'So much to be proud of'

MLB star, others to be inducted into Jewish Sports Hall of Fame

2024 induction class includes former baseball player Ryan Braun and NFL’s Mitchell Schwartz; Israeli tennis players Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram also make the list

Baseball player Ryan Braun. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images/via JTA)
Baseball player Ryan Braun. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images/via JTA)

JTA — Ryan Braun has no shortage of career accolades. The 14-year MLB veteran, who retired in 2021, won an MVP award and slugged 352 home runs.

Now the longtime Milwaukee Brewer and all-time Jewish home run leader can add another accomplishment to his resume: the 39-year-old is among the 15 sports figures in the 2024 induction class of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

The new class features athletes, coaches and media members representing sports ranging from baseball and soccer to fencing, swimming, ice and field hockey and more. Honorees hail from the United States, Israel, Canada and Argentina.

“I’m very excited about the class, how classy they are, their accomplishments,” said Jed Margolis, chairman of the hall of fame. “It really speaks so well to what an impact people have made in the world of sports. And at this venture in time, we really need some good news as Jewish people.”

Housed at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport in Netanya, Israel, the hall is one of many Jewish sports halls of fame around the United States and Israel seeking to celebrate Jewish success in sports and push back against stereotypes about Jewish athleticism — such as the infamous “Airplane!” scene.

Margolis said the 15 inductees were chosen from more than 150 nominees. Margolis narrows the list to around 25 finalists, who are then voted on by a selection committee of sports experts from around the world. Longtime Israeli athlete, sports leader and broadcaster Gilad Weingarten is this year’s recipient of the hall’s award of excellence.

The 2024 class brings the hall’s total to 463 members since its inauguration in 1981. The group will be honored at an induction ceremony in July 2025. Inductees are announced annually, but the ceremony itself is held every four years, when the Maccabiah Games take place in Israel.

The opening ceremony of the 20th Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem, July 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

At the 2025 ceremony, Margolis said, the hall will also mark the 80th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps by honoring athletes who were murdered in the Holocaust and those who survived and went on to enjoy Olympic-level sports careers.

“We have so many world record holders, so many gold medalists at the Olympics and champions in their sport, like a Ryan Braun, who even had more home runs than Hank Greenberg,” said Margolis. “There’s just so much good stuff going on for our people, that it’s an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of some very incredible people, and we have so much to be proud of.”

(Braun was also suspended in 2013 over a performance-enhancing drugs scandal.)

Margolis, who has worked in sports with organizations such as Maccabi USA and the JCC network for nearly 50 years, said he tries to personally call each inductee to share the news — which is often received with similar reactions of gratitude.

Margolis recounted that when he spoke to Braun, who is also a member of the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the former outfielder was out with his children.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry for bothering you during your quality time with your children,’” Margolis recalled. “He said, ‘This is very worthwhile. My father was born in Israel. It means so much to me. And I’m very touched by it.’ And that’s been the general reaction from people. They’re very excited, very touched.”

Read on to meet the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame’s 2024 class, listed alphabetically.

Aleksandr Averbukh, track and field

Born in the Soviet Union, Alex Averbukh is a decorated decathlete who won multiple international gold medals in pole vault. Averbukh, 49, began representing Israel in 1999, beginning a 14-year run where he won gold medals at the the 2000 European Indoor Championships, the 2002 and 2006 European Championships and the 2013 Maccabiah Games. His 2013 win in Israel came four years after Averbukh had officially retired from the sport. He also competed at the Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Israel’s Alex Averbukh celebrates after winning the Men’s Pole Vault final at the 19th European Athletics Championships, Aug. 13, 2006, in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images via JTA)

Skip Bertman, baseball

Stanley “Skip” Bertman, 85, is one of the best baseball coaches in NCAA history. In 18 years as the head coach of Louisiana State University’s baseball team, Bertman led the Tigers to five College World Series championships and seven Southern Conference titles. Bertman earned 870 career wins, and his .754 winning percentage in NCAA tournaments is an all-time college baseball record. Bertman — who had Russian and Estonian immigrant parents — also coached at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics, where he led the U.S. team to a bronze medal in the latter tournament, and at the 1999 Pan American Maccabi Games.

Ron Bolotin, swimming

After losing one of his legs as a result of a landmine explosion he experienced during his service in the Israel Defense Forces, the Jerusalem native went on to a successful career as a paralympic swimmer. Bolotin earned 11 medals at six Paralympic Games between 1980 and 2000, winning three gold medals, five silvers and three bronze. Bolotin also won the 1976 Israeli National Championship for the butterfly stroke, as well as three European Championships gold medals between 1979 and 1990. At the 1979 European Championship, Bolotin set a world record for the 100-meter butterfly.

Ryan Braun, baseball

Ryan Braun is one of the best Jewish baseball players of all time. A six-time All-Star with an MVP and Rookie of the Year to his name, Braun finished his 14-year career with 352 home runs, 21 more than Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. Braun’s father was born in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust. He is also one of many former and current Jewish players to speak out in support of Israel since war broke out last month. His legacy comes with an asterisk.

All-Star Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers is coming back from postseason lower-back surgery that affected him even through spring training. (Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers)

Michael Cammalleri, ice hockey

Mike Cammalleri played for five NHL teams over a 15-year career from 2002 to 2018. Cammalleri, whose maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors, scored at least 25 goals six times, with 294 total career goals and 348 career assists. He represented his native Canada four times, winning bronze and silver medals at the 2001 and 2002 World Junior Championships, respectively, and a gold medal at the 2007 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships.

