The induction ceremony this weekend for the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Northern California will be an all-woman affair for the first time, and some of the six honorees aren’t even Jewish.
Though women previously have been selected for the hall, the Year of Women ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 29, will mark the first time the focus has been solely on female accomplishments.
“I’m 85, and I looked around and saw that while we give scholarships to women, it isn’t in the same proportion to men,” said Jack Anderson, who founded the hall of fame 12 years ago.
The nonprofit celebrates achievements by athletes living in Northern California. The group inducted its first athlete in 2006 and, as of this year, will have 54 inductees enshrined on the interactive display screens flanking their outdoor wall space at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto.
“I don’t think that women have been given their due in sports,” Anderson said. “With all that testosterone bubbling around, I figured it might be nice to do something different. All the old Jewish guys on the board with me agreed.”
Though not all the 2016 inductees are Jewish, Anderson said they all embody Jewish values of leadership and community involvement.
“I was confused, quite honestly, when I got the call — because I’m not Jewish. But I’m really very honored,” said Tara VanDerveer, who as coach of the Stanford women’s basketball team has led the Cardinal to 985 victories and two national titles. “Everyone is saying, ‘I didn’t know you were Jewish,’ and I’m not. But it’s very exciting. I think I must have been invited because I’ve been to more bar mitzvahs then anyone else.”
VanDerveer will be honored alongside U.C. Berkeley women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb, former Stanford basketball player Anita Kaplan, former Stanford water polo player Ashley Grossman, broadcaster and former Stanford basketball player Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and broadcaster Kate Scott.
Anderson said the hall’s mission is to use the transcultural love of sports as a bridge across communities. The impetus for creating the hall was a spate of anti-Semitism that Anderson said he experienced 12 years ago.
“I’m a fifth-generation San Franciscan and had never experienced anti-Semitism growing up here, until then,” he said. “I thought the one thing that brings communities together is a sense of sports. Everyone identifies with the Giants, regardless of religion.”
Anderson said the group looks for non-Jews within the sports world who have “mensch-like” behaviors to honor alongside their Jewish peers.
“We define the word ‘mensch’ as someone who is not Jewish but who fulfills all the qualities that Jews expect of our leaders,” Anderson said.
Inductees are selected by the hall’s executive board, with community service as important as a nominee’s athletic feats. The induction banquet also is a fundraiser for the hall’s high school scholarship program.
“While none of these scholarships are going to put a kid through college, they’re important for the kids because of what they symbolize,” Anderson said. “Once a kid is recognized as a Jewish athlete, they begin thinking of themselves more as Jews.”
The induction ceremony and dinner start at 6 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason Street, San Francisco. Tickets range from $175 to $6,000 at jshofnc.org/2016-induction-ceremony-banquet.