Ultra-orthodox mom of five wins half marathon in Riga, representing Israel

Deutsch won the Jerusalem Marathon and is a candidate to train for the Olympics in Tokyo next year.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
May 21, 2019 16:26
 ISRAELI-AMERICAN Beatie Deutsch just began running seriously three years ago, and already she has w

ISRAELI-AMERICAN Beatie Deutsch just began running seriously three years ago, and already she has won the Tiberias Marathon and has her sights set on the 2020 Olympics. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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A 29 year-old ultra-Orthodox lecturer and mother of five children, Beatie Deutsch, won the Riga Half Marathon in Latvia on Sunday – at a time of one hour, 17 minutes and 34 seconds, making her the first haredi to win an international competition, according to the website Kikar Hashabat.

The New Jersey native – who always runs in modest attire which includes a head covering, skirt and long sleeves – started her career later than usual.

“If I hadn’t begun running three years ago I would have never discovered that I had this gift and reach these huge goals,” Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch, Israel’s running sensation exclaimed to The Jerusalem Post earlier this year.

“I began running in October 2015. I made my decision to train for my first marathon in desperation to get back into shape. I was always athletic and enjoyed sports, but having four children in six years, I just couldn’t find time to consistently exercise.”

Deutsch came in second the Jerusalem Half Marathon and is a candidate to train for the Olympics in Tokyo next year.

“I’m working with my own coach now that Israel is partially funding my training. I was accepted as a candidate to train for the Olympics. I would have to meet certain criteria to make it to the games in Tokyo 2020. It’s a process and I have to take step by step.”

Juggling her family, running, work and religion is definitely a challenge, says Deutsch, but it’s one that she is up for.

“My whole life I wanted to do something for the Jewish people. I work at OLAMI, an organization that brings college students closer to religion as well as helping professionals get in touch with their roots by coming to Israel. It’s amazing that I was able to combine my passions with the goal of bringing more unity to the Jewish people.”

Beatie created more headlines when she won the Tiberias Marathon, known as the Israeli Championship on January 4 with a time of 2:42. This put her squarely on center stage as a potential Olympic athlete.

“I needed something that would force me to train, like a marathon. I knew that would be something that I would have to put in the training for and not something that I could just show up and wing it. Once I made the decision to go for it, I stuck to a four-month training plan, running four times a week as I got ready for my first marathon in 2016 in Tel Aviv. Incredibly, my first marathon was a full 42 kilometers.”


Her husband, Michael, has been a supporter from day one and helped encourage her along.

 
DEUTSCH, WHO made Aliyah in 2009, also uses her running to raise money for a very important cause.

“Beit Daniella was founded in memory of my cousin Daniella Pardes, who took her own life at the age of 14 due to anorexia. After having been in the hospital for a number of months she had a tough time reintegrating into society. In her memory we are building a rehabilitative center for children and teens that need support and who are struggling to reintegrate. The center will be in Tzur Hadassa and so far I have raised over $30,000 and I will continue to do that in every race that I run.

“Running gave me an incredible empowering experience in my life to have the mental strength to know that I can handle anything that is thrown my way,” Deutsch continued. “People train their whole lives to go to the Olympics and I just uncovered this special gift that I have. Many of us have things that we are capable of, but we don’t realize because we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to push ourselves. The idea of running is experiencing what we are capable of, and Beit Daniella is going to be a place to help these teens who are suffering to realize what they can do. This will be a place where they can work on themselves and tap into their self-esteem and their special gifts.”

“Running wasn’t something that I had ever strived for. But I am happy to share my accomplishments to inspire and motivate people to take care of themselves and to raise funds for Beit Daniella. I want to help empower people to feel proud of their Judaism and that you can be 100% committed to your values along the way.”

 
DEUTSCH WAS recently the “poster girl” for the upcoming Tel Aviv Marathon as she shared the day with Mayor Ron Huldai and Israel’s first Olympic medalist Yael Arad. The publicity she has garnered may be more than she bargained for, but it allows her to share a special message.

“In Tel Aviv, running, health and sports is like a religion and for some people it’s replaced their identity and relationship with God. I’m not here to tell anyone what to do and I’ll never be a judge, but by being a competitive athlete my focus will always be on my relationship with God and Judaism, my values and my family.

“You can never forget who you are as a person and we are much more than a body, but also a soul. Our bodies are just a vessel for our souls. If you would spend your whole life just developing your body you would miss out on a lot in life. I’m willing to put myself in the spotlight to deliver this message. The fact that I can run fast is a gift from God and we are expected to develop that gift and use it to the fullest, but you can’t be successful without acknowledging where your strength is coming from. I begin every race with an acknowledgment that God is the source of my strength. I feel through running that I am an ambassador of Judaism and what it stands for.”

Joshua Halickman and Cassandra Gomes-Hochberg contributed to this report.

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