Israelis, Pittsburghers to unite in upcoming marathon

Israelis, Pittsburghers to unite in upcoming marathon

First-graders at Community Day School enjoy Skyping with Israeli runners. (Photo provided by Community Day School)
First-graders at Community Day School enjoy Skyping with Israeli runners. (Photo provided by Community Day School)

After an overseas flight, what better way to relax than run 26.2 miles in a hilly foreign city? On May 3, 10 Israeli runners from Karmiel and the Misgav region will be doing just that. The group, along with mayors from Karmiel and Misgav, are traveling to Pittsburgh to participate in the upcoming 2015 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.

The idea of bringing Israelis to Pittsburgh to run is the brainchild of Skip Grinberg with Partnership2Gether. Grinberg, former chair of both the marathon and Partnership2Gether (a sister-city partnership between the Pittsburgh Jewish community and Karmiel/Misgav), recognized the opportunity several years ago.

In 2013, representatives from Naucalpan, Pittsburgh’s sister city in Mexico, traveled to Pittsburgh to participate in the marathon. The venture facilitated “goodwill” between the cities, explained Grinberg.

“It was such a great experience for us,” echoed marathon CEO Patrice Mata-

moros. “We wanted to expand that.”

While the marathon organizers wished to explore additional foreign relationships, Partnership2Gether had been entertaining proposals for connecting members of Karmiel and Misgav with the Pittsburgh Jewish community, said Cindy Goodman-Lieb, co-chair of the program. Recognizing the desires of both groups, Grinberg brought together representatives from each organization.

After the parties signed on, feelers were put out in Israel. Ultimately, runners conversant in English and possessing “a decent marathon time” were selected.

While Grinberg described the runners’ upcoming visit as “a goodwill trip,” other initiatives are underway.

On Friday, Karmiel Mayor Adi Eldar and Misgav Pittsburgh Mayor Ron Shani will meet with Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, noted Matamoros and Grinberg. The four civic leaders will participate in a news conference at the opening of the marathon’s Expo. The Israeli mayors are also scheduled to meet with local business leaders.

Connecting all of the Israeli visitors to Pittsburgh is a principal aim of Partnership2Gether. An itinerary is being developed with various opportunities for the Israelis to learn about the Pittsburgh Jewish community, explained Goodman-Lieb. Dr. Jennifer Rudin, a member of the marathon’s board of directors, will also guide the Israelis on a running tour of Pittsburgh. This should provide participants a chance to “shake their legs out before race day,” explained Matamoros.

Members of the community have been preparing for the delegation’s arrival. Leora Friedman, first grade teacher at Community Day School, had her students communicate with the runners via Skype.

While the project has increased students’ literacy and perspectives, Friedman is familiar with the experience. For the past two years, Friedman has orchestrated a pen pal program between her students and elite African runners. Through letters, the students have learned what the runners like to eat, how many run barefoot and what life is like in Africa. As an added treat, many of the runners have visited Friedman’s classroom prior to running in the marathon.

“We’ve had Kenyans, Burundians and mainly Ethiopians,” explained Friedman.

On Marathon day, Friedman and her students will travel to the corner of Wilkins and Fifth avenues to cheer the runners, holding homemade signs of encouragement. While this spot, near the 14 mile mark, has previously served as the Community Day School Cheering Zone, representatives of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will stand alongside Friedman and her students to support the Israeli runners.

“We want people to come out and cheer,” said Debbie Swartz, overseas planning associate for the Federation.

After the marathon, the Federation will have a tent in Point State Park where “people can come out and congratulate the runners,” said Swartz. And on Sunday night, “we are hosting a reception at the JCC at 7, celebrating 20 years of Partnership2Gether. … We would love for people to come out and celebrate with us.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at

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