Born To Run
Metro Detroit’s Jewish running community is tightknit and strong.
In the early morning hours of May 5, two groups of Jewish runners — one organized by committee to honor Israel’s 65th birthday, one organized on the fly to donate money to One Fund Boston — combined their “sweat equity” on the West Bloomfield Trail.
The Run for Israel 5K was part of a daylong Temple Shir Shalom/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit-sponsored event that included a kosher lunch and Walk for Israel later in the day. T-shirts were issued for the 100 runners who participated.
Run for Your Life was organized by one runner on Facebook. Runners ran at their own pace between 5K and 18 miles, and ran “at least one minute in solidarity with Boston.” There was no official T-shirt, and no way to calculate the number of miles run or money donated to the fund because it was left up to the individuals involved.
But the run — and the three stories that follow — show that, official or not, the Jewish running community is strong.
If you happen to be running on the West Bloomfield Trail early on a Friday afternoon, don’t be surprised if you get passed by three rabbis running stride-for-stride, talking about their sermons or philosophizing.
Rabbis Josh Bennett, of Temple Israel, Michael Moskowitz and Daniel Schwartz, both of Temple Shir Shalom, have been running 3-6 miles
together almost every Friday since 2008 as a way to prepare for Shabbat.
“Besides the enjoyment, friendship and motivation, often the time is good to clear our heads to mentally prepare for the Shabbos and the business of our weekends,” Moskowitz said. “But the time is looked forward to by all three of us as an opportunity to change our ‘pace’ and share some time together.”
Moskowitz ran cross country in high school and ran in college. Schwartz ran middle distance and steeplechase in college. Bennett started running in middle age after the birth of his first child.
“At the time, I was meeting with a couple who were about to get married. They became engaged on the finish line of the Chicago Marathon, and I was inspired,” Bennett said. “I came home that day and announced to my wife that I planned to run a marathon as well … and her response was skeptical, at best.”
He bought a running book, and one year later he ran his first of five marathons.
“Running for me is a spiritual venture each time I go outside,” he said. “I do not listen to music, instead choosing to become in tune with the natural world. It is a meditation, of sorts, and I am restored by the experience.”
Schwartz has run one marathon — ironically named the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati — and also trains for an annual five-day bike ride in Israel.
“Running helps me appreciate God’s gifts — both beauty of the world around us and our personal physical abilities,” he said. “Interpreting a Maimonides quote — ‘If we live a sedentary life and do not exercise, throughout our lives we will be subject to aches and pains and our strength will fail us.’ I don’t believe that Maimonides was simply referring to our physical strength. Routine exercise also strengthens our mental, emotional and spiritual strength.”
Moskowitz said that wherever he’s been, his running shoes go with him.
“This winter, with a family mission to Israel, as Jerusalem was closing down before Shabbat, I took six individuals with me for a run around the city and shared some of my favorite places and places of my own ‘history’ in my favorite city,” he said. “We three rabbis the past three years have been attending the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. — and during a break, we, along with 10 of our congregants who were at the conference, did a great 5-mile run around the Mall.
“I find running to be personal, spiritual and communal,” Moskowitz added. “I enjoy going out for a run to clear my mind, but I also love the opportunity to connect with others in the midst of a good run.”
After watching this year’s Boston Marathon play out on television, runner Miriam Silverstein of West Bloomfield decided to contact her 914 Facebook friends and organize an impromptu group run she called “Run for Your Life” on the West Bloomfield Trail, with donations going to One Fund Boston.
Silverstein said she tried to calculate mileage and provide runners with a general route that would equal 18 miles — to celebrate life.
Because numbers and small details are not her strong suit, she said she relied on the runners themselves to measure their own mileage and donate money to One Fund Boston on their own. Meanwhile, she worked on the big picture, “encouraging people to run, have fun and come together as a community while benefitting the greater good,” said Silverstein, who began running two years ago and hasn’t missed a day since.
The fact that the run was merged with a Federation-sponsored Run for Israel 5K on the same day at the same place only made it better, she said.
Silverstein runs in a group on weekends, meeting at 9 a.m. every Monday morning on the trail, rain or shine.
“I consider running as a commitment and medium of surprise, pushing physical, mental and spiritual growth,” said Silverstein, who has two boys and a supportive husband.
She does strength training at the Jewish Community Center to stay injury-free, but she’d rather be running. “Sometimes running gives me a good endorphin rush, while strength training rarely does.”
In addition to her daily runs, she runs with and supports 32 other women. “I run with them, support them via text messages and encourage them to pay this forward to encourage others to run,” she said.
Kimberly Schon of West Bloomfield is one of those 32 women. She logged 13.5 miles that day in preparation for the Stony Creek Half Marathon.
Schon has been running on and off for about three years and calls it a way to refocus.
“It helps me relax, and it’s also a nice way to have some ‘me time,’’’ she said. She runs on the treadmill during the week because baby-sitting for her three kids is offered at the gym.
“I much prefer to run outside,” she said. “Running on the treadmill does not give me the same feeling as outside.”
Encouraged by his seventh-grade teacher at Detroit’s Cerveny Junior High School in 1956 to go out for track, Ed Kozloff has led a life of learning, teaching and running.
He became captain of Cooley High School’s track and cross-country teams and an All-City runner. He ran track and cross-country at Wayne State University, ran the first two Motor City Marathons in 1963 and 1964 (which became the Free Press Marathon in 1978) and eventually became the race director of the Free Press Marathon and at least 1,000 other races.
“My very active running years ended in the mid-1970s, after I became an officer in the Motor City Striders in 1972,” he said. “I have been the president since 1975, and believe it is the longest tenure for a major running club in the United States.”
At one time, the Striders had 1,400 members and were one of the five largest clubs in the country. Starting in 2005, the club reduced its schedule and is involved in about eight races a year. The group of about 100 people no longer meets to run together.
“Our basic function is to conduct the races that are still on our schedule,” said Kozloff, who lives with his wife of 45 years in Huntington Woods. “We also award two scholarships to a boy and girl high school runner from the Detroit Public Schools.”
Kozloff taught health, physical education, social studies and science for 36 years with the Warren Consoli-
dated School System and has been a cross-country coach at Schoolcraft College for five years.
He has won numerous civic and running-related honors, including City of Huntington Woods Citizen of the Year; Michigan Runner Magazine Runner of the Year and Runner of the Quarter Century; Road Runners Club of America President of the Year; Amateur Athletic Union of the United States Long Distance Running Chairman of the Year; Teacher of the Year, Beer Junior High School, Warren Consolidated Schools; and high score and record performance in the U.S. Army Reserve Basic Training fitness test.
Although he no longer runs, he considers running an activity with no limits.
“Unlike other sports, there are no losers,” he said. “The sport — and the run — is within oneself. Try to improve the distance you can run, try to improve your time. Weather is not a limiting factor — too hot, too cold, runners adapt and enjoy their run if it’s training or racing.”