Running as a mitzva

For Tzvi Himmelman, a 49-year-old father of five, the Tiberias Marathon will be his sixth, having run three in Chicago and twice before in Tiberias.

tzvi himmelman 88 298 (photo credit: Yocheved Miriam Russo)
tzvi himmelman 88 298
(photo credit: Yocheved Miriam Russo)
Tzvi Himmelman of Jerusalem has his own reason for running the marthon. He runs for charity. For Himmelman, a 49-year-old father of five, the Tiberias Marathon will be his sixth, having run three in Chicago and twice before in Tiberias. After graduating from law school at the University of Minnesota, he moved to Chicago. "I never practiced law. In Chicago, I made my living as a trader on the floor of the Chicago Options Exchange. That's good work but intense, so I needed something to keep me human. I started volunteering at Chicago Memorial Hospital, working with little kids who were injured or sick. When I moved to Jerusalem, I wanted to keep up the connection, helping kids, so when I decided to run my first marathon here, I thought it would be good to see if I could raise a little money for tzedaka (charity) at the same time." Himmelman says that he, too, benefits from running for charity. "In Chicago marathons, there were probably 10,000 other people running and crowds along the way, cheering and encouraging the runners. Here, with only 600 or so runners and no crowds at all, you have to occupy your mind with something. During that last three or four miles, when I'm really tired, what keeps me going is knowing that if I just keep on, I'll be able to help someone a little bit more." For his third Tiberias Marathon, Himmelman upped the ante on what he wants to donate to charity. "The first year I raised $3,500. No one else I knew of here in Israel was doing it, but I thought the idea of pledges was worthwhile - it would help others and inspire me. All I did was ask friends to pledge a certain amount to charity for each mile or kilometer I ran or just for finishing the race - however much they wanted to pledge. I knew that having a charitable goal would inspire me to keep running when I was getting tired." Last year, Himmelman exceeded the goal he'd set for himself. "I set out to raise $5,000 in pledges, but when all the pledges were in, I'd collected about $7,000. So my wife, Ruth, and I added $1,000 and we distributed just over $8,000 to charity. This year I'm hoping to collect $10,000 for charity. And again, Ruth and I will add 10% to whatever we collect and donate the whole thing." Himmelman designated three charities as his key beneficiaries, although he advises friends that if they prefer to pick their own charity, that's fine with him. In his plea for pledges, Himmelman e-mailed his supporters: "In 2004, the $8,000 went to three different recipients. One-third went to needy or hungry families, mostly in Jerusalem, chosen by a respected Rav in our Har Nof community. Another third was shared between Shalva and Gan Harmony, both of which are schools for children with special needs. The final third was given to a family that was a victim of terror. This year the distribution plan will be basically the same… All money raised will be distributed. There are no administrative costs - not a shekel. If any of you would like verification of the monies distributed, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the recipients directly." To help inspire Tzvi Himmelman with a pledge for charity, e-mail him at