend Mizzou next year, the award was meaningful because of the heritage it represents. “I was one of seven or eight Jews at my high school, and this award means so much because it honors me not only as an athlete, but as a Jew. It’s who I am and who I’ve always been,” he said.

“It’s just incredible to have something like this to cap off my season,” said Ben Friedman, who attended Whitfield School and will play hockey at Lawrence University next year.

Both Joey and Friedman said they were humbled by the presence of the inductees. “It’s a milestone of where I want to go,” said Friedman. “It’s humbling to see these people who have been athletes their entire lives.”

“The fact that maybe someday I could be inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame is really cool,” said Joey. “You see these Hall of Fame pictures [at the JCC], and you never really stop to look at them, you know? It’s really neat to see who these people really are.”

Each scholar-athlete received a $500 scholarship. “I think it’s terrific for these kids, and I’m delighted for them,” said Hall of Fame inductee Frank of the scholarships. “What I hope they will do is to take these athletic achievements and influence other people to compete and stay fit.”

“I think these scholarships are marvelous,” added inductee Cohen. “Throughout my life, I have encouraged kids to participate in sports. It does things that nothing else does.”

The St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame was established on July 12, 1992 with a gift from the family of Isadore Beilenson. Members were previously inducted in 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2005.