J. wins 3 national awards from Jewish press group

Jewish kickboxer Brian Schwartz retired last year as an undefeated champion, but he’s just picked up another win.

J.’s profile of the San Francisco-born, San Mateo-raised Peninsula Temple Sholom congregant took home top honors at the American Jewish Press Association’s Simon Rockower Awards, one of three prizes for j.

J. writer Joe Eskenazi won the David Frank Award for excellence in personality profiles for “Knockout! In this corner: San Mateo’s world-champion kickboxer Brian Schwartz,” a glance into Schwartz’s frenetic life in the gym and improbable rise from suburbia to the pinnacle of a rough and violent sport.

J. scored a second knockout in the overall graphic design category, winning first place at the AJPA conference, which was held last week in Baltimore. Judges gave j. the nod based on the overall graphic content of three complete 2005 editions: The Feb. 4 volume featuring a cover story on Asian Jews; the Feb. 11 edition featuring a cover story about genealogy, and the June 17 volume with its cover story about a meeting between Holocaust survivors and Japanese American internees.

Finally, j. scored more Rockower points in the excellence in commentary division, with Rachel Sarah, one of the rotating writers of “The Column,” finishing third on the basis of three submitted pieces about life a single Jewish mother in the East Bay.

Eskenazi’s piece on Schwartz opened with an amusing yet horrifying memory (or lack thereof) from one of Schwartz’s early fights:

Brian Schwartz’s arms dangled at his sides as he sat on the trainer’s table soaking in the pungent odors of sweat and leather. His piercing hazel eyes stared at nothing in particular.

“Ugly fight, eh?” Schwartz said.

His trainer, Eddie Croft, caught Schwartz’s eye.

“Yeah, Brian, real ugly.”

Schwartz paused.

“Did I win?”

Croft sucked in his breath.

“Yeah, you did.”

“How? Decision or a knockout?”

“K.O., Brian. Second round.”

“Oh. Ugly fight, eh?”

“Yeah, Brian, real ugly.”

Schwartz paused.

“Did I win?”

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