Jennifer Bloom Creinin, Paul Goldstein, Jerry Markbreit and Jesse Sapolu were recently inducted into the 2015 Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California. MCed by Bay Area comedy legend Mark Pitta, the sold-out banquet at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco attracted many Bay Area luminaries in sports, media and the business community, whose sponsorship and generous support is very vital to the NorCal Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Youth Fund and Scholarships.
Elected by the executive committee of educators, the following extraordinary athletes were honored for their athletic achievements and for their continued support for the community at large.
Jennifer Bloom Creinin, a 1987 graduate of Aragon High School in San Mateo, was one of the nation’s top gymnasts as a prep, going undefeated in every event in all four years of league competition, and winning the all-around title at the section championships as a senior. At Stanford, she was an Academic All American, and in 2014, she was inducted into the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame.
Paul Goldstein, a native of Rockville, Maryland, had a stellar tennis career for the Cardinals in the 1990s, capping his college career with Pac-10 Player of the Year honors in 1998. He was the first player in NCAA history to compete as a starting member of four consecutive national championship teams and the first two-time recipient of college tennis’ Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award. He went on to have a solid pro career, climbing to as high as number 58 in singles. Last year, he was named head men’s tennis coach at Stanford – a position that has since been endowed by philanthropist Tad Taube (a 1957 Stanford graduate) and his wife, Dianne. Goldstein is Stanford’s first Taube Family Director of Men’s Tennis, and his team plays its home matches in the 3,000 seat Taube Family Tennis Stadium, which was built 18 years ago.
‘’It’s a tremendous honor to be selected as a 2015 Bay Area Jewish Sports Hall of Fame inductee,’’ said Paul Goldstein. ‘’I want to congratulate my fellow inductees. What a thrill it was to share the evening with each of them.’’
Jerry Markbreit is being inducted this year as the winner of the Hank Greenberg Award, which goes to someone without a Bay Area connection. Born in Chicago in 1935, Markbreit was an NFL official for 23 seasons, becoming one of the most recognizable referees in the league through his 1999 retirement. He is the only NFL head referee to officiate in four Super Bowls, and when he was a college official, he served as the back judge in the ‘’Game of the Century’’ in 1966, when number one ranked Notre Dame (8–0) and number two ranked Michigan State (9–0) played to a controversial 10–10 tie. He was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Jesse Sapolu, who is the honoree of this year’s ‘’Mensch Award,’’ which goes to a deserving recipient who is not necessarily Jewish, spent his entire career (1983–1997) with the San Francisco 49ers. A 6-foot-4, 278-pound fan favorite who played both center and offensive guard, Sapolu is one of six 49ers to own four Super Bowl rings. Since retiring, he has remained active in the community as well as with the 49ers alumni group. The Hawaii native has also played an integral role in establishing the Polynesian Pro Football Hall of Fame in Oahu; earlier this year, he was inducted as part of the Second Class.
In my communications with Jesse, he told me, ‘’I was totally shocked but felt very special when I got a call from the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. I am extremely honored and encouraged to be making a positive difference in our community together with this well respected organization.’’
The San Francisco 49er and four time Superbowl Champion Keena Turner, who himself was a recipient of the 2012 Mensch Award, presented the 2015 Mensch Award to his San Francisco 49er teammate Jesse Sapolu. ‘’To be a great champion you have to give back,’’ stated Turner. ‘’And that’s what Jesse is all about.’’
Comedian Mark Pitta, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, explained the meaning of the annual Mensch Award, ‘’You are honored without going through studying for the Bar Mitzvah.’’
I asked Tad Taube, the Honorable Consul of Poland to Northern California, who was sitting next to me at the banquet’s table, ‘’What is a Mensch?’’ Taube answered without a second of hesitation, ‘’The super human being.’’ One of the 50 most influential Jews in America, and one whom I am honored and privileged to call a friend and an inspiration, was a member of the Class of 2008 inductees to the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in tennis.
A number of outstanding Bay Area high school athletes were also honored at the evening’s program, such as Udval Battulga, a multisport athlete (volleyball, cross country, track and wrestling) of International High School in San Francisco. Maetal Kogan, a soccer player at Lowell High School in San Francisco, was named the Ernie Weiner Award winner. Ari Solomon, a standout in football, basketball, and soccer at San Lorenzo Valley High School in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Jake Hamilton, a swimmer at Tahoe-Truckee High School in Truckee, were also honored.
‘’As a coach, I think my role is to serve young players by supporting them to the best of my ability in their pursuit of athletic and academic excellence. I have been compelled by the concepts of servant leadership and that is what I am striving to do,’’ states Paul Goldstein, Taube Family Director of Men’s Tennis at Stanford University.
‘’This year marks the 9th Class of inductees,’’ reports Gary Wiener, the Executive Director of the JSHOF of Northern California. ‘’We take pride in easing the financial burden of our funded athletes. Equally important are our community awareness good-will efforts which result in building successful bridges and cementing positive relationships.’’
The 2015 Class of honorees are joining the prestigious list of 44 women and men who have been inducted previously into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California, such as Mike Epstein, Rick Barry, and Aerial Gilbert, just to name a few.
‘’Sports have historically played an important role in shaping Jewish character,’’ says Jack Anderson, the President of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California. ‘’The great extent that Jews are involved in sports needs to be both acknowledged and celebrated.’’
To my question of who is his mentor and why is it so important to have one, Goldstein replied, ‘’As I have just completed my first season as a collegiate coach, I have relied on the counsel and guidance of several people. Notably, I have relied extensively on the guidance of Coach Gould who was Head Coach of the Stanford Men’s Tennis program for 38 years. I have found it helpful to ask questions and seek advice from someone who has not only performed the job I am in for so many years but has done so successfully. Moreover, my moral compass has been guided by my parents, Clark and Patti Goldstein.’’ The reaction from this mother? Well, he is definitely a nice Jewish boy.
Growing up in the Soviet Union, now Russia, I was periodically reminded by my parents to fulfill their dreams of me becoming a doctor, a dentist or an engineer. But a Jewish athlete? No, that was definitely not in their plan for their only child. Times have changed and thanks to the efforts of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California, Jewish athletes are awarded, recognized, encouraged and, if needed, funded.
Congratulations to Jennifer, Paul, Jerry, and Jesse!
To view the permanent ‘’Wall of Fame’’ display, visit the Taube Koret Campus at the Oshman Family Center in Palo Alto. To learn more about The Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California visit www.jshofnc.org.
Lina Broydo immigrated from Russia, then the Soviet Union, to Israel where she was educated and got married. After working at the University in Birmingham, England she and her husband immigrated to the United States. She lives in Los Altos Hills, CA and writes about travel, art, style, entertainment, and sports. She hardly cooks or bakes, with no borsch or piroshky on her home cooking menu. Therefore, she makes reservations and enjoys dining out, mostly sushi.
By Lina Broydo