News Stories

Medal Series Ends After 54 Years

Published June 3, 2024 | 2 min read

By Caleb Noel

Mel Wacks, Director of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame, has announced the end of his decades-long medals series. Wacks cites the inability to find a low-cost mint to produce high-quality medals as the key reason for this decision. The 54 Jewish-American Hall of Fame medals were created by a “Who’s Who” of America’s greatest medalists. This list includes winners of the American Numismatic Society’s J. Sanford Saltus Award for Signal Achievement in the Art of the Medal (Eugene Daub, Alex Shagin, and Karen Worth) and the ANA’s Numismatic Art Award for Excellence in Medallic Sculpture (Eugene Daub, Virginia Janssen, Jim Licaretz, Hal Reed, Alex Shagin, Marika Somogyi, Paul Vincze, Gerta Ries Wiener, and Karen Worth). This was the longest-running series of medals in the United States.

Wacks considers the Jewish-American Hall of Fame medals “a great success,” adding that “every medal that we have issued from 1969 through 2023 is a numismatic ambassador fighting antisemitism. A grand total of over 25,000 Jewish-American Hall of Fame medals have been made. These reside in collections throughout the United States, and as far away as China. They are in museums in Berkeley, Cincinnati, England, Israel, and Sweden.”

The series has raised over half a million dollars for nonprofit organizations nationwide. The Jewish-American Hall of Fame will continue to honor a new inductee each year by creating a plaque that will hang in the Virginia Holocaust Museum. For 2024, the honoree is the actress/singer Molly Picon. Eugene Daub designed the plaque.

Engraver Eugene Daub designed the plaque for Molly Picon, the 2024 inductee into the Jewish-American Hall of Fame. (Photos: Mel Wacks [plaque] & Wikimedia Commons)

Molly Picon

Molly Picon (1898-1992) was an American actress and singer. She began her career in the Yiddish theatre and film, rising to star status. She eventually transitioned into character roles in English-language productions. During World War II, Picon performed at army bases throughout the U.S. and Canada to boost morale. Later, traveling at considerable peril to their lives, Picon and her husband, Jacob Kalich, were the first entertainers to tour displaced persons camps after the war.  Picon and Kalich have a star on the Yiddish Theater Walk of Fame, located on 2nd Avenue and 10th Street in New York City.

Molly Picon was later cast as an Italian mother opposite Frank Sinatra in Neil Simon’s screen adaption of Come Blow Your Horn, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. Molly went on to star on Broadway in Milk and Honey. In 1971 Picon starred in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof. 

Picon had a recurring role as Mrs. Bronson in the NBC police comedy Car 54, Where Are You?. She also appeared in a few episodes of The Facts of Life as Natalie’s grandmother. Her final role was as Roger Moore’s mother in the comedy Cannonball Run and its sequel Cannonball Run II in 1981 and 1984, respectively.