Hall of Fame Chronology
2017 The Jewish Journal includes Mel Wacks in its Annual Mensch List, in the January 6-12 issue. Hereís an excerpt of the article by Eitan Arom:
Wacks left a long career in electrical engineering to be a professional numismatist, or coin collector. But he was still working as an electrical engineer near Sacramento when he had a chance encounter that would lead to the creation of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame.
One day in the mid-1970s, he and Esther drove to the now-defunct Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley. Striking up a conversation with a museum employee, Mel mentioned that he was a coin collector. The man turned out to be Seymour Fromer, the museum director, and he brought on Wacks as the museumís numismatic consultant.
As the 1976 bicentennial of the founding of the United States was approaching, commemorative medals were growing popular. The idea inspired Wacks to begin commissioning medals to commemorate milestones in Jewish-American history, and heís done it every year since.
Over that span, he has given $171,000 to the Magnes Museum, which folded into UC Berkeley in 2010. In 2001, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame became a division of the American Jewish Historical Society, and much of the proceeds since have gone to that organization, along with the Virginia Holocaust Museum and the American Numismatic Society.
Photo of Mel Wacks by Carla Acevedo-Blumenkrantz, courtesy of The Jewish Journal.
2017: On May 17, Astronauts Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman and the late Dr. Judith Resnik were inducted into the Jewish-American Hall of Fame by Mel Wacks at the Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society. Shown below is the golden medal given to Dr. Hoffman along with the Chanukah dreidel that he spun in space.
2017: On October 20th, Sonya Kest was presented with a silver medal and a $500 check by Mel Wacks, Director of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame for her essay on Hedy Lamarr, that won the Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. Shown left to right: Dr. Ezra and Lauren Kest, Sonya Kest, Mel Wacks, and Rabbi Joshua Spodek (Head of Yula Girls High School). Photo by Zach Cohen.
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