Local runners to raise money for Israel’s Emunah children’s home
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Local runners to raise money for Israel’s Emunah children’s home

A crew of runners from this area is training to go the distance for an Emunah home in Israel.

The young men and women, from Bergen County and beyond, will hit the pavement at the ING Miami Half Marathon on Jan. 31 as part of Team Emunah. They are aiming to raise funds for the Bet Elazraki Children’s Home in Netanya for some 220 children (aged 4 to 18) from underprivileged backgrounds whose parents are unable to care for them.

Runners throughout the world descend on Florida annually for the ING Marathon, whose 13.1-mile route takes participants on a tour through Miami.

Elanit Lichtiger of Englewood, chairwoman of Team Emunah, volunteered three summers ago at Bet Elazraki and went back this past summer as a coordinator of the summer program at the home.

Many of the children come from dysfunctional families and need therapy, tutoring, and special attention from counselors and psychologists to help them reach their potential, said Lichtiger.

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Sara Faber, left, and Elanit Lichtiger, are taking part in a half-marathon to raise money for a children’s home in Israel. Courtesy Sara Faber

“We’re not just running a marathon,” said Lichtiger, a freshman at New York University and an avid runner. “We’re helping the children of Bet Elazraki. It’s such a happy place,” she added. “Even though the kids have been through so much, they really enjoy llfe.”

Lichtiger’s ties to Emunah run deep. “My grandmother was president of Emunah years ago,” she said, “and my parents have been very active over the years.”

She’s been training for the run for several months and hopes that each runner will raise at least $3,000 toward the cause. Thus far, the response to the newly formed Team Emunah has been positive, with 20 runners signed up from around New Jersey, New York, Florida, and other Jewish communities around the globe.

Deciding to launch the run-a-thon for the children’s home, she said, was a no-brainer. Lichtiger ran the ING Half Marathon last year and wanted to connect her love of running with her passion for the Emunah home.

She raised the idea of creating a “Team Emunah” to local Emunah leaders and they were enthusiastic, telling her to run with it.

Mindy Stein, national president of Emunah of America, who lives in Teaneck, said she was immediately impressed by the concept of Team Emunah. “Not only are the kids having fun and getting exercise through the run, they are learning about raising money for people who are not as fortunate,” she said.

Bet Elazraki is one of five Emunah homes in Israel. “The parents of many of the children there are on drugs, in jail, or are abusive,” said Stein. “At the home, the children are learning to have a normal life and they are able to learn Jewish values. They feel loved. The kids are getting a future and will be able to become independent members of Israeli society.”

Ronnie Faber, a Teaneck resident and Emunah field representative, added that the young men and women in Team Emunah are demonstrating a high level of commitment through their training for the race and their fund-raising efforts.

“All of them have spent a least a summer working in Bet Elazraki,” she said, “and have come away with the understanding that this is a place that changes children’s lives.”

Many of the runners, she said, are teenagers or college students who have volunteered at Bet Elazraki and want to raise awareness and funds so that it can continue its work successfully in the years to come.

Faber’s daughter, Sara, a senior at the Frisch School in Paramus, is on Team Emunah. She spent the last two summers volunteering at the children’s home and hopes to run the race, she said, as a way of showing her support for the children.

“This home is very dear to my heart. I have gotten to know these kids in a special way,” said Sara.

On her first night at the home, Sara said, she was tucking the children into bed when a 6-year-old girl began to cry.

“She needed some attention and TLC in order to fall asleep,” Sara recalled. “These kids all have different needs, but each of them needs love and care.”

She dreams of raising enough money someday to build them a swimming pool. “In the summer, it gets extremely hot in that part of Israel,” she noted, “and the kids love to spend time in the water.”

She has never run a marathon and is not sure how fast she will trek, having recently undergone orthopedic surgery, but she is determined to make it to the finish line, she said.

Anyone of any age is welcome to join the team, Lichtiger said, by registering on the Emunah website. Once participants sign up, they receive training calendars, nutritional advice, workshops, and support for the run.

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