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Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, August 20, 1954, part 2

July 6, 2010 Leave a comment


Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff

Personals
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 3

Guest Time – Summer time becomes smug-time for San Diegans.  For no matter what part of the country our guests come, we need never apologize for that “unusual weather.”

Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Cohen, had as their guest her sister, Miss Glenna Lipit of New York.  Miss Lipit visited Catalina and relatives in Bevberly Hills and was impressed with all we have to offer, she’s sure to be back soon.

Visiting the Al Hutlers for two weeks are Al’s sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Max Becker and daughter, Frances, of Chicago.

Mr. and Mrs. Lester Alweis and children, Donald and Lane, of Lewistown, Mont., have been guests of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Alweis.

Mr and Mrs. Richard Moorsteen and Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Slater and daughter, Amy, will arrive next week to be houseguests of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Moorsteen.

Betty, Len, Dick and Pat are ow on a hiking trip through Yosemite Park.

Mrs. H. Berner has young Mike Williams (Michael Schwartz) to thank for prolonging her father’s stay here.  Mr. Cecil Coleman of Venice, Calif., planned to spend just a weekend with his daughter but was so impressed with young Mike’s talents he stayed a full week in order to catch Mike’s TV appearance last Saturday.

Champions in the Making – Judy Karp, daughter of MR. and Mrs. Lou Karp, at 8 years of age, has the makings of a golf champion.  Last year she won her first championship at the Presidio Golf Course Tournament held for girls. This year, playing an exhibition match she made a hole-in-one on a 110-yard drive with a number 7 iron.  She is rated by golf professionals as the best girl prospect for the year.  Judy will defend her championship at Presidio Hills at the tournament to be held about Sept. 10.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you that you will be hearing more from this miniature “Babe.”

Another outstanding athlete to be watched is Martin Schiller of Pacific Beach.  He will compete next week in the 5th Annual Jr. Tennis Tournament in Balboa Park, August 23-26.

Aloha – The picture of the hula dancers on the post card received from Ike Jacobson make it easy to see why Ike finds Hawaii “a wonderful place to enjoy yourself.”

New Home – Congratulations to Sol and Eve Chenkin who have moved into their lovely new home at 5924 Adams Avenue.

Horrors! Florida! – Alan Mishne, president of Zeta Beta Tau State College Chapter will fly to Miami, Florida to attend the 56th Annual ZBT Convention on August 25.  He will be met in Miami by Harvey Goodfriend who, at the present time, is vacationing in New York. Following the convention, Alan will fly to Cleveland to visit with the Mishne family.

Welcome Party—
The Leah Weinberg Memorial Minyan held their meeting Saturday night in the form of a party with all the husbands attending. This was to honor the return of MRs. Louis Stitzel’s sister, Mrs. Shirley Rebuf, to San Diego and the Minyon.

Dinner and cocktails were served in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stitzel.

*
Dr. and Mrs. Charles A. Fleischner will leave San Diego on September 4 for an extended four-month vacation through Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands. They will visit with relatives in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Caracas, and on their return trip will spend Thanksgiving with Mrs. Fleischner’s sister in New York and Florida, and also visit with her mother and other members of their family in Chicago.  They will return to their home via New Orleans late in December. The entire trip will be made via Pan American.

Thanks – Lee and Morris Douglas wish to thank all their friends for their many kindnesses during Lee’s recent illness.

*

Sisterhood Ship to Sail for Membership

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 3

You are invited to join the Tifereth Israel Sisterhood aboard the S.S. Memberhip, which will be launched from the Tifereth Israel Patio on Tuesday, August 31, at 8 p.m.

The Membership Ship and dock will be festively decorated by Mrs. Lawrence Cantor and Mrs. Harry Mallen, co-chairmen, while Mrs. Sam Sklar and Mrs. Henry Price will have charge of the galley.

The Membership Skipper, Mrs. Ben Gordon, urges all women who have not received their cruise tickets to call her at CY-5-7143.

The Membership Program Captain, Mrs. Daniel Orlansky, and her crew of sailors, Mmes. Ida Wax, Tillie Gordon, Evelyn Baranov, Betty Feller, Edna Gardner, Dorothy Belkin, Rose Felstein, Raye Lenett, Natalie Smith, Lillian Zemen, Roan Oglesby, Jean Finkleman and Betty Blane promise an entertaining and exceptionally smooth voyage.

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(Admiration)
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 3

Admiration is a polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves

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Cradle

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 3

Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Levenson announce the birth of their second daughter, Arlene Lori, born July 28. Big sister, 2 ½  year old Nancy, is delighted with her new playmate.

Grandparents are Mrs. Rhoda Dombroff and Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Levenson.

*
Deborah Ann Kuntz, born to Dr. and Mrs. Seymour Kuntz, on August 8, will have 4 ½ year old twin sisters, Barbara Susan and Carolyn Louise waiting on her every need.

Grandparents are Hyman Kuntz of Chicago and Anna Kanefsky.
*
Mr. and Mrs. Louis Packer (Edith Schertzer) announce the birth of their first child, a son, Charles Harvey, on August 13.  Grandparent are Mr. and Mrs. Julius Packer of New York City and Mr. and Mrs. Louis Schertzer.

Present for the Bris to be held August 22  at the Schertzer residence will be young Charles’ great-aunt, Mrs. Rose Schneider, and daughter, Shirley, of New York.

*
Every day Eleanor has something new and wondrous to report to Irv about “Sandy,” the new master of the Kahn homestead.  Daughter, Barbara, who is away at camp, still awaits the thrill of greeting the new arrival.

Samuel James (Sandy) was born July 21.  Maternal grandmother is Mrs. Samuel Barlin of Santa Monica.  Paternal grandparents are Mrs. Fanny Kahn and Mr. A.J. Kahn.

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Classified
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 3

Large Bedroom with adjoining bath for employed lady in widow’s home.  ½ block to 3 buses. Very reasonable. Phone CY-5-4309.

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Calendar
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 3

August
21st—City of Hope Jr. Aux Barbecue – 6845 Rolando Knolls Dr., La Mesa – 7:30 p.m.

21st—Y.J.C. Club Pot Luck Supper –Tifereth Israel Center – 8:00 p.m.

22nd – Beth Jacob P.T.A. Basket Picnic – 6th and Laurel—10:30 a.m.

23rd—Lasker Lodge Talent Show – Temple Center –9:00 p.m.

26th—Temple Beth Israel Semi-Annual Meeting.

29th—Hebrew Home for the Aged annual Meeting and Installation – 2:00 p.m.

31st – Tifereth Israel Sisterhood Membership Party – T.I. Patio – 8:00 p.m .

September
11th –Cottage of Israel 4th Annual Open Meeting –Tifereth Israel Center – 8:00 p.m.

19th—Poale Zion 2nd Annual Dinner –House of Hospitality.

*
Beth Jacob News
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 3

The Beth Jacob P.T.A. will hold a Family Basket Picnic on Sunday, August 22, at Balbo Park, Sixth and Laurel Sts.  Games will begin promptly at 10:30 a.m. Bring your own lunch.  Ice cream and cold drionks will be furnished for the children and available for adults.

There will be fun and surprises for all. Be sure to bring your family for a wonderful relaxing day.

Hebrew School classes at Beth Jacob resumed on Tuesday, August 17 and will meet on Tuesday and Thursday. Bar Mitzvah classes will meet Monday and Wednesday.

If you have a child of 6 years. And upward register him in Hebrew School. There is no tuition for members of the Congregation. All children are welcome.

For information call the Congregation office, AT-2-2676.

*

Jewish Community Center

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

Junior Hi — Junior High group found it necessary to postpone plans for a beach party in order to prevent conflict with the Day Camp program.  Party is now scheduled to be held Monday evening, August 30.  All those participating are to meet at the Jewish center at 4:30 … The Day Camp bus will take them to Santa Clara Point. Program includes swimming, wienie roast and cam p fire games with singing, etc.

The following members are responsible for planning the program: Eddie Varon, Mel Brav, Randy Selton, Linda Hess and Roberta Schwartz.  All Junior High youngsters interested in participating are urged to call the Center for detailed information.  A 75c charge will cover the cost of the cook-out and transportation.  The group will return to the Center at 9 p.m. where they’re to be met by their parents.

Parents are urgently needed as chaperons for the above event and are requested to phone the Center to assist in the program.

Volunteer Recruitment Program
—The Center is now busy developing plans for the organization of clubs and special interest groups for the club year beginning Sept. 15. The success of such a program will depend largely upon the support given by the community. We need volunteers to serve as Club Leaders for Junior High and High School age youngsters, play leaders for younger children, and people with special skills such as dancing, musical accompaniment, dramatics, crafts, etc.  People with special hobbies are urged to discuss their interests with a member of the Center staff since such hobbies as stamp collecting, photography, etc., could be developed into excellent Center programs.

Members of the Jewish community are invited to call the Center and let us know whether their youngsters are interested in affiliating with a club. Specific information regarding age and interest will enable the Center to provide a program that will truly meet the needs of the community.

Camp Jaycee—Two hundred forty campers shared in the exciting Camp Jaycee activities which concluded its eighth season on Friday, August 20.  The youngsters learned how to work, live and play together while participating in swimming, horseback riding, hiking, overnight camp-outs, cook,-outs and trips to various San Diego County sites including the military installations of the naval air station, submarine base and coast guard station.  Plans are already under way for the two weeks’ winter school vacation camp period from December 20-31.

‘Call Me Moishe’—A near capacity crowed enjoyed the talents of the Jewish Community Center teen-agers who presented their original musical comedy, “Call me Moishe,” on Saturday, August 14 att Beth Jacob Center.  With the script and music written by Irwin Schatzman, Elaine Shapery and the teens and an orchestra of Ruth Moskowitz, Geo. Wise, Gary Cantor, Gary Fine, Roger Brenes and Sandy Ratner accompanying, the case headed by Leani Leichtag, Irwin Schatzman, Linda Douglas, Gary Cork, Shirley Kaufman, Linda Zuckerman, Sonia Weitzman, Debbie Strauss, Suzy Hutler, Bob Johanis, Steve Rose, Jerry Mendell, Norman Kellner, Phil Brenes, Judy Aved, Diane Fogelman, Adriene Cantor, Janet and Susan Solof, romped through an evening of enjoyable entertainment.

Our hat’s off to Miss Ettie Mallinger and Don Merken, who not only directed the presentation but presented stellar performances in a last minute emergency absence of cast members.

*

City of Hope News
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

To beat the heat and most important, to raise money for the new Leukemia Wing of the City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, the City of Hope Junior Auxiliary have planned a Twilight Patio Supper Barbecue Party at the home of Rosalie and Harold Reisman, 6845 Rolando Knolls, La Mesa, on Saturday, August 21, at 7:30 p.m.

For a $1.00 donation they promise dancing, games, prizes, lots of fun and food galore.  Everyone is invited to come and bring their friends. For reservations call Selma Lindenfeld, JU-2-6329.

*
Cottage of Israel
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

An exceptionally attractive program has already been set up for our Fourth Annual Open Meeting which will take place at the North Auditorium of Tifereth Israel Center on Saturday, Septeber 11, at 8 p.m. The Nominating Committee has set up the following slate of new officers: President, Seymour Gates; Vice President, Dr. Hy Parrell; Treasurer, Phil Abrams; Recording Secretary, Martha Feiler, and Financial secretary, Bess Borushek, with names of delegates left open.

Election will take place at this meeting.

A special treat for this evening will be an address on the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Theodore Herzl’s death by Mr. John H. Ellsworth, President of the San Diego Museum of Man.

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Breitbard Group Invites Grid Stars
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

SAN DIEGO_-Player invitations have been sent 29 outstanding Southern California high school grid stars to participate in the Breitbard Athletic Foundation’s Sixth Annual Southern California College Prep All-Star Charity Football game here Sept. 1.

All of tho0se invited are graduated high school seniors. Each was invited on the basis of outstanding prep play during the 1953 football campaign.  Only the top available talent is invited each year for the game, which annually pits the All-Southern Cal grads against a similar-picked team of All-Los Angeles City gridders.

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City of Hope Auxiliary

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

All members who offered their services to the United Success Drive are to report to 1266 7th St. between the hours of 8:30 and 5.  You can phone Academy 3-7191 to find out when they need you the most!  Did you know that San Diegans who were patients at the City of Hope in the last five years received 4115 hospital days at a cost of $82,300.00?

*
Del Mar “Track Offers $10,000 Handicap Race
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

DEL MAR, Aug. 20 – Older route horses, priming for the $25,000 added Del Mar Handicap later in the season, get their first big test here Saturday in the $10,000 added San Diego Handicap over a mile and one-sixteenth.

Twelve horses, representing 10 different interests, are slated to clash in the San Diego, a race which annually separates the wheat from the chaff among the top handicap horses sstabled here.

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(Hebrew Home)
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

Application for admission to the Hebrew Home for the Aged may be made through the Jewish Social Service Agency, 333 Plaza, BE-2-5172.

*
Double Talk
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

By Janet & Susan Solof

Better get in that extra bit of fun
You better take in the beach and the sun
For school is coming on its way
September 12 is the awaiting day.

“They were having a ball” was what the kids reported about Ruth Moskowitz’s party. Throwing the ball of fun were Jackie Sharpe, Diane Fogelman, Linda Zuckerman, Stan Breitbard, Jan Klaskin, Judy Aved, Ronnie Doctor, Nancy Goodman, Ruth Freidman, Gary and Eddie Naiman, Susan Solof, Roberta Wyloge, Eve Zwanziger, Alan Friedman, Betty Krasnow, Evelyn Witz, Lewis Lucowitz, Carole Toole.

“A line a day?” was what Henry Bray, Alice Lee, Linda Douglas, Martin Winer, Jean Goldstein, Roberta Wyloge, Al Abrams, Elaine Burdman and Ethel Gardiner said to Danny Schaeffer (sic, Schaffer) when they said their good-byes to Danny, at a party given by Judy Yukon. Danny is going to Harvard and we wish him the very best.

Georgette Lesser helped make her cousin, Ken Kadet’s visit memorable. Dancing and eating in her patio with her friends made it quite complete.

It was a surprise when Sandy Byrock walked into a terrific party given by Linda Zuckerman and Susie Hutler and all Sandy’s friends. IT was the official good bye as Sandy is leaving San Diego to live in Santa Monica.

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(Speed Ahead)
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

The man who puts on too much speed ahead may meet reverses.

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Unveiling
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

The unveiling of a monument for Joseph Dembo will take place at the Home of Peace Cemetery on Sunday, August 29, at 2;00 p.m. Friends are cordially invited to attend.

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Ensenada Fair to Begin in August
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

Preparations for Ensenada’s greatest fair, “Feria de Todos Santos,” are in full swing and will be completed much before the August 28th opening date.

A month long event, the fair will feature colorful Mexican entertainment including native dances, rodeos, cock fights, bull fighting demonstrations, grease pole contests and varied fun facilities with each day being highlighted by honoring one of Baja California’s prime attributes.

