Home April 2014 From Athletes to Legends

From Athletes to Legends

They work tirelessly to reach their optimal performance, day-in and day-out. They never back down from a challenge, never cease to impress and always go the extra mile. They inspire us to be the best athletes we can be.
Champion drag racer Kenny Bernstein, US Women’s soccer player Cami Levin and US and Israeli basketball star Jerry Simon are the best in their sport, and that is why they were chosen as the 2014 inductees for the Orange County Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
On the evening of Saturday, March 1, at the Merage Jewish Community Center, these three stellar athletes were honored at the Dinner of Champions, along with the winners of the Maccabi Legacy Award, Irv Chase, Barry Kahn and Janine Segal, and the nineteen high school nominees for the Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete Award. This award was presented to the one girl and boy who were the most highly accomplished in the areas of academics, sports and community service.
The night kicked off with an auction of various sports-themed items, some of which were donated by the Hall of Fame inductees themselves. Kenny Bernstein even donated one of his coveted “Bud King” racing helmets for the auction.
The guests strolled in and met the new inductees, who were both friendly and easily approachable. They were open to having conversations with all the guests, which made it difficult to get everyone’s attention for the unveiling of the new additions to the Hall of Fame.
Once everyone had been gathered around the Hall of Fame wall, the inductees were formally introduced. The first was Kenny Bernstein.
Nicknamed “The King of Speed” and “The Bud King,” Bernstein was a champion drag racer and the first driver to break 300 miles per hour in the standing-start quarter mile. He won 69 NHRA national events, four consecutive Budweiser King Funny Car championships, hence the name “The Bud King,” and two Top Fuel championships during his driving career. Bernstein is also a former NASCAR and IndyCar race team owner.
The next inductee to be introduced was US Women’s soccer player Cami Levin. In 2008 Levin was the recipient of the Scholar Athlete Award as a student of Tarbut V’Torah. She showed that with hard work and dedication to her sport, she could go from winning a small high school sports award to being inducted into the Hall of Fame for the best Jewish professional athletes in all of Orange County.
Levin later became the captain of Stanford’s Division 1 National Championship women’s soccer team. She is the current captain of the U23 US national team. Levin played overseas for teams in Australia and Sweden, but recently signed with Sky Blue FC in New Jersey for the upcoming NWSL season.
“Cami is a great role model to all young soccer players in Orange County. It is so inspiring that a Jewish soccer player like me can go from practicing on the little soccer fields behind the JCC to the professional stadiums around the world. She makes me proud to be a Jewish soccer player from Orange County, and from now on when I see her picture on the Hall of Fame wall, it will serve as a reminder that nothing’s impossible,” said freshman and Maccabi soccer player Jenna Borovinsky.
The third Hall of Fame inductee was basketball star Jerry Simon. Simon represented Team USA in the 1989 World Maccabiah Games. After playing four seasons of varsity basketball and graduating from University of Pennsylvania in 1990, he went on to play professional basketball in Israel. There were only a limited number of positions for Americans on the Israeli team, so Simon showed his dedication to the sport and to Israel by serving in the Israeli Army for one year, and then rejoining the basketball team as an Israeli citizen. This act of bravery and dedication to Israel made Simon a true Jewish role model in the world of sports.
In 1992-93, Simon won the Israeli Championship at Gaili Elyon, then played for various Israeli basketball clubs for ten years. He later moved back to the United States where he started a family in Orange County.
Before heading in for the banquet dinner, the three inductees and Irv Chase, winner of the Maccabi Legacy Award, unveiled the new and improved Orange County Jewish Sports Hall of Fame wall. “This is so exciting! It’s my first Hall of Fame!” said Levin when she first laid eyes on her picture.
During the banquet, awards were presented to the newest Hall of Fame inductees, and they each gave a quick speech. Then the nineteen high school nominees for the Scholar Athlete Award were introduced – first the girls, then the boys. Every student nominated was a well-rounded student and star athlete who provided great service to the community.
In the end, only one boy and one girl could win the award. The winner for the girls was Larisa Bokota, star water polo player and competitive swimmer from Northwood High School. The winner for the boys was Evan Bozanic, soccer player and world record-holding scuba diver from Tarbut V’Torah. Bozanic was the youngest person to ever dive off all seven continents. He is currently in the process of publishing a book about his experiences.
Bernstein, Levin and Simon hope their pictures on the Hall of Fame wall forever be a symbol of inspiration to all the young athletes of Orange County.

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