Last June Rabbi Daniel Cohen of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange downloaded a “Couch to 5k” application on his iPhone and began running. He mentioned to me that he had decided to train for a run. My immediate response: “I’ll do it with you,” and we began training together.
The next day, the temple’s preschool director, Carol Paster, joined in. It was then that I said, “Let’s get the whole senior staff to participate. It will be fun, and we will get in shape.”
With that, Team TSTI was born.
The entire senior staff spent the summer training. We began to tell congregants what we were doing and encouraged others to get outside and exercise. The more we talked about it, the more people wanted to run with us. We posted information about training on our recently revamped website, www.TSTI.org, listing the resources we use, some tips, and even the playlists that kept us motivated.
When we began to look for a race it soon became clear: We needed to do our own TSTI run in the streets surrounding the temple. So on Oct. 10 we held our first 5k. We had hoped to get 50 people to take part — but over 100 turned out. (Another 15 volunteered at the registration table and along the route.) The activity was multi-generational and represented a wonderful cross-section of our congregation.
We had a number of goals: We wanted to get people outside and doing something healthy. We made this a run/walk/roll so everyone could participate in their own way, especially since we are an ABLE-awarded congregation.
We wanted to stress protecting the environment and so gave each participant a reusable water bottle so they would stop buying plastic ones. We wanted to celebrate the Earth by planting trees in both the United States and Israel. And we wanted to build community.
Given our environmental concerns — especially in connection with our certification process by the New Brunswick-based Greenfaith organization — we are using half the $2,000 raised to plant trees in Israel, the other half to plant trees in the temple’s new prayer garden.
A huge mazal tov to Declan Wollard of Maplewood, the first participant to return from the run. On the staff side, Rabbi Cohen was the first of the senior staff to finish.
It really was a great day for TSTI, representing who we are: an innovative and diverse congregation devoted to Torah, learning, and the doing of mitzvot — in this case, a healthy one — and committed to our local community and to Israel.
A special thank you to Debbie Bernstein, who did an unbelievable job of arranging everything, and to the South Orange Police Department.