The fairgrounds, covering several acres of land immediately opposite Ensenada’s luxurious Bahia Hotel, will be a blaze of lights as the colorful concession and carnival gayety create a Mexican version of a “Great White Way.”  All games of chance permitted by the Mexican law will be presented with much wagering expected on all sides.

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(Driver’s License)

Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

A driver’s license is a license for life or death – depending on how you use it.

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(Politics)
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

At this time politics are on vacation – but even so considerable bait is being dug.

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(Pay Scale)
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

Nowadays if a man makes half enough to live on he has to be paid twice as much as he is worth.

*

“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.  To find stories on specific individuals or organizations, type their names in our search box.

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Robert Breitbard was San Diego’s sports MVP

May 18, 2010 3 comments

Related story by Norman Greene

By Joey Seymour

Joey Seymour

SAN DIEGO — What was just a bunch of “junk in the garage” according to Bob Breitbard’s wife, Lillie, turned into the vast collection of San Diego sports memorabilia, which is housed today in the sixty thousand square foot Hall of Champions Museum in Balboa Park. Bob Breitbard loved collecting sports memorabilia, especially items from great champions who came from San Diego.

In 1946, while president of the California Linen Supply, Bob decided to follow his passion of sports by starting the Breitbard Athletic Foundation, which honors local high school athletes. Breitbard himself was a star football player at Hoover High School and later became their coach. The combination of Breitbard’s collection, the Athletic Foundation, and later the Breitbard Hall of Fame (honoring professional athletes from San Diego), created the San Diego Hall of Champions, the largest sports museum honoring a single city in the country. Whereas the museum is one of the many incredible museums in Balboa Park, Breitbard who passed away of natural causes on Monday, May 17, was an original.

Robert Breitbard was born on April 28, 1919 in San Diego and grew up a fan and participant of sports. He excelled in football while at Hoover High and was great friend with baseball legend, Ted Williams, who called Bob “knucklehead.” They graduated together in 1937. Their friendship would remain strong throughout their lives. Many of Ted’s items, trophies and game used equipment are on display at the Hall of Champions, despite a law suit in 2006 by members of Ted Williams’ family who attempted to have Ted’s 1949 MVP trophy returned to them. After graduating from Hoover High, Breitbard  went on to play football at San Diego State University. In 1945, he became SDSU’s fifth football coach. He would only coach the team for one year.

The desire to focus his life on bringing sports to San Diego escalated in 1966 when he built the San Diego Sports Arena and owned the buildings first professional team, The San Diego Gulls of the Western Hockey League. A year later, he purchased the 12th team to join the NBA for 1.75 million dollars. They would be given the moniker the Rockets due to San Diego’s budding space age industry and the city’s theme at the time, “a city in motion.” Unfortunately, and with much contention, the Gulls folded and the Rockets were sold to an investment firm in Houston, Texas for 5.6 million dollars. The Gulls would return in other forms playing for different minor leagues and under different ownership, but the loss of the Rockets was upsetting to many San Diegans, despite low attendance numbers and poor performance on the court. Breitbard always contended that he did not want to sell the team, but due to major tax hikes on the Arena, Breitbard could no longer operate either team.

After the Rockets left in 1971, Breitbard continued to focus his attention on the museum (which officially opened in 1961), the Athletic Foundation, and the Hall of Fame. He  was also a member of Tifereth Israel Synagogue giving much to San Diego’s Jewish Community. He also donated a great deal to the Sharp Hospital and Salk Institute while also sitting on the boards of the San Diego International Sports Council and San Diego Holiday Bowl. His efforts to persuade the Chargers to move from Los Angeles helped earn San Diego its NFL team in 1961 and his negotiations with Major League Baseball helped persuade the league to add the expansion Padres team in 1969.   

Al Kidd, President of the San Diego Hall of Champions posted a video tribute on the museum’s website saying, “Bob had a big heart and he put a lot of his resources both personally with time and finances into a lot of causes here in San Diego, but in the end, the number one cause was the Hall of Champions.”

Breitbard lost his beloved wife Lillie on November 24, 1997. The two of them, however, will always have seats at the Sports Arena. Loge section 24, Row 1, Seats 11 – 14 are always saved for Bob Breitbard and will continue to be.

The San Diego Hall of Fame honors great athletes from or who represented San Diego like Dan Fouts, Ted Williams, Maureen Connolly, Greg Louganis, Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, Archie Moore, and Tony Hawk. Today San Diegans mourn the city’s MVP, Bob Breitbard for all that he did and for the conviction and passion in which he did it.

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Joey Seymour is a  Sports Historian and Author of “San Diego’s Finest Athletes: Five Exceptional Lives,” now Available through Sunbelt Publications at www.sunbeltbooks.com.

Sports and the Arts

February 3, 2010 Leave a comment

By David Amos

SAN DIEGO–If you follow the National Football League and the San Diego Chargers, you were as disappointed as I was in their shabby performance in the playoffs two weeks ago. The “Kings of Choke” did it again, failing to perform at their best when faced with additional pressure and scrutiny.

