What does it mean to be inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame?
Larry Rosen put it best: “I love Philadelphia,” the former longtime PRISM play-by-play man, who’s spent the past 23 years working for three NFL teams and now for the league itself, told an audience that included his 94-year-old mother, Shirley Feldbaum. “I love being Jewish. And I love being in sports.
“So, this is the place for me.”
The same was true for the other recipients at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia on Sept. 27 at the hall’s 25th annual ceremony, who couldn’t believe they were joining such illustrious company.
“I didn’t believe it and thought it was a prank,” said former Council Rock South High School soccer standout Whitney Weinraub-Tucci, UNC Charlotte’s all-time leading scorer, who’s returned to the area to run a medical business with her mother while raising two young daughters. “I feel really honored. I’ve given up a lot, but put my heart into soccer. It just shows hard work pays off.”
Dan Wigrizer, the former Duke University lacrosse goalie who won two national championships, seconded that.
“It’s an honor being recognized,” said Wigrizer, who was a member of Beth David in Gladwyne growing up, then starred in goal at Haverford School before heading to Durham, North Carolina. “When I look at Judaism, what really draws me to it is the community. It’s very loving.”
Ditto for Jeremy Treatman, who’s done everything from being a Philadelphia Inquirer writer to running a string of basketball camps that have produced 139 future NBA players to his broadcasting school, which paved the way for several familiar on-air personalities.
And don’t forget his stint as an assistant coach at Lower Merion High School with a kid named Kobe Bryant.
“I’m thinking of Kobe a lot today,” said Treatman, the Simcha Gersch Award recipient, who became Bryant’s confidant then and now lives in Florida. “I grew up in Philly, a proud Jew who spent 35 years here doing all kinds of jobs in sports. So, to be recognized like this is very special.”
While longtime Haverford College women’s soccer coach Jamie Schneck, Pillar of Achievement recipient Kenny Holdsman and Spirit Award winner Steve Goldman were just as thrilled — joined by the late Villanova University baseball coach Larry Shane and legacy inductees Morris “Mo” Arnovich and Inky Lautman — the man who came the furthest is no stranger to such recognition.
That’s 80-year-old Tal Brody, who once starred on the hardwood for Trenton Central High and seemed headed for the NBA, before making the life-changing decision he’s never regretted of living in Israel. The man who proclaimed Israel was “on the map” after beating the Soviet Army team in 1977 became a national hero and spokesman for Israeli sports.
While he’s been inducted into multiple halls, this one has special meaning.
“Being from Trenton, I know exactly what Philadelphia basketball was,” said Brody, who used to take the train to 30th Street Station to watch Wilt Chamberlain and first the Warriors, then the Sixers, play at Convention Hall. “For me to be honored in Philadelphia is special.
“Here’s a kid from Trenton, who was on his way to the Baltimore Bullets, finishing rookie camp and getting an apartment near Johns Hopkins, when he got a call to go to Israel for the Maccabi Games.
“That invitation changed my whole life.”
A little history: Brody had just finished a career at the University of Illinois, where he averaged 19.1 points and was regarded as one of the top 10 in the college ranks. The Bullets selected him with the No. 12 pick in the second round of the eight-team 1965 draft, which included Bill Bradley, Rick Barry, Billy Cunningham and Tom and Dick Van Arsdale.
But since salaries for 6-foot, 2-inch guards like Brody then were meager compared to what Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and James Harden make today, Brody decided to stay in Israel a little longer.
He just never expected that he wouldn’t leave, raising his family there while serving as a cultural ambassador between Israel and the U.S.
“I never imagined it would be 57 years, taking out two years to go in the U.S. Army, where I’d stay there and have three children and 12 grandchildren,” said Brody, who comes to the States about four times a year and, in recent years, has also spoken at Temple University and LaSalle University and even returned to his Trenton roots. “Every year, I’m invited to NBA All-Star Weekend where they always ask me the same question:
“’Tal, if you’re coming out of Illinois today one of the 10 best players in the country and No. 12 in the draft, would you take that same road? Would you go to Israel when you’re going to sign for $4 million a year and, after two years, it’ll jump up to $8 million?’
“I say, ‘If I don’t know the 57 beautiful years I’ve been in Israel, of course I’m going to take it. But if you ask me to give up those 57 beautiful years, no. I’d still go to Israel.’”
Jon Marks is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer.