As the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame prepares for its first induction ceremony in two years, the organization is also dealing with significant damage to its museum at 2100 Arch Street wrought by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
Flooding in that part of Center City left the museum’s exhibits under 10 feet of sewage-filled water. And because the museum is located on the basement level of its building, home to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the damage was not covered by the museum’s insurance policy.
“The museum was totally destroyed,” museum chairperson Stephen H. Frishberg told The Inquirer. “The lockers [spaces that contained artifacts] that were adhered and fixed so they would never fall and hurt anybody, were off the walls. The TVs were destroyed, the cabinetry we just built ... it was all gone.”
The Jewish Federation’s facilities also suffered damage, including a computer room and a theater room.
Fortunately, almost all of the artifacts in the Hall’s collection are salvageable, save for some papers and photographs. But there’s a lot of work to be done on the building. So a fundraising campaign is underway through the Hall’s website, phillyjewishsports.org.
“We have a basketball signed by Larry Brown — I know it’s OK, and the signature is still there,” Frishberg said. “For the moment, it may be cruddy, but it will be washed without taking off the signature. I saw golf clubs; I saw trophies; they’re just dirty, but they can be cleaned and restored.”
Also among the Hall’s notable possessions: seats from Connie Mack Stadium, a significant quantity of old team uniforms and varsity sweaters, and a portable typewriter from the 1960s used by late Daily News columnist Stan Hochman.
Because the Hall lacks an endowment, Frishberg said, “We don’t really have, comfortably, the resources to restore the museum.” The Hall’s revenue traditionally comes from tickets sold to the induction ceremony and ads sold in the event program — usually enough to pay rent and compensate a part-time executive director.
Frishberg said rebuilding the museum is expected to cost between $30,000 and $40,000, and restoring the memorabilia could run to about $60,000. He expects all of the work to take three to four months.
“We’re hoping the community will reach out and help support us,” he said, and he especially hopes the area’s pro sports teams will pitch in.
The induction ceremony, including the classes of 2020 and 2021, will take place Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Rodeph Shalom synagogue, 615 N. Broad Street. Tickets are available on the Hall’s website or at the door. Attendees are required to be vaccinated and wear masks while inside.
Frishberg said there will be “surprisingly, a bigger attendance than I had anticipated” given the pandemic.
“Financially, we were hurt last year because we didn’t induct a class,” he said. “So a lot of things are hitting at once. But I’m very optimistic.”
Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Inductees
Carl Cherkin, former Fox 29 sports director, most recently vice president of business development for the Union.
Bryan Cohen, former basketball player at Abington Friends, Bucknell, and professionally in Israel, where he helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2009 Maccabiah Games.
Erskine Mayer (posthumous), Major League Baseball player in the 1910s for the Phillies, Pirates and White Sox.
Carol Polis, the first woman licensed to judge professional boxing fights.
Jerry Wolman (posthumous), former owner of the Eagles and Connie Mack Stadium, and part-owner of the Flyers and the Spectrum.
Award winners: William Yale Saltzman, founder of Camp Canadensis in the Poconos and the first Jewish football captain at Franklin & Marshall; Alan Horwitz, a renowned 76ers superfan; and the Junior Jewish Basketball League, an intramural league in Montgomery County.
Adam Feldman, former NCAA fencing champion at Penn State.
Sam Mattis, U.S. champion discus thrower and Penn alum who competed at this summer’s Olympics.
Steve Shull, former Miami Dolphins linebacker in the 1980s.