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Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Western Pennsylvania 1982 Awards

Ziggy Kahn Award

JOSEPH "ZIGGY" KAHN

Joseph L. “Ziggy” Kahn dedicated himself to our community for more than half a century. He was a beloved individual, a true friend and good neighbor.

Joseph L. Kahn, known to everyone as “Ziggy”, had his roots in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. He was always the best athlete in the neighborhood. Stories of his feats in football, basketball, baseball, and track are legendary. The records of old Central High School attest to the fact that “Ziggy” was captain and the star halfback of the football team. His record and broken field running earned him the name of “Ziggy” and brought football championships to the school. When Schenley High opened, he was a key player, along with the late “Buck” Gefsky, on the school basketball team that won the WPIAL Championship.

“Ziggy” continued his career after high school as a member of the Coffee Club Basketball and Baseball Teams. Many recall the days when “Ziggy” baffled the renowned Homestead Grays with his fast ball. His clever ball handling and shooting as a member of the Coffee Club made history.

There is no doubt “Ziggy” was a great athlete. He pitched for the Neward team in the International League, and then received a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds. However, after his service in the Armed Forces in World War I, he decided there was a big job to be done for the people in our community, and he was determined to do it.

He taught youngsters how to play, build their bodies and develop good health habits. His objective was to have a well rounded program for everyone including those inept at sports as well as truly skilled athletes. He believed it was important for all to build and develop a strong body and a healthy mind.

He coached teams at the Settlement that won championships in basketball, baseball, track, boxing and swimming. He trained and mentored youngsters, many of whom became high school and college athletes.

Above all,“Ziggy” learned to know “his boys” and they learned to know, love and respect him. He taught his boys and girls to be mindful of their obligations to their parents and to their community, and prepared them for their future as adults in a highly competitive society. He assisted students in securing college scholarships. The many successful businesses and leaders in our community are proof that “Ziggy” did a wonderful job.

He served three terms as President of the Allegheny Mountain Association of the Amateur Athletic Union. He organized and was President of the Anti-German Olympic League of 1933 as a protest against Hitler’s anti-Semitism. He organized the Squirrel Hill Boys Club which later became the Squirrel Hill Branch of the Jewish Community Center. He organized the 14th Ward Athletic Association and conducted many Diamond Belt and Golden Gloves Amateur Boxing Tournaments, many track, field and swimming meets, as well as city-wide basketball leagues.

“Ziggy” was also active in other community organizations. He was a member of the American Legion, Jewish War Veterans, Zionist Organization of America, Squirrel Hill Lions Club, Masonic Order and Knights of Pythias. To add to this list, he served five terms as Alderman of the 14th Ward.

There are many reasons to honor “Ziggy” Kahn. It can be summed up by saying that Ziggy was a community builder of men and women and for such service, he will always be remembered.
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