The weather was perfect on Sunday, May 26, as runners and walkers gathered in the public school yard near the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates for the 22nd annual L’Chaim 5K Run/Walk for Israel. The Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was the main sponsor, as always. Boots for Israel, a chesed organization that has sent 52,000 pairs of new boots with personalized notes to Israeli soldiers, was set up next to a table for the organization Israel Chesed Center, which also sends gear to soldiers.

Dror Rosenfeld, one of the organizers of the event, welcomed everyone. He shared that it was the biggest turnout, as everyone feels the need to support and celebrate Eretz Yisrael. This event was started by Rabbi Shlomo and Rebbetzin Karen Hochberg 22 years ago to show support to Israel during the Intifada.

Rabbi Dov Lerner, Rav of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, led T’hilim on behalf of Israel. He said that fire needs oxygen, fuel, and heat. The walkers and runners were getting ready to light a fire. “We have passion,” he said. “We need the atmosphere from you, the participants.”

Following this, Assemblyman David Weprin spoke. He noted how, when this event began, there was a lot of anti-Semitism. Israel was under siege and needed our support. Karen Hochberg said that we had to help Israel. Now, 22 years later, we are under siege. Israel is at war and there is more anti-Semitism. Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East. Hamas is a terrorist organization and Israel is just defending itself.

Next, Justice Casandra Johnson, of the New York State Supreme Court, shared, “I love the energy. It’s an honor to be here. This is a time to get together and show how we support each other.” She is running for Queens Surrogate Court judge.

After this, Jason, a trainer, helped everyone in the audience warm up in preparation for the Run/Walk.

Then, Tzvi Rosenfeld sang Israel’s National Anthem, HaTikvah. After that, David Yudell sang the Star-Spangled Banner, the National Anthem of the United States. Musical accompaniment was Eli Dachs and Seth Maza. At the end of the race, they performed a live concert.

The first race was for children ages 2-13, and everyone who completed the short sprints received a medal.

The actual race began with a shofar blowing. The group of 221 runners and walkers then took off. They wound their way past lovely mansions. Police kindly stood at almost every corner as the participants passed by. The last leg of the race was through Cunningham Park.

Runners and walkers were then treated to ice cream, fruit, and/or pizza.

Some people pushed double-strollers or strollers. There was lots of camaraderie and a happy feeling as each person crossed the finish line.

Baruch Hashem, this writer crossed the finish line this year with a friend in less than an hour. There were participants of all ages all the way up to age 75.

The main organizers of the race were Dror Rosenfeld, Lenny Brafman, Adam Orlow, and Susan Kass. There were multiple sponsors and vendors. All participants received a free T-shirt.

Linda Spiegel, Director of Public Affairs for Margaret Tietz, said she was glad to be at the run, representing Margaret Tietz, which is always happy to help the community. She shared that the facility has a full-time rabbi, Rabbi Zavel Pearlman, and it is a big supporter Israel and the Jewish community. “We are proud to be a big sponsor this year of the L’Chaim 5k Run/Walk for Israel.”

After the trophy awards ceremony, there was a concert. There was also a bounce house.

Next year, we should all be in Yerushalayim, enjoying our 5K there!

By Susie Garber