The rebbetzin’s idea had legs.
Six years ago Karen Hochberg, wife of Young Israel of Jamaica Estate’s Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, wanted to raise some money for Israel. She decided to sponsor a five-kilometer Run for Israel in the Cunningham Park area of Queens on Memorial Day. The annual event has raised more than $400,000 for a variety of Israeli causes and now draws 1,000 participants, runners and walkers, from throughout the borough.This year a version of the event goes international.
Hochberg, who works as director of community programs at The Afikim Foundation, a New York-based educational organization headed by Rabbi Raphael Butler, wanted to promote support for Israel on its 60th anniversary.
Expand the Run for Israel, Rabbi Butler suggested.
The result is Celebrate 60!
Walk the Land, a series of one-mile walks taking place in some 100 communities around the world, under the aegis of The Afikim Foundation “in solidarity” with Keren Kayemet L’Israel-Jewish National Fund.
“It’s really a celebration,” not just an aerobic activity, Hochberg says. “It’s to create enthusiasm.”
Walk the Land! (www.walktheland.org) will be part of New York’s annual Salute to Israel parade, along Fifth Avenue on
Sunday, June 1.
Hochberg, who calls herself “a full-time rebbetzin,” designed the international event for walkers, not runners. “I want all ages to come,” she says.
To unify the disparate sites sponsoring the walks — including places in Australia, Europe and South America, as well as dozens of locations in North America — the foundation (www.afikimfoundation.org) is providing 15 vinyl murals of Israeli
cities to line the march route. Participants in the diaspora will be “figuratively walking the land,” Hochberg says. Participating communities also receive an extensive planning guide, T-shirts, sling bags and water bottles with the event logo, and participants are eligible for a sweepstakes that offers 10 roundtrip tickets to Israel.
“I’ve gotten rave reviews from all my coordinators around the world,” she says. “People want to be part of a global event.”
This year Hochberg helped coordinate her synagogue’s Memorial Day 5-K run, then she will march in the Salute to Israel. Then she and her husband go to Israel.
Some cities in Israel approached her about joining the Walk the Land program. Hochberg turned them down. They didn’t need outsiders’ suggestions, she told them. “Israel has its own celebration.”