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In 1986, I was hired to work at a corporate law firm as a mailroom supervisor. The senior partnerswere very successful Jewish men who specialized in corporate law. As I started to familiarize myself with the company’s interior, I admired the impressive paintings and antique furniture. However, it was one particular framed picture that most captured my attention and curiosity because it had nothing to do with the concept and law theme of the company.
The framed picture belonged to one of the senior partners, M. S. It was a poster of the New York City Marathon which he ran and proudly displayed. Mr. S. once told me that he was a Holocaust survivor who fled from Germany when he was a little boy to escape the atrocities that would follow the millions of Jewish people in Europe.Years later, this gentleman went to college and to graduate school and succeeded in becoming a senor corporate lawyer.
What I found fascinating was that the poster of the marathon he ran in contained the number of his entry which to him was the crowning achievement as significant as his accomplishments in law and his personal life. Although he never explained why that achievement was so monumental to him, he proudly wanted to be given recognition for it.
After I assessed all of the tribulations and successes of this man I finally understood why running in the marathon was an accumulation of the total achievements, successes and triumphs of his life. That shining moment when he reached the finish line was for him a total validation that would be with him for the rest of his life, and that New York City Marathon poster, which represented his participation, tied it all together.
After dealing with the questions I posed in my assignment, William brought his paper to a personal close:
Being a blind person who lost his sight 13 years ago, I’ve been faced with many challenges throughout these recent years. I know what it is to hold some dreams and to lose others. However, just like my former boss who proudly displayed his New York City Marathon poster, I know what it is to enter a race of challenging issues that we face in life. It now blows my mind as I write this because this book has inspired me to run in the next New York City Marathon.
I think this (almost fifty-year-old) blind man has a lot of chutzpah planning to run in the marathon. I may be probably the last one to cross the finish line, but the experience will cap the goals of others who enter with disabilities and limitations. I’ve suffered many disappointments and denied opportunities since I lost my vision. I want to run in the race because I not only feel as a New Yorker I should take advantage of the opportunity, but because like my former boss, I want to make it one of my crowning successes.
Clearly, my multiethnic students identified with Fred Lebow’s humanistic vision of renewal and inclusiveness. Hopefully, the story of this magical marathon – created by a Holocaust survivor no less humbly born than they – will spur their own dreams about also becoming King of New York for a day.
About the Author: Ron Rubin is a senior political scientist at CUNY and author most recently of “A Jewish Professor's Political Punditry” (Syracuse University Press, 2013).
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Thanks to Fred Lebow, founder of the New York City Marathon, some 500,000 Americans will run in marathons this year. In my book Anything for a T-Shirt: Fred Lebow and the New York City Marathon, the World’s Greatest Footrace (Syracuse University Press, 2004), I show how Lebow, a Holocaust survivor, changed the notion of this 26.2 mile race, which this year will be held on Sunday, Nov. 5, from a grueling, sweaty showcase for elite runners into a people’s competition.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/fred-lebow-and-pol-101/2006/10/18/
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