Linda Cohn, sportscaster

Linda Cohn is a longtime ESPN broadcaster who has anchored the network’s flagship program “SportsCenter” since 1992. She made history with ABC in 1987 when she became the first American woman to anchor a national radio network full-time. At ESPN, she has hosted national coverage of baseball, hockey, and men’s and women’s basketball. The former collegiate ice hockey goalie has won numerous media awards and is also in the SUNY Oswego sports hall of fame. In her 2008 memoir “Cohn-Head: A No-Holds-Barred Account of Breaking Into the Boys’ Club,” Cohn writes about her decision to play a hockey game on Yom Kippur — much to her mother’s disappointment.

Eli Dershwitz, fencing

This summer, Eli Dershwitz, 28, became the first American man to win an individual world championship in sabre fencing. The two-time Olympian is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and won two gold medals at the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel. The Boston-area native and Harvard University alum has also won four gold medals at the Pan American Championships, three at the Pan American Games and one at the Junior World Championships. He became the youngest-ever winner of the U.S. senior men’s sabre championship when he won the title in 2014. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the USA and third in the world in men’s senior sabre.

Jonathan Erlich, tennis

Jonathan “Yoni” Erlich is a former Israeli tennis star who was best known as doubles partners with fellow inductee Andy Ram. Together they became known as “Andyoni” and are the only Israeli team to ever win a grand slam tournament — the 2008 Australian Open men’s doubles title. Erlich earned his career-high doubles ranking that year, at No. 5. He reached 44 doubles finals in his career, winning half of them. Erlich also competed with Novak Djokovic at the 2010 Queen’s Club Championships, which is Djokovic’s only career doubles title. Erlich and Ram represented Israel at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, reaching the quarterfinals in 2004.

Jonathan Erlich watches as his team mate Andy Ram, of Israel, returns the ball to the team from Argentina during the Davis Cup match in Sunrise, Florida, on Saturday, September 13, 2014. (photo credit: AP/J. Pat Carter)

Abigail Hoffman, track and field

Abby Hoffman, 76, is a four-time Olympic runner who won gold medals at numerous international tournaments, including the Pan American Games and the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Hoffman won Canada’s national 800-meter championship eight times and set several Canadian and North American records in the 800- and 1,500-meter events. She won two gold medals at the 1969 Maccabiah Games, and she is a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Jewish Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Hoffman was also the first woman to lead Sport Canada, a federal government sports agency, and in 1981 was elected the first woman to serve on the executive committee of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Giselle Kañevsky, field hockey

Giselle Kañevsky, 38, is an Argentine professional field hockey player and longtime national team member who has won numerous international competitions, including the 2010 World Cup. The Buenos Aires native trained at the Hacoaj sport club, where several Jewish Argentine athletes, including tennis star Diego Schwartzman, have also played. Kañevsky was a member of national teams that won bronze medals at the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics. She has also played professionally in the Netherlands.

Aaron Krickstein, tennis

Aaron Krickstein, 56, became the youngest player to reach the top 10 in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings when he accomplished the feat in 1985. He reached his career-high ranking five years later at No. 6. Krickstein won nine ATP tournaments and reached the semifinals at the 1989 U.S. Open. In 1983, Krickstein set an ATP record as the youngest player to win a singles title, which he earned at 16 years old in Tel Aviv. Both of his ATP records still stand. Krickstein told the Jerusalem Post last year that “For me, Jewish tradition means a lot.”

Andy Ram, tennis

The other half of “Andyoni,” Andy Ram, 43, was the first Israeli to win a Grand Slam event, in doubles at Wimbledon in 2006. He also won the 2007 French Open in doubles and the 2008 Australian Open in doubles with Erlich. His career-high ranking in doubles was No. 5 in the world, in 2008. He won 19 ATP doubles tournaments and was a runner-up in another 18. Ram competed in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics and in every Davis Cup tournament from 2000 to 2014.

Mitchell Schwartz, football

Mitchell Schwartz, 34, is a former Super Bowl Champion offensive tackle who played nine seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. He was drafted 37th overall by the Browns in 2012 and was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie team that season. He did not miss a snap for 121 consecutive games over eight seasons, which at the time was the longest stretch among active players.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz (71) blocks during an NFL football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, September 20, 2020, in Inglewood, California. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

Schwartz and his brother Geoff were the first Jewish brothers to play pro football since Ralph and Arnold Horween in 1923. “Once we heard the stat, we realized just how rare this really is,” Schwartz told JTA in 2016. “So we both thought it was important to share our story — for Jewish kids, and in general, about how we both wound up where we are.” The brothers published a book, “Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith,” which put their Jewish background front and center.

Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, ice hockey

Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, 55, a three-sport star at the University of New Hampshire, won a silver medal with the U.S. women’s national team at the 1992 Women’s World Championship. She is also a member of the UNH Athletic Hall of Fame.

Weinberg-Hughes additionally worked in broadcasting, including as a sideline reporter for ESPN during the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Her husband Jim is also a former hockey player who has worked for multiple NHL teams. Her three sons — Jack, Quinn and Luke — are all current stars in the NHL, where they made history as the first three American siblings to get drafted in the first round.

Sara Whalen during a game against Team Canada for the First Pacific Cup at the Sydney Football Stadium, June 2, 2000, in Sydney. (Adam Pretty/AUS /Allsport via JTA)

Sara Whalen, soccer

Sara Whalen, 47, is one of the more accomplished Jewish women in U.S. soccer history. She was a key player on the U.S. Women’s National Teams that won the 1999 FIFA World Cup and a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics. Whalen was a three-time All-American at the University of Connecticut, where she also won the 1997 player of the year award from the United Soccer Coaches association and in her senior season won the Honda Sports Award as the nation’s top soccer player. She was a founding player in the now-defunct Women’s United Soccer Association.

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