Personally, I felt cheated, having devoted a substantial amount of time reading about this season’s team, and being involved in the sixteen regular season games. A salient feature of a true professional is consistency. We can forgive seeing overpaid athletes, many of them with an ego much larger than their talent and discipline. But, to witness sloppy play, major mistakes, unnecessary penalties, mental errors and sloppy execution, are inexcusable. Actually, I was insulted to have devoted my time and emotions, and faced such unexpected incompetence.

 A fabled college football coach was interviewed after a losing effort in a game. He was asked “What is your opinion on the execution of your team?” Without hesitating, he answered, “I’m all for it!” 

How does all this relate to the arts and to music? In both sports and the performing arts you will find the elements of talent, proper preparation, discipline, a healthy mix of arrogance and humility, pride in one’s performance, and the ability to focus at the moments when it counts the most.

A good orchestra, choir, ballet company, opera, or even soloists and ensembles have to be at their best when the pressure is up. And this is where the Chargers failed miserably. Is it the fault of the coaches or the players? Or is it that the local media hyped this club to a level it did not deserve? This can be debated somewhere else.

But, I have seen examples to the contrary. In the various recordings in which I conducted the Israel Philharmonic in the 1980’s, I had the opportunity to talk to many of the musicians. A comment from one of them explained a lot: “We have in front of us some great conductors, some very ordinary ones, and a few really bad ones. But, we have pride; we will play our best for anyone, no matter how terrible he or she may be. We will rise to the occasion, because our personal and orchestral reputation is at stake.” 

I hear similar comments from musicians in London orchestras, where the players rally to make the extra effort when faced with a weak director, to make sure that the final product is as perfect as it can be. This is true professionalism. 

In music, you are less likely to be disappointed. Musicians, whether amateur or professionals, will give their all to achieve the best results possible, with enthusiasm and finesse. In music, you do not have to wait until the last 30 seconds to know if this was a satisfying performance or not. In sports, the element of “win-lose” is so important, that it supersedes the element of joy of the entire experience. In sports, it is like gambling; the thrill of winning and losing is uppermost. Many times, we watch a game so fearful of losing thatwe fail to enjoy  the actual full experience. In theatre, music, and the other performing arts, the joy comes from a larger, deeper, more spiritual base.

We may still enjoy being spectators of competitive sports, but I urge you to direct your hours of leisure in activities which are more likely to uplift and inspire you. Invest in the arts. They are far less likely to disappoint, and the rewards will linger, and even connect with each other.

Involvement in the arts not only satisfies immediate emotional needs, but is also an investment in the future. The arts define who we are, and the legacy we leave for future generations. Civilizations are remembered by their wars and their culture. 

This is exactly why I have given a lot of my energy and creativity to promote the living works of Jewish artists, in music, sculpture, visual arts, literature, and drama. There is such a treasury of material waiting to be created, waiting for our support, sponsorship, and enjoyment. As Michelangelo is quoted as saying: “I have a block of granite; I want to create an artistic sculpture; all I have to do is chip away all that doesn’t look like that sculpture I envision.” 

In the world of music, I have talked to composers who, in different words, say the same thing: We have all these notes at our disposal; they are there, waiting for us. All we need is the inspiration and support to put them in the right order to create beautiful music. 

Let us all become pro-active in promoting some of these worthy thoughts.

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Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and has guest conducted professional orchestras around the world.

Jewish Charger Antonio Garay strives to help bring San Diego a Super Bowl championship

January 13, 2010 7 comments

San Diego Charger Antonio Garay and sportswriter Joey Seymour.
Any question which one is which?

___________________________________________________________________
Sometimes you’re not always going to get the best out of every situation, but you’re supposed to strive for the best and maximize your ability.” – Antonio Garay

By Joey Seymour

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers are on the precipice of history this season. Not only are they the hottest team in the National Football League having won their last 11 games in a row, but there is an unfamiliar buzz around the Charger universe . . .  that “this” is the season. Even though the team has captured the AFC West title the previous three years, there was always some worry – some doubt – that the lightning bolts would fall once they left the comforts of competing in their lackluster division (and face mightier AFC foes in the playoffs). Unfortunately, those concerns came to fruition each season.[i] Yet, this year, with a healthy core team still intact having experienced the heartbreak of past playoff loses; the Chargers could very well bring San Diego its first major championship. If they do, they’ll do it with the aid of an exceptional talent recently added to the roster, defensive tackle, Antonio Garay.

Garay was traded to the Chargers in December, ironically by this weekend’s opponent, the New York Jets. At 6-4 and 330 pounds, Garay is an imposing figure with a surprising amount of speed and quickness. Antonio’s story is one that does not immediately interest those in the sports realm. He has never been caught-up in a scandal, he does not wear flashy clothes or perform overly dramatic celebrations after big plays, and he doesn’t take to the internet to broadcast himself 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, dig a little deeper, and the tale of this incredibly unique athlete begins to surface.  And, it is one that could very well be just as interesting, for all the right reasons.

