Meet this year’s DC Jewish Sports Hall of Fame inductees

0
Adam Van Grack
Adam Van Grack at the 2005 U.S. National Team Trials for Canoe Slalom (Courtesy of Adam Van Grack)

To be inducted into the Greater Washington Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, a person must possess three qualities: They must be Jewish. They must have some connection to the Washington area. And they must, according to the online nominating form, “have outstanding accomplishments as an athlete or sports professional” and “demonstrate excellence in leadership, sportsmanship, and character.”

This year’s six inductees have performed in a variety of sports or related activities: basketball, golf, performance white water kayaking and legal analysis. They’ll be honored on Nov. 21 at a Dinner of Champions that will be livestreamed.


“It is a way to celebrate the diversity of Washington area Jews who are not only accomplished in a sport or in the sports industry, but also have been involved in the community,” said Lisa Levin, chair of the hall of fame’s induction committee and herself a 2016 inductee.

“There’s a stereotype or misconception that there aren’t a lot of outstanding Jewish athletes,” she said. “And, for me personally, it’s really encouraging and inspiring to see that we have this many Jewish athletes in the Washington area to recognize.”

https://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/enewsletter/

According to Levin, the hall of fame was founded in 1992. It’s a program of the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, in Rockville. Each year the names and portraits of another group of hall of famers are added to a wall in the Bender JCC and they also take their place online at benderjccgw.org/halloffame.

The annual “Dinner of Champions” raises funds for a program that enables children with disabilities to attend the Bender JCC’s day camp. Last year’s dinner raised $450,000, according to Jodi Shulimson, the Bender JCC’s director of individual and corporate giving.
Read on and get to know this year’s inductees.


Roger Cossack — Media/Sports Law

Roger Cossack (Courtesy of Roger Cossack)

Law professor by day, ESPN legal analyst by night. That’s how Roger Cossack describes himself. The Washington resident said he was surprised to learn of his inclusion in the hall of fame, as he’s “certainly not someone who at this time, probably at any time, was hailed for great athletic ability.”

That may be true, but unlike the rest of this year’s inductees, Cossack is being honored for his work in sports media and sports law. A large portion of his career was spent as a legal analyst for both CNN and later ESPN.

“Normally when you would hear [sports hall of fame], you would think of people who are more involved in athletics. It’s terrific that they are noted,” Cossack said. “I think someone like me, who worked for a sports network in a media capacity, it’s nice to be given the opportunity to associate with those people and to add my name to the list. You know, how neat is that?”

Cossack is a graduate of UCLA Law School and in 1994 became a legal analyst at CNN. In his eight years there he covered the O.J. Simpson trial, the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and co-hosted the show “Burden of Proof.” In 2003, Cossack joined ESPN as its chief legal analyst and went on to cover the trials of Kobe Bryant, Roger Clemens, Aaron Hernandez and Jerry Sandusky. He also covered the investigations into the Duke Lacrosse team and Tom Brady.

Cossack retired from ESPN in 2017. Most recently he hosted “OJ25,” a Court TV series on the O.J. Simpson trial.

Glenn Fine — Basketball

Glenn Fine
Glenn Fine (Courtesy of Bender JCC)

Despite being only 5 feet, 9 inches, Glenn Fine made a name for himself in basketball both during high school and college. His success led to his induction to three sports halls of fame, the other two in New England and Philadelphia. Although Fine transitioned from the basketball court to the law court, he still appreciates the recognition for his sports achievements.

“I consider it an honor, because it combines two things that have been very important to me in my life. One is basketball, and two is my Judaism,” Fine said. “So the combination of that being honored at the Greater Washington Jewish Sports Hall of Fame was exceptionally nice.”

Fine grew up in Philadelphia and lives in Chevy Chase. In high school, he was named All-League in basketball twice and in his senior year led his league in scoring. Fine attended Harvard College where he co-captained the basketball team and was a second-team All-Ivy point guard. He led the Ivy Leagues in assists and currently holds several Harvard assist records. In 1979, he was drafted in the 10th round by the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. But Fine opted to attend Oxford University instead as a Rhodes scholar.

After Oxford, he attended Harvard Law School and in 1985 began his legal career in Washington. Most recently he served as acting inspector general for the Department of Defense from January 2016 to June 2020. When it comes to the sport, Fine said he’s mostly left it behind, opting to spend his leisure time biking or playing tennis.

“I will occasionally shoot foul shots if I’m near a gym, but that’s about it,” Fine said.

Susan Green – Tennis

Susan Green
Susan Green (Courtesy of Bender JCC)

Susan “Suzy” Green held her first tennis racket at age 5. That was the start of a sporting career that has led her to become inducted into the hall of fame as this year’s Bender JCC Maccabi Legacy Award.

“I was extremely touched,” Green said about her induction. “It’s very hard for me to, I guess, receive compliments or accolades or whatever because it’s just something that you do. So I was very honored by it, for sure.”

Green grew up in Great Neck, N.Y., and lives in Rockville. She captained her high school tennis team where she was a ranked teen in the NY/NE region. She went on to play doubles in the U.S. Open and competed for American University. A series of knee surgeries ended her playing career. But some advice from her orthopedic surgeon convinced her to continue her involvement in the sport.

