What sets the Jewish people apart from the rest of the world is our ability to infuse everyday life with kedushah, elevating the mundane to a higher plane.
The 60 runners that ran a 200-kilometer race last Wednesday night from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to Sullivan Community College weren’t running for glory. They didn’t face 125 miles of grueling heat so that they could have bragging rights. The men who ran through the night and into the next day, did it for one reason and one reason only; to raise money for Mendy, a 39-year-old Flatbush father of five who is fighting Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Living with ALS is an expensive proposition. Not only are those stricken with this incurable, degenerative ailment faced with a loss of income, they also incur staggering medical bills. Like so many others before them, Shmayie Friedman, Motty Katz and Chezky Rosenblum, co-founders of Jrunners, decided to organize a fundraiser to help a friend and his family. Instead of organizing a dinner, barbeque, or shiur, they planned a unique event: a 125- mile marathon, through Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey and Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties.
The runners were an eclectic bunch, with 12-year old Chaim Rosenblum, son of JRunners co-founder Chezky Rosenblum, the youngest of the group, whose members hailed from near and far. By the time the race ended in Loch Sheldrake this group of men were all inextricably bound together by their willingness to help someone most of them had never even met.
The air in Prospect Park was electric when the race finally kicked off at 9 p.m., with Shea Rubenstein singing both HaTikvah and The Star Spangled Banner. The course took the runners from Prospect Park over the Brooklyn Bridge, up the path sandwiched between the West Side Highway and the Hudson River and over the George Washington Bridge. As the runners continued along the magnificent Palisades overlooking the Hudson, making their way north through Bergen County, New Jersey, the first major exchange point took place at the CNBC parking lot in Fort Lee. Crowds of people who came to cheer on the runners enjoyed catering by Carlos and Gabby’s and an Eli Beer kumzitz that ran from 10 p.m.- 1 a.m.
All along the course the runners experienced a special sense of camaraderie and marveled at the spirit of unity that prevailed despite differences in race, religion, level of observance and age. The teams ran through the damp night air, making their way to the Wesley Kosher shopping center in Monsey where two Shacharis minyanim, a live broadcast with JM in the AM’s Nachum Segal, and a sumptuous Bubba’s Bagels breakfast awaited them. After filling their stomachs, they attended to their neshamos with words of inspiration by Rabbi Bentzion Shafier.
As the day grew warmer, many of the runners found the running strenuous, but they persevered. The Pine Island exchange point, the last before the finish line, was the location for Minchah and a much-needed lunch of overstuffed deli subs with all the trimmings and even saut?ed liver, supplied by House of Glatt of Crown Heights.
The excitement was palpable in the Loch Sheldrake air as the first group of runners approached the finish line at Sullivan Community College Thursday afternoon. Thousands went wild as Moishe Gams, whose foot was run over by a car during the first leg of the race yet still managed to complete his 12