Kenny (top center)
He Knows the Score
By Vivi Abrams/The Atlanta Jewish Times
As the father of three boys, Kenny Sonenshine knew he was going to be spending
a lot of time playing sports. He just didnít know how much.
In the last 15 years, Sonenshine has volunteered for the Marcus Jewish Community
Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) as a baseball coach, basketball coach, basketball
commissioner, co-chairman of athletics for the Maccabi Games and now chairman
of the recreation and wellness committee and a member of the MJCCAís board
As chairman for the past three years, Sonenshine oversaw the moving of the
athletics department off-site during the construction of the JCCís Zaban Park
building, moving into the new building and the first Maccabi Games to be held
He also handles disciplinary problems and chooses commissioners for the different
sports leagues. "He pretty much puts his stamp on most everything we do,"
said Howie Rosenberg, assistant director of the recreation and wellness department.
"His beliefs are really in the good of everyone. He has no hidden agendas
for himself. He tries to do whatís best for the kids and the community center.
He handles all the situations with such diplomacy it really makes it easy
to work with him," Rosenberg said.
Gary Cohen, recreation department director, said he remembers talking Sonenshine
into tackling the athletics part of the Maccabi Games. First he took Sonenshine
to the games in Houston in 1999, which started on a Sunday and lasted a week.
"So he went and he was so tired he went home on Tuesday," Cohen said. "He
said, ĎI have to go home, Iím exhausted!í I think he said, ĎIíll do it, but
Iím going home.í . . . He ended up doing a marvelous job."
Sonenshine grew up in Charleston, S.C., and said he was always at the JCC
there when he was growing up, involved in Bínai Bírith as well as athletics.
In Atlanta, he serves as vice president of family owned Wholesale Industrial
"When I moved here, I played in the basketball leagues, when my kids were
born I sort of got involved," he said. "My kids have worked at the center
. . . itís just been a great atmosphere. Theyíve given so much to me."
Sonenshine said he had fun co-chairing the athletics department for the Maccabia
games. "The outcome was great and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it," he said.
"It encompassed my life for about a month. It got me involved with doing different
things in regards to finding venues and speaking to the different people at
the venue locations . . . letting them know what we were doing and seeing
their reaction to it was just rewarding for me."
He said his wife, Debbie, a teacher and a volunteer for Hadassah and the
Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, understood Sonenshineís commitment with
the Maccabi Games. "She said, ĎIíll be glad when this is over,í and I said,
you wonít be the only one, Iíll get to see you for a change," Sonenshine said.
Son Marc Sonenshine, 21, said he talks to his dad almost every day from
Athens, Ga., where he is a senior at the University of Georgia. During the
Maccabi Games his dad talked about nothing else, Marc said. "It seemed like
it was the only thing going on in his life," he said. "I just think he was
real excited about it. At times it was stressful because he wanted it to be
perfect for the kids. He wanted it to be a memorable experience and an enjoyable
experience for everyone involved, not just the kids. He worried about things
he didnít have control over."
Marc Sonenshine coaches a basketball team for 9- and 10-year olds in Athens.
He said his father, who was his coach for 12 years, inspired him. "I try to
emulate everything he taught me," he said. "I think I learned a lot from my
dad not only about the sport but how to be a good role model for kids, having
"I think thatís really just who he is, looking out for everyone, I know
what he does for the three of us and I think it extends throughout the Jewish
community," Marc said.
When Kenny Sonenshine is not volunteering he plays basketball and spends
time with his wife and children, he said.
Sonenshine said he has followed in the footsteps of his friend, former MJCCA
President Howie Hyman. Hyman ran the basketball league and trained Sonenshine
to take over that position. When Sonenshine stopped serving as basketball
commissioner, Hyman asked him if he would become chairman of the recreation
and wellness committee.
Then the men co-chaired athletics for the Maccabi games. Sonenshine said
he would consider continuing to follow Hymanís footsteps into the presidency.
"Not right now," he said. Then, "If they want me to . . . the center has been
great to me and my family."