|JHC Reporter Meyer Berkowitz at the start of the NYC Marathon Minyan|
Since 1983, Jewish runners from all levels of observance, young and old, men and women, speaking languages from six continents, come together before sunrise under a tent at Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, to daven Shacharit with a minyan before the race begins.
On Sunday, Jewish Humor Central reporter and photographer Meyer Berkowitz joined the group to record the event and assist in collecting the tallitot and tefillin of the runners and delivering them to their owners at the end of the race.
The International Marathon Minyan was started in 1983 by Peter Berkowsky, an Orthodox shul-goer from New Jersey and Rabbi Jim Michaels, a marathoner rabbi from Queens who had davened alone on the parade ground the previous year.
Berkowsky had just completed a year of saying Kaddish for his mother. His primary motive was to accommodate other runners who were saying Kaddish, but over the years, there were surprisingly few minyan participants saying Kaddish among the thousands who came to the minyan. Looking back, he realized that the morning service had evolved into something more important than just a minyan of convenience for mourners.
Berkowsky wrote a letter to a local Jewish paper asking for participants in the Marathon minyan. Rabbi Michaels responded enthusiastically, and that's how the minyan started.
The minyan benefited from the early and constant support of the late Fred Lebow, the legendary creator and promoter of the New York City Marathon, and world consultant on long-distance running.
In the minyan's third year, the organizers asked him to move the marathon from October to November to avoid a conflict with Simchat Torah. Lebow, a Holocaust refugee with frum roots, enthusiastically agreed, and that's where it has remained ever since.
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