Roy Salomon ‘59 inducted into International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame for Volunteer Service
“Whatever you do, contribute to your community and make it stronger.” -Roy Salomon, ‘59
As a first-year student at Duke in the 1950s, Roy Salomon would have never guessed he would one day be inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame for volunteer service. Athletics were an important part of Salomon’s life from a young age. He played a variety of sports from elementary school through high school. Arriving at Duke to study political science in 1955, he played basketball and baseball his freshman year. Salomon found lifelong friends in his first year of Duke sports, ones he keeps in touch with to this day. Salomon’s Duke experience was marked not only by athletics, but by meaningful Jewish community. During his time as a Duke student, Salomon joined the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, the world’s oldest and largest Jewish fraternity.
After graduating from Duke in 1959, Salomon joined the National Guard. Following a six-month training, he went into the Army Reserves. It was his brother’s real estate business that led Salomon to move to Montreal, Canada in 1960, and begin a successful career in real estate. This new life in Canada also reunited Salomon with his love of sports.
The Maccabiah Games
Salomon was a member of Canada’s Maccabiah Games basketball team in 1969. The team played in the Games that year in Israel. Considered the Jewish Olympics, the World Maccabiah Games are “the third largest athletic competition in the world, where over 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries compete in 40 sports.”1 The games occur every four years in Israel as a celebration of Jewish athletics and culture. That first visit to the Holy Land as an athlete changed Salomon’s life:
“I was always proud to be Jewish when I arrived in Israel in 1969 for the Maccabiah Games,” Salomon shared in a recent interview with Jewish Life at Duke. “I used to say I loved the idea of Israel, but when I marched in with the Canadian team in front of fifty thousand Jewish people, I had such a feeling of ‘we have been through the pogroms, the inquisition, the Holocaust, here we were stronger than ever, rebuilding again.’ It gave me a special feeling marching into that stadium. If I have this feeling, I want to make it possible for other Jewish athletes to have this experience.”
And that is exactly what Salomon did.
He spent the next 50 years in volunteer service to the Jewish sports community through Maccabi Canada and the Montreal Y JCC. Visiting Israel ignited in Salomon a desire for North American Jewish athletes, especially youth and young adults, to experience Israel for themselves. Salomon became involved on the sports committee of Maccabi Canada, was soon sports chairman, and then president of the organization for eight years, from 1991-2001. In 2001 he was elected to Yakir Maccabi, the highest leadership award in Maccabi World Union. He also resided as co-chairman of the North American Confederation of Maccabi World Union from 1993-2003. Now an honorary vice president, Salomon’s commitment and passion for Jewish sports remains vibrant even while he has retired from official capacities.
The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
In January 2019, Roy Salomon was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. Salomon was presented this award in July 2022 at the World Maccabiah Games in Israel. The Lifetime Achievement Award is an honor awarded to only one individual a year for their significant contributions to the State of Israel and society through sports. Salomon was honored for his 50 years of volunteer service with Maccabi Canada and the Montreal Y JCC. Volunteerism has always been an essential part of Salomon’s life. Indeed, he was recognized in 1992 with the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canada and again in 2013 with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, all honoring his volunteer work and contributions to the Canadian community.
Salomon’s passion for encouraging Jewish youth and young adults continues. Salomon shared his experience of seeing young Jews without a strong Jewish identity go to Israel to compete in the Maccabiah Games and “come home with a Jewish heart.” This new sense of Jewish identity has impacts for generations: “A lot of our leaders over the years are ones who competed as athletes and have returned to encourage other young people to come to Israel,” Salomon explained.
When asked if he had a word of advice for Jewish young people today, Salomon shared that he would say to, “Take pride in who they are, take pride in being Jewish, get involved in some way shape or form. Whatever you do, contribute to your community and make it stronger.”
*Roy Salomon pictured in final photo with fellow Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Award Recipient, Sylvan Adams.
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