 Born on November 30, 1979, the first of three children for Marsha and Tony Garay, Antonio was brought into a family of incredible diversity and love. Marsha Garay is devoutly Jewish, who taught Antonio and his siblings, brother Daniel and sister Francesca, from an early age about their heritage and the importance of understanding their religion. Of his mom, Antonio stated, “My mom is very proud, knows where she came from, and respects everything about her religion. Every holiday we celebrated, she explained the importance [of them] to us. Even though I am diverse, first and foremost, I am Jewish. It’s a big part of myself and my family.” It is an ambition of Antonio’s to visit Israel soon and wrestle in the Maccabi Games.

His father’s side is a mainly Catholic family with a combination of Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, and Jamaican backgrounds. Marsha and Tony were both two sport athletes at Hofstra University in New York. Tony wrestled and played football and Marsha was a softball pitcher and captain of the tennis team. On a fateful afternoon, Marsha twisted her ankle while playing tennis and Tony came to her rescue, that event, according to Antonio, “is when the fairytale began.”

Tony had a minor stint in the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, and New York Jets, after being touted by sports writers as one of the best defensive linemen in the country in 1971.

“My father, he’s like my best friend. I was a kid [who] had support from two parents that were college educated and two sport athletes. I’ve been very fortunate. There were things that were done and said through their careers and they made sure to guide me to make sure I stayed on the straight and narrow.”

While growing up in the small town of Rahway, New Jersey, Antonio knew that he was going to be a football player from an early age. However, his Mom enrolled him in soccer. “My mom had me playing soccer. One of my biggest attributes is that I’m pretty fast. The last two games I’ve been running down on kick off’s. You don’t really see anyone my size running down. In soccer, I played left wing and right wing. Everyone used to be like, ‘who’s that big fat kid running?’” The fact was, Antonio was too big at his age to play in junior football, yet the passion for one day competing on an NFL field burned inside of him.

“My best friends used to have Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders [jerseys], for me, I never got into, wearing and supporting. The one person that I did like was Greg Lloyd. I never had posters up. I was never a super fan. When I was younger, I was [always] thinking about ‘who I was going to play for’ and ‘which one of these guys was going to be a teammate.’ I was always very goal oriented. I would write down [everything], ‘how many plays am I going to make this week?’ When I was younger, in order for me to get to college, I [had] to do well in school. I just became very goal oriented.”  

In high school, Garay was not only a dominant force on the football field (All-State and Blue Chip All-American), but a track star running the 100 and 200 yard races and throwing the javelin. However, it was his skills at wrestling that earned Antonio a great deal of praise and recognition.

Wrestling has been an institution in Garay family since 1955 when his uncle, Louie Garay, won the New Jersey state championship. Two years later, Carlos Garay, another uncle, finished second in the state and in 1966, Antonio’s father finished third. Antonio was the New Jersey state champion in his weight class, 275 pounds. He never lost a match during his high school years (1994 – 1998).

Beyond his athletic accomplishments, Garay maintained his goal of performing well in his classes. The strong support of both his parents in his competitive and educational endeavors fueled Antonio to succeed. He was offered scholarships from 25 different schools, but he elected to accept the offer from Boston College.

In Boston, Antonio continued to wrestle until Boston College dropped the wrestling program his senior year. He finished 4th in the NCAA championships during his sophomore year and remains the only NCAA All-American in Boston College history. It was also at Boston College when Garay’s seemingly inevitable path to the NFL began to waver after a few horrific injuries. During his junior year, in the first play of the first game of the season, Antonio sprained his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). His season was over. The next year while playing against Notre Dame, Garay suffered a season ending spine injury.

Antonio could have utilized his degree and walked away from football and the risk of any further injury or focused on wrestling and competing in the Olympics. However, the NFL dream continued to push him to rehab, train harder, and focus on the upcoming 2003 National Football League draft.

On Sunday, April 27, 2003, the Cleveland Browns selected Antonio Garay in the sixth round of the NFL draft. The years of preparation, studying, focusing on school – and not being deterred by the pressures of youth and ignorance – led to that glorious moment. Garay was a Brown for two seasons (2003 – 2004). He tore his ACL in a game against the Baltimore Ravens and once again found himself on the mend. The inauspicious tag of, “injury prone” began to be attached to Antonio, yet, in 2005 he was signed to the Chicago Bears practice squad.

In 2006, during the Bears Super Bowl run, Antonio was active for seven games. Unfortunately, he was deactivated for the Super Bowl, which the Bears lost 29-17 to the Indianapolis Colts. In 2007, Garay was having an impressive season, and then on Thursday, December 6th, 2007 while playing against the Washington Redskins in prime time, Redskins Offensive Tackle, Chris Samuels made an illegal chop block that broke Antonio’s leg and shattered his ankle. Samuels was fined $12,500 for the hit and has been referred to by many in the league as “a dirty player.”

While discussing the injury, Antonio noted, “When I broke my leg, it was a chop block from Chris Samuels. I’ve broken my leg before; I knew right away it was broken. I knew I was going to have a journey ahead of me. Unfortunately, I was going into my free agent year and not many football teams are in the market for a D-Lineman with one leg.”

Antonio would spend all of 2008, essentially starting over again. Beyond rehabbing the leg and ankle, Garay had to find a way to drop the “injury prone” stigma that had seemingly become his legacy. He refused to let the dream die. He wanted to come back stronger, faster, and healthier than ever before.

