Annual JCC Sports Night rocks the house with Jay Wright


At the event were (from left), Sports Night Committee Chair Jeff Herskowitz, Melissa Herskowitz, Jay Wright, and Jeff and Melissa’s children Alexa, Justin and Jake.

At the event were (from left), Sports Night Committee Chair Jeff Herskowitz, Melissa Herskowitz, Jay Wright, and Jeff and Melissa’s children Alexa, Justin and Jake.

On August 11, the Margate JCC hosted Jay Wright, recently retired Villanova Wildcats Men’s Basketball coach, as its keynote speaker for their annual Sports Night. A sold-out event of 250 people packed the JCC to see Wright, a college basketball icon and local legend. In addition to featuring a keynote speaker in sports, Sports Night offers a cocktail hour, dinner, silent auctions, and entertainment. Past speakers have included former Philadelphia Eagles players Chris Long and John Dorenbos, former boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, and former Philadelphia Flyer Danny Briere. Last year, ESPN’s own Adam Schefter headlined the event.

JCC’s Sports Night honors the late Jackie and Hank Herskowitz of Margate, whose philanthropic legacy are continuously honored at the fundraising event. This is year 18 for the event and the seventh honoring their passing. The Herskowitzes were born and raised in Atlantic City and were said to have never turned their backs on the Atlantic City community.

On the stage are Jay Wright (left) and Master of Ceremonies Michael Barkann.

On the stage are Jay Wright (left) and Master of Ceremonies Michael Barkann.

This year’s Sports Night raised $130,000. Each year, the proceeds from the event are added to a scholarship fund that provides children and seniors of Atlantic County with programs and services that enrich their lives. Among these programs are scholarships which allow children with financial and health needs to attend Camp by the Sea.

The couple left a lasting impression on their children Amy Lieberman and Jeff Herskowitz

(who runs the event each year). Jeff Herskowitz shared, “I am ecstatic at the success of last night’s Sports Night at the Katz Margate JCC. The support of the community was overwhelming. I would like to especially thank Jay Wright and Michael Barkann [master of ceremonies] for ensuring the night was enjoyed by all who attended. I am thrilled that so many children will benefit from the funds raised from the event.

Each year, he picks a speaker who is a role model to others and Wright was the perfect choice for 2022. Wright has significant ties to the Philadelphia/South Jersey region. A graduate of Council Rock High School North, he graduated from Bucknell University in 1983. Wright is also the owner of an Ocean City, NJ home. During the event he said, “I feel indebted to Margate because I am here all the time. I love the restaurants, especially Steve & Cookies and Tomatoes for dinner.”

For 21 seasons, Jay Wright guided the Villanova Wildcats to new heights, including NCAA national championships in 2016 and 2018 and four appearances in the NCAA Final Four. In January 2020, he was named the Associated Press men’s college basketball Coach of the Decade. Wright was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 11, 2021.

Hosting Wright at the JCC was a long time coming. As Herskowitz noted, “Michael [Barkann] and I have been trying to get Jay for the past three or four years and finally, now that he is retired and not actively recruiting, we got our chance and are so lucky to have him.”

Throughout the program, Wright shared openly about his experiences coaching. He explained his ideal recruit as someone who wants to be part of a family and part of something for life. He said, “I’ve been lucky to coach character-driven players. That is what we strive for at Villanova.” He wanted to coach players who were also humble and hungry, and the list of those who met the criteria was endless. Wright also spoke highly of the love he had for each player. He stressed that he would always go the extra mile for his players. Being a “players” coach meant that his teams would play hard, play smart, play together, and play with pride.

As a coach, Wright also recognized the value of education and always stressed the importance of being a strong student as well as an athlete.

This was the largest event the JCC has held recently. John Rios, COO and CFO of the JCC, played a large role in the event planning. He shared, “I’m happy and excited for people to be back in the JCC for a large-scale event. I forgot how much work it is, but I’m so happy we pulled it off. It’s great for the JCC and the community because we are a nonprofit organization. This means we can do so much good with the money raised and it’s an honor to be able to provide scholarships to campers.”

Wright closed his remarks by saying, “There are so many worthwhile organizations who deserve our time and money and the fact that those in the crowd chose to be at Sports Night is amazing and means a lot.”

Sports Night is a night to honor Jackie and Hank Herskowitz and a night to help the children of our great community have experiences and programs to enhance their lives. This year’s Sports Night will help continue JCC’s legacy and enable it to stay the successful agency and space for community gathering that it is today.

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