Every Step You Take…to the Jerusalem Marathon

By Stephanie Dworkin, JCC Marketing Director

According to the Talmud, every 4 steps you take in Israel is a mitzvah (good deed).  This means for Rabbi Ephraim Epstein of Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill, a major mitzvah is on the horizon, as he prepares to run the Jerusalem Half Marathon on Friday, March 15.

Rabbi Epstein was athletic from his teens well into his late 30’s, but as time went on, he became too sedentary and as he revealed, “ate too many dinners. I was at a point that I said my years of athleticism had come to a conclusion. But, I was presented with an opportunity to learn how to run.”

Through the Rabbis Can Run program, Rabbi Epstein received the necessary training and encouragement to complete the Jerusalem 10K last year.  He lost over 30 pounds and his doctor was incredibly impressed with the improvements to his physical health.

Rabbis Can Run is an initiative created to enable Rabbis to improve their health, learn how to push past their limits while also helping to bring needed funds that support a great cause.  Each Rabbi Can Run participant benefits from personalized training and receives the necessary support to successfully complete the race and share a special Shabbos together in Israel.

Rabbi Epstein Sons of Israel Cherry Hill NJ
Rabbi Epstein trains at the JCC. He came by the J the day before he departed for Israel for one last workout.

During the winter months, Rabbi Epstein chooses the Katz JCC as his place to train.  He hops on the treadmills in the Fitness Center and is thankful for the trainers who set him up to use the machine’s marathon mode.  “The trainers here are excellent,” he said.  “It’s always so nice to be greeted by the staff, and I’ve made some friends here, too,” In the warmer weather, Rabbi Epstein enjoys running outside as well, especially in Cooper River Park.

For many, running a race like a half marathon poses the question, “What do I listen to for so long?!” Rabbi Epstein shared that he turns to fast-paced Jewish music when he runs.  “I’ll make a playlist on the plane over to Israel,” he said.  “When a song has a good beat, I like to run to that beat. It feels like I’m dancing to the beat of the music.  I don’t get to listen to music as much as I used to, so running has brought back the pleasure in life of music.”  (His choice of streaming service? Spotify.)

In addition to the race, Rabbi Epstein will be traveling in Israel and spend time with his daughter, a seminary student.  He and his wife, Debi, are also looking forward to introducing their homeland to their 14 year old son, Zev on what will be his first trip to Israel.  He has received lots of responses from Sons of Israel congregants full of encouragement and luck.

“What seems obvious is that everyone is capable of a lot more than they can find in themselves, but have to find the strategy and equation to achieve it,” he said.  Rabbi Epstein is a true example of this, having overcome obstacles and achieving a goal to be proud of.

Good luck, Rabbi Epstein!

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