Photo Credit: Beatie Deutsch’s Facebook
Haredi Runner Beatie Deutsch.

Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch (née Rabin), 34, is a Haredi American-Israeli marathon runner who won the Tiberias Marathon and the Jerusalem Marathon, as well as the Israeli half-marathon and marathon national championships. Alas, being a faithful Jew has been detrimental to her career.

On Tuesday night, Deutsch posted on Facebook:

In 2019, the women’s marathon was scheduled for Friday night at the Doha World Championships.
No big deal, I thought… This was just a rare occasion where they put the race at night due to the extreme heat. My career was just getting started and there would be more opportunities.
In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the women’s marathon was moved to Saturday morning, once again precluding me from competing. I was extremely disappointed but there was nothing I could do.
Even once the Olympics were rescheduled due to the Corona, they still refused to make any religious accommodations (although they had done so in the past when Ramadan coincided with the London Olympics).
In 2023, Budapest World Champs once again scheduled the women’s marathon for Shabbat. And so even though I have qualified, I will not be able to compete.
I have kept Shabbat my entire life and it’s a mitzvah I cherish dearly. I never imagined myself even contemplating otherwise, and yet for the first time in my life, I found myself feeling pressure to compete on Shabbat.
“How can we keep funding you if you have yet to actually be part of an Israeli delegation??”
“I’m sure we can find a Rabbi who will tell you it’s OK.”
Suddenly, the struggle all our Jewish grandmothers faced back in the 1920s when they were told they’d lose their jobs if they didn’t show up on Saturday, feels a lot more real.
Will I lose my funding if I don’t prove myself and compete? I’m giving up such big opportunities Maybe this profession just isn’t viable for an Orthodox Jew?
And I wonder – Is there any room for religious accommodations in sports? Is there any way to make changes to the system? Can we respect religious beliefs among athletes?
I find myself doing the unthinkable and asking my rabbi if there’s some way I can run… I know in my heart I could never do it, but I have to ask.
I’m not surprised by his answer, only shocked that I even considered it.
And as I reflect on my journey, and the intense challenges and obstacles I’ve faced along the way, I know that the sacrifice I make for Shabbat, and the commitment I make to uphold this holy day, are the most precious choice I will take with me.

The Shulchan Aruch is clear on this issue (Shulan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 328:42): “No gymnastics are allowed [on Shabbat] whereby one forcefully pushes the body so that it labors and sweats.”

The Mishna Brura (100:130) notes that “the prohibition is over practicing medicine on Shabbat, and it appears that it is permissible to exercise on Shabbat if one has no intention of sweating.”

What about exercise whereby one sweats, very much so, but one’s purpose is not sweating, rather sweating is an unavoidable byproduct? Both Rambam and Rashi suggest that exercising on Shabbat is prohibited even if no sweating is involved (Be’ur Halacha).

However, many poskim rule that even so, running a marathon on Shabbat constitutes “Uvada d’Shabbat,” behavior that is appropriate on weekdays but not on Shabbat––regardless of whether or not any of there is a violation of the forbidden labors of Shabbat.

It’s heartbreaking. The only way to help the frustrated Haredi runner Beatie Deutsch is by applying pressure on all the sports federations that don’t give a hoot about Shomer Shabbes athletes, especially pressure from Jewish and Israeli groups that are out there defending minority rights around the globe.

Good luck.


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