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First Jewish Woman Elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

Senda (Berenson) Abbott, a pioneer in the development of women’s basketball, will be the first Jewish woman to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday, July 1.

Lee Williams, executive director of the Hall, indicated that this marks the first time a woman will be enshrined in the national Hall of Fame. Presently there are 143 men and four teams inducted into the museum and shrine dedicated to the American game.

Abbott was known as “the Mother of Women’s Basketball.” While serving as director of physical education at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., she introduced the sport to the female students. The first women’s game was played March 22, 1893, at Smith.

A native of Vilna, Lithuania, Abbott, working in conjunction with Dr. James Naismith, founder of the game, wrote the official rules for women’s basketball in 1892. She chaired the U.S. Women’s Basketball Committee and was editor of Basketball Guide for Women. Through her influence on the Smith students for 19 years, basketball spread through many parts of this country.

From 1911 to 1921 she chaired the physical education department at the Burnham School in Northhampton, Mass. She died at the age of 86 in 1954. She has been elected to the Hall of Fame as a contributor.

Male Jewish inductees in the Hall include: COACHES: Arnold Auerbach 1968; Harry Litwack 1975. PLAYERS: Barney Sedran 1962; Nat Holman 1964; Max Friedman 1971; Adolph Schayes 1972. CONTRIBUTORS: Abe Saperstein 1970; Edward Gottlieb 1971; Maurice Podoloff 1973. REFEREES: David Tobey 1961.

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