Integrating personal challenge, good cause

Integrating personal challenge, good cause

Local runners talk about their Jerusalem Marathon experiences

Natania Casden, left, with some of her Connections teammates. Mordechai Cohen From left, Eli Adler and Joshua Bock of Teaneck, Eitan Bar-David of Riverdale, and Alex Shoenfeld from Englewood all ran in the Jerusalem Marathon.

Among some 25,000 runners in the Jerusalem International Marathon on March 21 were quite a few current or former North Jersey residents, many of them participating for the benefit of charities in the 5K or 10K portions of the route. The Jewish Standard talked to some running novices about what pushed them to the starting line.

“It was an awesome experience to see a lot of people you know, and people from different countries, all running together,” said Shmuel Knoller of Teaneck. The 18-year-old Torah Academy of Bergen County graduate was proud to finish the 10K in 47 minutes, 14 seconds as part of Team Butterfly.

This team of about 100 runners was raising money for the Jackson Gabriel Silver Foundation, an organization committed to finding a cure for epidermolysis bullosa, an extremely rare, painful, and life-threatening skin disease that causes blistering throughout the body.

The team was founded for the inaugural Jerusalem Marathon two years ago by David Beiss from Long Island, an EB patient who was studying at the gap-year yeshiva Torat Shraga in Jerusalem. Since then, Team Butterfly has been popular with Torat Shraga students such as Mr. Knoller and Joshua Bock, also of Teaneck.

Mr. Bock, who graduated from the Frisch School, said he raised about $400 by running the 10K for Team Butterfly. It was his first marathon, and although he did not train for it, he enjoyed the experience. “I would definitely do another of these,” he said.

Like Mr. Bock, Team Butterfly member Naomi Kadish of Teaneck had never tried long-distance running before, but she practiced by jogging up and down the hills near her gap-year yeshiva, Migdal Oz in the Gush Etzion area south of Jerusalem.

“It went really well,” she reported. A graduate of the Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, Ms. Kadish hadn’t heard of EB before, but now she has raised more than $500 to help find a cure.

Natania Casden, 26, raised about 1,850 shekels – $532 – for Connections, an educational not-for-profit organization, founded in 1998, that provides hands-on art, music, and sports projects to international Jewish communities, schools, synagogues, and camps in order to strengthen Jewish identity and an understanding of the challenges faced by Israeli soldiers and terror victims.

Ms. Casden, a Hebrew University student who made aliyah from Teaneck with her family in 2007, served in the Israel Defense Forces from 2008 to 2010 as a weapons technician.

“I managed to finish the 5K in 40 minutes; my original goal was to finish in an hour without passing out,” she quipped. “The hills were hard. I walked up them so as not to waste energy.”

Ms. Casden said she decided to participate after seeing a post on the Ma’aleh Adumim chat forum about a running group forming for the 5K in support of Connections.

“I thought, ‘Hey, I could do that,’ even though I never did running before,” she said. “I contacted the people involved at Connections and they said they’d love to have me join them.

“I figured if I am going to run, I may as well integrate a personal challenge with a good cause.”

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