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Runners cross finish line for Chai Lifeline

 
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The Shachnovitz family of Fair Lawn at the Miami Marathon. From left, Yitzchak, Sura, Sivan and Batsheva. Photo by Abe Fishweicher

At Mile 18 of the ING Miami Marathon, 19-year-old Sivan Shachnovitz of Fair Lawn wasn’t sure she’d make it another step, let alone to the finish line. Just in time, her grandmother and a family friend bypassed the sawhorses and handed her energy-boosting jellybeans. Her mother and siblings met her around mile 24, walked beside her awhile, and cheered her on to the finish line, where her father awaited. It took her six and a half hours, but she made it the whole 26.2 miles.

Shachnovitz — and her 13-year-old brother Barak, who completed the half-marathon despite an earlier ankle injury — were among 250 marathoners running in support of Chai Lifeline at Miami Beach on Jan. 31. “Team Lifeline” garnered $1.2 million for the international organization, which aids seriously ill Jewish children and their families with programs including the medically supervised Camp Simcha.

A whole contingent of Bergen and Passaic runners and supporters flew down for marathon weekend. In exchange for a commitment to raise at least $3,600 each, or $3,000 each for a family team, marathoners received plane tickets and accommodations at the Eden Roc hotel, including kosher pre-race pasta and post-race victory parties.

For the Shachnovitz kids, the marathon doubled as a gesture for their seriously ill father, Yossi. “Most of you know that my father is a very proud man who does not take money from anyone, under any circumstances,” wrote Sivan in a fund-raising message. “But … when we told him we were raising the money purely for someone else, in the hopes that in its merits he will be granted a full and total recovery, my father was thrilled.”

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Sivan and Barak Shachnowitz of Fair Lawn raised $30,000 in pledges for Chai Lifeline. Abe Fishweicher

That thought kept the siblings going throughout the tough training period. “It got hard when it was snowing outside. One time it hailed during our training run. I don’t know if you get extra points for that,” Shachnovitz joked. “We did think about giving up, but the fact that we were raising money was a great incentive. If we didn’t run, we’d let everyone down.”

Encouraged by Abe Fishweicher, president of Cong. Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn, the Shachnovitzes raised a total of $30,000 in pledges and were recognized as top team fund-raisers. Fishweicher and his wife, Renee, came down for the race, as did other Shachnovitz supporters, including siblings Yitzchak, 17, and Batsheva, 10 1/2.

Shachnovitz said she and Barak, a student at YBH in Passaic, are already psyched for next year’s run. “But I think next time I’ll do the half-marathon,” she said with a laugh.

Mother of five Eva Rothberg completed the half marathon and raised $13,610 for Chai Lifeline, placing her in the top 10 individual fund-raisers for the day. “I made it in 1:57:20,” the Teaneck resident reported. “I would have considered doing the whole marathon, but I had a stress fracture in the summer. I was running eight miles a couple of times a week and then had to start all over after healing.”

Rothberg’s husband, Mordy, was once a Camp Simcha counselor and now is on the board of Chai Lifeline. Many of his colleagues — Jewish and gentile — in the insurance industry contributed to the cause.

“There was 90 percent humidity that morning,” Rothberg related. “During the first hour, from 6:15 to 7:15, it was bad, but then we had a light, misty rain and some cool breezes.”

Aviva Mouldovan of Teaneck, a special-ed and gym teacher at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge, started training in July for her maiden marathon. “Chai Lifeline was actively involved in helping the family of a friend of mine, who unfortunately lost her nephew,” said Mouldovan. “They were looking for some way to give back.”

Although halfway through the run she “wanted to call a cab and get out of there,” she finished the full marathon in about five and a half hours. “When it begins, you’re on this high. It feels wonderful to know you are part of something so big,” Mouldovan said. “At the end, there is this feeling of hearing people cheering and knowing you’re almost there.”

Jonathan Tiger, a 33-year-old father of three from Bergenfield, said he ran in memory of his aunt, who passed away from cancer more than 10 years ago. “A couple of my friends from Florida had done it, and exercise is not a bad thing,” said the first-time marathoner. “I got the feeling in my legs back sometime this week,” he reported with a laugh, one week after the event.

According to Team Lifeline official Raizy Poll, Chai Lifeline began its relationship with the Miami Marathon five years ago. Just 25 runners participated then.

Additional participants from North Jersey included Yoni Schwartz and David Ashendorf of Bergenfield; Rena Rosenberg of Englewood; Benji Weintraub, Esther Greer, Jeffrey Ruttner, Judith Elk, Laura Frayman, Michal Arieh, Rabbi Pesach Sommer, and Tehilah Kaplan of Passaic; and Tova Cohen-Jacob, Brenda Kenter, Dahlia Friedman, Ephraim Feman, Jonathan Stavsky, Shifra Shafier, Tamar and Uri Edell, Avri Szafranski, Tamar Lowe, and Banji and Jack Ganchrow of Teaneck.

Ashendorf said he was most impressed that Jack Ganchrow, a Yeshivat Noam eighth-grader, organized an afternoon prayer service for the runners at the airport.

 
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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

Tips for fighting campus anti-Israel activity

Local groups combine to give advice for college students and parents

If you have been paying attention to the news lately, you know that anti-Israel sentiment and activity on college campuses is growing. Many of these hate-based initiatives pass the “3D” anti-Semitism litmus test developed by Nathan Sharansky and adopted by the U.S. State Department. They are the new face of anti-Semitism our teens must be prepared to counter as they head off to college.

For example, mock eviction notices were slipped under some colleges’ dorm room doors by pro-Palestinian groups who say that forced evictions are part of Israel’s “apartheid policies” ... to “cleanse the region of its Arab population.” Lie-filled Israeli Apartheid Week campaigns have become annual campus events. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is trying to gain a foothold on campus as well, led by student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine as well as by pro-Palestinian community groups and even some high profile anti-Zionist Jews like Max Blumenthal.

 

The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

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