“I was just real motivated. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I loved football. I knew I wanted to play football. I knew I had a lot more to give to football. Sometimes guys just stop, they feel like they’ve accomplished everything they could. Deep down inside, I felt like there was a lot left for me to accomplish. I heard a lot of people [over the] course of 12-13 months, ‘you had a good run, we’ll support you, but if you don’t get an opportunity, we’ll help you out.’ Some people felt I should get a job. Some people said ‘go back to school.’ In the back of my head, I knew I’d be cheating myself. If I wanted to play football, I [had] to make sure I devoted everything to football. It really was just kind of a mindset that I would will myself to get an opportunity, no matter the cost.”

Prior to the start of this season, Antonio was signed to the practice squad of the New York Jets, his home town team. Garay was thrilled that he’d be playing so close to home. “Over the last year I was out with a broken leg. I got very close with everyone, not that I wasn’t close before, but I’m saying, we were going to family events all the time, bat mitzvahs, bar mitzvahs. [While in College and with the Browns and Bears] I wasn’t able to go to all the family events. Being in New York, basically right over the bridge from everyone, it was accommodating for them and for me, to get to see them all the time. It was definitely a great thing; it was definitely something I will always remember.”

New York never called Antonio up from the practice squad and on December 9th, they traded him to San Diego. “Once I found out I was coming here, I knew I’d have a good opportunity. I have a pretty strong relationship with the coaching staff. Ron Rivera was my defensive coordinator in Chicago. Don Johnson was my D-line coach. For them just to want me here, the stars [have] aligned.”

So far this season, Garay has played in two games for the Chargers, having recorded an assisted tackle vs. Tennessee in week 16 and three tackles and an assisted tackle against the Redskins during the final game of the regular season. Regarding the match up this weekend against the Jets, Garay said, “They’re a talented team. When I was a part of the team, I was thinking, we were going to win the Super Bowl. Now I’m a Charger through and through. Now that is my mentality. We have one goal. We have to take three steps to it and this Sunday is the first step.”

Thirty members of the Garay crew will be in attendance at the game, “This is probably the most family and friends I’ve ever had at a game, it’ll make me feel like I’m at home. I’ve never played a professional game where I felt like I was at home. I’m pretty excited about going this weekend.”

As for the Chargers making it to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV, Antonio said, “Our chances are pretty good. Even though they’ve had some heartaches in the playoffs, that core group is still here. They’ve been together and had a chance to grow. They know what this city is expecting from them. Guys like me, who haven’t been in San Diego, can feed off everything. You can feed off the older guys and know that everyone has to carry their own weight. Anything can happen in the playoffs.”

For the 2010 season and beyond, Garay believes, “I’m in this for the long run. I don’t have a set number. Right now, I’m probably in the best shape of my life. My legs are fresh. My body is feeling good. Junior Seau is a perfect example. He was in this system and has continued on. I actually think I’m a lot better than some of these younger guys. Only time will tell. Right now, I’m just trying to take advantage of every moment. There will be certain moments that will lead up to that defining moment, that’s what I’m hoping for.”

“I like everything about [San Diego]. I like the people, the fans. Everyone is so personable. The organization itself, the guys on the team, everyone has made this a very easy transition for me. I think starting this week; it’s a sign of great things to come.”

Beyond football, Antonio is in the process of creating a foundation that will work with kids in his community to prepare them for college, by instructing them on all their options for continued education as well as providing a safe haven for studying and avoiding the dangerous pit falls that tend to detract students from achieving their fullest potential.

Finally, even though he is 100% committed to football at this moment, Antonio has not completely ruled out representing the United States in wrestling at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Garay still has a lot to prove to San Diego fans before he is mentioned alongside Sid Gilman and Ron Mix as the greatest Jewish Chargers, but he is certainly the prototypical role model for any student athlete with aspirations of finding success in their athletic field of play.

As we all cheer for Rivers, Tomlinson, Gates, Jackson, Sproles, Merriman, and yes, even Kaeding, this Sunday, keep an eye out for #71. He’ll have his hands full with the number one rushing team in the league, but let there be no doubt, Antonio Garay will leave it all on the field this weekend for himself, his family, his teammates, and every Charger fan counting on him and the team to bring the Lombardi Trophy home to San Diego.  

Connect with Antonio by visiting his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Antonio-Garay/251498588675 


[i] 2004: The Chargers lost to the New York Jets in overtime, 20-17, after Nate Kaeding missed a game winning field goal from medium range, during Wild Card weekend. 2005: Did not make the playoffs. 2006: Lost to the Patriots 24-21, after Marlon McCree intercepted a Tom Brady pass and attempted to advance the ball. He was subsequently stripped by Patriots Wide Receiver, Troy Brown. The McCree turn over led to the go ahead Patriots score. Nate Kaeding missed a field goal that would have sent the divisional round game into overtime. 2007: Lost to the Patriots in the conference championship game 21-12. 2008: Lost to the Steelers, 35-24 in the divisional round.

