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Rabbi Rockoff aims to get fit while raising money for Israeli charity

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Rabbi Rockoff runs twice a week in preparation for Rabbis Can Run, a 10K event held in conjunction with the Jerusalem Marathon to raise money for Kav L’Noar of Israel.

If you’ve seen a man running in the area of 99th and Antioch wearing a BIAV Minayn Man sweatshirt, it’s likely you’ve caught a glimpse of Rabbi Dani Rockoff training for his first ever 10K run. Rabbi Rockoff and two other North American rabbis will be participating in the inaugural Rabbis Can Run event to raise money for Kav L’Noar of Israel. The rabbis will be running the 10K portion of the Jerusalem Marathan, set for March 17 in Jerusalem.

A 10K is 6.2 miles, and it’s a race Rabbi Rockoff has never done before. When he heard about Rabbis Can Run, it piqued his interest.

“I know their founder, psychologist Dr. Ronald Wachtel, who moved to Israel in 2002 and started the organization,” explained Rabbi Rockoff. “The idea is to encourage rabbis who are not necessarily known for having a lot of time for exercise or pensions for keeping fit to give them a program for fitness and running and at the same time get support for their organization.”

Kav L’Noar (kavlnoar.org ) is a special family center in Israel that provides subsidized behavioral and emotional rehabilitative services to adolescents at risk and their families that was founded in 2004. Besides the money raised by the running rabbis, Kav L’Noar has secured some matching funds and hopes to raise a total of $45,000 through this event.

This is the pilot year for the program and only two other rabbis are taking part — Rabbi Rafael Lipner of Shaarei Tefillah in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Rabbi Yehoshua Fromowitz of Ahavas Torah Center in Henderson, Nevada. As of Tuesday, Feb. 14, Rabbi Rockoff had raised more funds than the other two rabbis combined. The combined goal is $15,000 – Rabbi Rockoff has raised $4,867 of his $5,000 goal and the other two together have raised $2,471.

The spiritual leader of Congregation BIAV, director of HBHA’s Matmidim program, husband and father of four doesn’t have much time to exercise, though he does like fitness. 

“I’ve never done a serious run so I looked into it,” he said. 

“I am ready for the challenge and believe that youth at risk and good health are matters worth the effort,” wrote Rabbi Rockoff in his bio on the rabbiscanrun.org website.

Rabbi Rockoff liked the fact that Rabbis Can Run established a training program for the rabbis and said it’s been inspirational to work toward the goal of running a 10K. He also likes the message it is sending to his congregation.

“The idea is to model good practices and good fitness and to show that we want to be well-rounded individuals,” he said. “It’s important to be active and hit fitness goals and also spiritual goals — it all goes together for me.” 

He started training at the end of December for the mid-March race. He is supposed to run twice a week for 12 weeks. Besides trying to squeeze in time to run, another challenge has been adapting to running outside in the cold. He said that has been another “hurdle to get over.”

“If it’s really rotten weather I would run inside, but otherwise I’ve been trying to run outside because the race is outside and it’s better preparation.”

He often runs by himself, but he has the support of Michael Liss, who Rabbi Rockoff described as a big runner who has been his informal coach. Liss reports that Rabbi Rockoff has a wonderful attitude, is an enthusiastic learner, is incredibly disciplined and is doing great in his training.

“The rabbi is a natural athlete, not words you often use to describe a rabbi, but it’s true. The question isn’t if he’ll prepare enough to finish the 10K, the question is how fast he’ll do it. I’m happy to help my friend Dani, in any way I can, to accomplish his goal of running the 10K, but my wife Beth and I are even more proud to sponsor him in this great cause he is representing. With a beautiful wife, beautiful young children, and leading a dynamic congregation, the rabbi has a lot on his plate, but it’s not surprising to me he took on this additional challenge, and can handle all those responsibilities successfully,” Liss said.

Rabbi Rockoff also believes his training has been going well.

“I wish I were faster, but I am on pace to at least be able to finish the 10K, which is good, and I’m enjoying it a lot. It’ a good challenge.”

He hopes to continue running after the 10K.

“I’d like to be able to keep it up twice a week if I can. That would be a goal for me.” 

He appreciates the financial support he has received from members of his congregation and the Jewish community, and would like to raise a bit more to reach his fundraising goal.

“Help me create a modern day marathon-miracle by supporting my efforts to successfully complete my first 10K on March 17. With your help I will be able to cross the finish line together with the other running rabbis for the benefit of Kav L’Noar and we can bring hope and light to all the children and families in Israel they support.”

Contributions may be made online at rabbiscanrun.org. Checks may also be made payable to KLN Foundation and mailed to Meir Kaniel, FBO RabbisCanRun, 174 Rutherford Blvd., Clifton, NJ 07014. Indicate the donation is to go toward Rabbi Rockoff’s funds.