“When I had a total meltdown, he looked at me. He said, ‘Stop crying. You can’t play. But why don’t you give back what you were taught?’” Green said. “And it was the best advice I was ever given, honestly.”

Green went on to teach tennis and ended up coaching three North American Maccabi Games. In 1989, she was named U.S. Tennis Coach at the Maccabi Games in Israel. However, Green said her greatest pride has been teaching students with disabilities.
Since her tennis days are long behind her, Green spends her leisure time playing golf.

Lew Strudler — Sports Executive

Lew Strudler
Lew Strudler (Courtesy of Bender JCC)

Lew Strudler of Silver Spring may not be known for his athletic prowess, but he’s made his mark on the world of sports nonetheless. In 1982, he joined the Washington Capitals as vice president of marketing. The 30-day Save the Caps campaign he put together helped support the team at a time it was struggling financially.

“And obviously, the culmination of the success of that campaign was in 2018 when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup,” Strudler said. “And my biggest honor was being able to lift that cup over my head.”

Strudler attended Long Island University on a tennis scholarship. Prior to the Caps campaign, he was director of the National Mental Health Association. Serving on its board of directors were Abe and Irene Pollin, who owned the Capitals. It was this connection that led him to work for the team.

Today, Strudler works as vice president of global partnerships at Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and Capital City Go-Go. He is the longest tenured business executive in the organization.

“Over the years, I’ve had many friends and colleagues who have been selected and put into the hall of fame and I’ve attended many of the dinners,” Strudler said. “So I was very, very honored.”

Outside of work, Strudler coached his daughter Erica in softball, in travel ball and in the JCC Maccabi Games. Those teams won three gold medals and one silver, including the gold at the Pan American Maccabi Games in Argentina.

Adam Van Grack — Canoeing/Kayaking

Adam Van Grack
Adam Van Grack (Courtesy of Bender JCC)

Growing up with severe asthma, Adam Van Grack never imagined he would compete in professional sports — let alone get inducted into a sports hall of fame. But his work and dedication to the sport of canoeing and kayaking has led him to this point.

“To essentially have my name even associated with a hall of fame, let alone being inducted into a sports hall of fame, is more of a kind of shock and surprise than anything else,” Van Grack said.

A Potomac resident, Van Grack was introduced to canoeing and kayaking at Valley Mill Camp in Darnestown. That experience kickstarted a love for the sport that led him to win multiple state-level and national-level races. A notable win was at the Cheat River Race, the largest whitewater race in the country.

In 2005, Van Grack became a leader in the Potomac Whitewater Racing Center, which is a U.S. Olympic Training Center. He led the center for more than a decade through the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.

In 2016, Van Grack was elected chair of USA Canoe Kayak. In that role, he assisted athletes at the 2016 Olympic Games. In fact, most of the canoe/kayak Olympic team used his house in Potomac as a base before flying off to Brazil to compete.

“So the joke was, in my garage, hopefully there was no fire or flood because most of the U.S. Olympic team boats were housed there overnight before they went to Rio,” Van Grack said.

After the Olympics, Van Grack became chair of the U.S. Olympic Sport of Canoe Slalom, which he holds to this day.

Marc Youngentob — Golf

Marc Youngentob
Marc Youngentob (Courtesy of Bender JCC)

As a kid, Marc Youngentob’s go-to winter sport was hockey. But around age 12, he shifted focus to his summer sport: golf. It was this game that won him recognition from the hall of fame.

“It was just a huge honor,” Youngentob said of his induction. “Golf has been my passion from a very young age, and I spent a lot of time at it growing up, and have really just enjoyed every minute of it. So this was a culmination of everything that I’ve worked on over the last 20 years or so.”

Youngentob grew up in the Potomac area and attended Winston Churchill High School. It was there he would serve as captain of the 2008 Maryland State champion varsity golf team. Throughout high school Youngentob spent his time volunteering at The First Tee of Montgomery County. There he taught young children various life skills through golf.

Youngentob was part of the national junior team representing the United States at the 2009 Maccabi Games in Israel. There he individually placed fourth, which helped the team to a gold medal. The golfer went to play for University of Rochester’s varsity team and earned the Dean’s Scholarship. In 2009-2010, he was awarded the Liberty League Conference Rookie of the Year. And in 2012 he was voted 1st team All-Conference – University Athletic Association.

Upon graduating, he ranked in the Top 15 all-time scoring leaders in the school’s history.

Hyman M. and Phillip D. Perlo High School Athlete Award

The hall of fame ceremony will also honor this year’s Hyman M. and Phillip D. Perlo High School Athlete Award recipients. Awardees are 12th grade Jewish student athletes who attend school in Greater Washington. This year, the awards will go to:

  • Brett Feyerick (Georgetown Prep, Swimming)
  • Natan Fishman (McLean High School, Wrestling)
  • Samantha Godfrey (Sherwood High School, Soccer)
  • Cole Hanin (Bullis School, Basketball)
  • Ruby Kaplan (Georgetown Day School, Track/Cross Country)
  • Robby Lefkowitz (Charles E Smith Jewish Day School, Baseball)
  • Sophie Simon (Bullis School, Golf)
  • Jillian Vordick (Walter Johnson High School, Indoor Rock Climbing)

[email protected]
@EricSchucht

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here