Top High School Scholar/Athletes Honored by Vineland Jewish War Vets

Photography by Robert Tesoroni, Jr., United Veterans Council

Four top scholar/athletes from Cumberland County high schools were honored by the Jewish War Veterans Memorial Post No. 601, on Sunday, June 2, at the 46th Annual Olympiad Awards Breakfast, at Beth Israel Congregation, in Vineland, NJ.

The ceremony, catered and co-sponsored by the Beth Israel Congregation’s Men’s Club, has been held each year since 1974 to memorialize the nine Israeli athletes who were brutally murdered by Arab terrorists at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. It publicly recognizes and honors the top scholar/athlete seniors from the five county high schools. Jewish War Veterans Memorial Post 601 member Gerald Batt emceed the ceremony.
This year’s winners—Mikayla Thompson-Young, Bridgeton High School; Jenna Gardner, Cumberland Regional High School; Raelynne Miller, Millville High School; and Sara Parks, Vineland High School—each received commendations and proclamations at the ceremony from national, state, county, and local officials.

The winners, according to Elliot Terris, Commander of Jewish War Veterans Memorial Post 601 and President of the Beth Israel Congregation Men’s Club, are selected by their respective schools, based on both scholastic and athletic achievements, as well as leadership, cooperation, civic contributions, and all-around good citizenship. The schools rely on input from guidance counselors, teachers, athletic directors, coaches, and principals. The winning students must be seniors, must have lettered in two or more varsity sports, and must be considered prime examples of good citizenship and leadership.

“We are proud and honored to have been part of this annual tradition for so long—an event that calls the public’s attention to our outstanding youngsters in the community who are true role models,” Terris said. “Our Men’s Club, which has had many Jewish War Veterans as members, has done much over the years for our synagogue, our Jewish community, and the community at large—not only on our own, but also collaborating with other organizations such as the Jewish War Veterans.

“The origins of this ceremony came out of a great tragedy of terrorism and murder. The students honored over the years at this ceremony are examples of the kindness and goodness that we hope will replace hatred,” he said. “We hope that they, in turn, will be the parents of and advocates for outstanding scholar/athletes honored at a future Olympiad Awards ceremony.”