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 Joey Seymour, Sports Historian and Author of “San Diego’s Finest Athletes: Five Exceptional Lives.” Now Available through Sunbelt Publications at www.sunbeltbooks.com.

Contact Joey Seymour at joeyseymour1@aol.com

However it went—and it went poorly—SDJA football playoff was one for history books

November 22, 2009 2 comments

SDJA Lions
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By Joey Seymour

SAN DIEGO–A typical gorgeous San Diego fall afternoon, on the campus of the San Diego Jewish Academy, the Lions football team is going through a few final drills before their game the next evening.

At first glance, there is no indication that the game will be the Lions first playoff game in school history. As the boys joke around with one another, you would be inclined to believe that the match vs. the Tri-City Christian Eagles is just another date on their schedule.

However, this game is not only the Lions first playoff appearance, but it is also the first American high school playoff game in which the entire team consists of only Jewish players.

I asked Lions head coach John Milisitz about the importance of the game to the school, “I would say the least, I don’t think a 12 has ever beat a 5 seed, not only that aspect, being our first year and the only Jewish football team in the county making the playoffs, not only the school, but for the Jewish community.”

The Lions have outdone themselves in every way during their inaugural season. They ended the season in third place out of the twenty teams in Division V. Yet, there was a great deal of doubt when the season began. Milisitz: “We started the year with 14 guys, we were worried. Within about a week we generated enough buzz, we were up to almost 30. Now, we’re down to about 24. Useable guys, I think we’re at 14 or 15, when you take out the freshmen that aren’t ready to play or sophomores that just aren’t ready. Most guys go both ways, but it’s a challenge, because we don’t have subs.”

The Lions came out roaring in their first game vs. Crean Lutheran South, winning 67-0. Not bad for a team in which half had never played football before. According to Milisitz, “When we first started this year, I only had five guys that played football before, most of my guys didn’t know how to put their leg pads in or strap on their shoulder pads, we had to start from scratch teaching the guys how to play football.”

After that first game, the Lions subsequently won 5 and only lost 2. They outscored their opponents 214 – 77, while recording an impressive four shut outs. The team’s defense is their backbone. Linebacker and team captain, Ricky Pemensky consistently laid out opposing quarterbacks with 19.5 sacks in eight games, fourth best in the state. Of the excitement on campus at SDJA, Pemensky said, “I’ve been here since kindergarten; this is my twelfth year, sports teams have never been like this. It’s really cool to see how we’ve progressed over the year.” On the other side of the ball, senior Joseph Mizrachi leads the offense at quarterback. He ended the regular season with 1,141 passing yards, 715 rushing yards, and 20 touchdowns. Mizrachi will need to be prepared for a shoot out with the pass-intensive Eagles team, but he is not worried. “Yeah, for sure, we’ve got a passing team also, we don’t utilize it too much, because I have to run around a lot more. We’ve got the big play ability that every other team has. I have no doubt in my mind,” said Mizrachi.

The Lions have been getting a great deal of publicity going into this game, mainly due to the history attached to it. When asked if there normally would be the kind of media attention, that SDJA is getting, Athletic Director, Charlie Wund said, “I think probably not, to be honest with you. I mean as far as small schools go – and there’s a bunch of them in San Diego that have 11 man football teams, the third place team in the conference with a 6-2 record wouldn’t get a lot of attention. I don’t think this game would be as exciting or draw as much attention unless it was us.”

Wund went on to say, “Our kids take great pride in being Jewish, but as far as their athletic accomplishments go, they don’t associate that to being Jewish. It’s never really a factor for them. They are football players. They’re high school players.”

Coach Milisitz stated, “It’s not as much specific athletes, as much as it is a Jewish school competing in football which is a physical sport and you know, you have the stereotype that Jewish guys are small and non-athletic. We’re actually good, very physical; we shut out four teams this year. We’re audible and call plays in Hebrew. We do a lot of different things that people aren’t ready for and we run a lot of different offenses and they are able to grasp so much, because these guys are so smart.”

Before the practice session concluded, the team knelt down together and had a serious moment. Understanding that there is a spotlight on them, each team captain took a few moments to speak about the enormity of the game. The team is focused and ready to compete in their first Saturday night game of the season (since they do not play on Friday nights, all of their games took place on Thursday afternoons this season). Even though they are just another high school competing in a playoff, the eyes of history are bearing down on them and they are ready to win, not just for their school, for themselves, but for the Jewish community as well, which will surely be in force at the game on Saturday night at El Camino High School.

** Follow up: The Lions were overpowered and outplayed by a bigger, faster, stronger, Eagles squad on Saturday night in their 51-12 loss. A few bright spots included the play of freshman backup quarterback, Micah Weinstein, who entered the game in the second quarter for Mizrachi and the consistent, full speed play of Ricky Pemensky even when the Lions were down 47 – 0. Both players will return in 2010.

SDJA will now have to begin preparing for next season, but they certainly had a fantastic and historic run in 2009.

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Joey Seymour is a sports historian and author of San Diego’s Finest Athletes: Five Exceptional Lives,” now available through Sunbelt Publications at www.sunbeltbooks.com  Contact Joey Seymour at joeyseymour1@aol.com