A shofar blew and then hundreds of runners and walkers of all ages took off along the beautiful Jamaica Estates trail leading to Cunningham Park for the 20th annual Jamaica Estates L’Chaim 5K Run/Walk for Israel.

“We came back strong,” one runner commented.

“It’s great to be back,” a walker said.

On Yom Yerushalayim, Sunday, May 29, a large group gathered at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates for this annual event, which, after two years of COVID virtual events, was back in full force. Rabbi Dov Lerner, the rav of the Young Israel, shared, “The energy is exuberant, the excitement is effervescent, and the good that the funds raised will do, are both inspiring and vital. It is a Yom Yerushalayim to remember.”

The idea for this event bloomed in 2001, during the second Intifada; the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates mobilized and formed a fundraising committee to help Israel. The event was renamed L’Chaim 5K in 2004 in memory of a young father, Chaim Bohorodzanner z”l, who was a member of the YIJE.

The community is grateful to the organizers of this year’s event, YIJE members Lenny Brafman, Susan Kass, Adam Orlow, and Dror Rosenfeld.

In the Young Israel’s ballroom, several local politicians spoke before the race this year, including New York State Assembly Member David Weprin, as well as

Council Members James Gennaro and Linda Lee. “Tzvi Rosenfeld and David Yudell led the singing of “HaTikvah” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Councilman Gennaro pointed out that this year the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates partnered with Achilles International, an organization that provides guides and weekly workouts for people with disabilities or who are recovering from a medical condition. Councilman Gennaro is a guide and Councilman Gennaro’s wife, Wendy Phaff Gennaro, who also ran in the race, is Director of Development at the Queens Center for Progress. She recently started a Queens chapter of Achilles International. The Queens chapter meets every Sunday morning at 9 a.m. in Flushing Meadow Park for a work-out, so this Sunday they came to the L’Chaim 5K run/walk instead and showed their support for Israel. One participant from the Achilles International group shared that “the guides are angels for us.” Another stated, “The Achilles group gave me support and gave me hope.”

Prior to the race, young children participated in a youth sprint on the closed-off 188th Street. Every child was presented with a medal by the Young Israel’s Youth Director, Jacob Herskowitz.

Dror Rosenfeld, one of the organizers of the event, welcomed everyone. Then Adam Orlow, another one of the organizers of the event, shared safety instructions and rules for the race/walk. Rabbi Mayer Waxman of the Queens Jewish Community Council blew the shofar for the start signal.

The sun sparkled on the bushes and trees in Jamaica Estates, as the runners and walkers traversed the lovely trail past mansions landscaped with splashes of colorful peony, rhododendron, and irises in full bloom. There was a feeling of camaraderie and excitement as participants passed water stations where volunteers cheered them on and pointed them towards the trail.

The final uphill towards the end of Cunningham Park inspired that last reserve burst of energy as runners and walkers sped or strolled towards the finish line. After the race, the entire community enjoyed ice cream, pizza, bananas, and other treats in the Young Israel ballroom while Rabbi Moshe Shur provided beautiful music for Yom Yerushalayim.

Mr. Orlow then announced the winners in each age category, and Mr. Rosenfeld presented the trophies to the winners. The sponsors also provided raffle prizes. Thousands of dollars were raised and will go directly to support important security and humanitarian needs in Israel.

Everyone left humming the beautiful music, happy to have participated in supporting Israel. Next year, G-d willing, Mashiach will have arrived and we will all be in Israel strolling a 5K L’Chaim!

(For more information about events at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, visit www.yije.org.)

 By Susie Garber