AJAX footy players wore black armbands during last Sunday’s semi-final win in a touching tribute to club legend – and AJAX cricket, Maccabi Victoria and Maccabi Australia stalwart – Ben Sternfeld, who passed away last week, aged 89.
Sternfeld was elected to the AJAX committee in the late 1940s, going on to become the organisation’s president for six years.
In the following three decades, he served terms as president of Maccabi Australia, AJAX Cricket Club, as chairman of AJAX Football Club, as manager of the Victorian team at 10 Maccabi national carnivals, and in 1969, as manager of the Australian team at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
As a cricketer, he was part of AJAX Cricket Club’s premiership winning teams in the mid-’60s and early ’70s, and he played an important role in securing the installation of turf pitches at Albert Park.
His enormous contribution to the Jewish community and to sport was recognised through honorary life memberships of Victoria Maccabi, AJAX Cricket and AJAX Football clubs, induction into the Maccabi Australia Hall of Fame, and by being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
Outside of the sporting arena, he received a B’nai B’rith Menorah Award, became a life governor at St Kilda Hebrew Congregation and was a loving and caring family man to his wife of 63 years, Anne, and their children and grandchildren.
Maccabi Victoria president Brian Swersky told The AJN, “the whole Maccabi community mourns” Sternfeld’s passing, and will miss his presence and support.
“At a recent Maccabi Hall of Fame annual dinner, despite his advancing years, Ben remained a larger-than-life figure, and was clearly delighted to be surrounded by his Maccabi family,” Swersky said.
Close friend and fellow Maccabi life member Harry Procel described Sternfeld as “a genuine mensch, mentor, and leader who helped shape Maccabi and AJAX into what they are today”.
“Ben was one of the most organised and committed people I’ve ever met and, in terms of making the AJAX clubs more professional in how they are run, Ben had a lot to do with that.
“He will be deeply missed.”