Rabbi to run in Miami marathon for charity

Rabbi to run in Miami marathon for charity
Chabad of Roslyn Rabbi Yaakov Wilansky organizes the synagogue's youth programming. He will run a half-marathon on Jan. 29.

Rabbi Yaakov Wilansky of Chabad of Roslyn, who will run a half-marathon in Miami this month, admits he isn’t in the best of shape.

“I’m a little bit athletic but I’ve never liked the idea of running,” he said. “One of the incentives for doing the half-marathon is to increase my awareness of my health.”

The primary reason for Wilansky’s participation, he said, is to raise other people’s awareness of a broader issue: companionship for special needs children.

“Children with special needs don’t get invitations to birthday parties,” he said. “They sometimes can’t be social in the ways other children are.”

Wilansky will run on behalf of the Chabad-affiliated nonprofit Friendship Circle, an international organization that enables high school students to make weekly visits to children suffering from ailments like autism, down syndrome and cerebral palsy.

“It’s a three-way circle,” he said. “The special needs child waits all week for the visit, the high school student learns responsibility through giving, and the parents of the special needs child get an hour of respite to relax.”

Wilansky is one of five rabbis and 240 people participating in the Miami marathon on Jan. 29 on behalf of the Friendship Circle. He aims to raise $3,000 for the organization. So far, he has garnered $888.

Chabad is a Hasidic sect of orthodox Judaism that was founded in the late 18th century.

Wilansky was born in Montreal and first visited the Untied States in college when he spent a year as an intern with a Chabad community in Los Angeles.

After marrying his wife, Chaya, the couple traveled to support Chabad communities in Frankfurt, Prague and Budapest.

“We’ve dedicated our lives to making sure Jews have a connection to their roots,” Wilansky said.

In 2011 the couple moved to Brooklyn, which Wilansky called the “hub” of the international Chabad community.

After the birth of their daughter, the couple settled in Roslyn in the summer of 2012, and soon after Wilansky became the rabbi at Chabad of Roslyn.

The idea of having Friendship Circle participate in the Miami marathon came up a few years ago at a yearly convention held by the organization’s chapter directors, he said.

Two years ago his sister, who lives in Brooklyn, ran in the event, and his brother flew from Singapore to run the marathon last year.

“I will probably do it again next year but if not I will have to find another sibling to do it,” he said. Wilansky has 13 brothers and sisters.

For the last two months, he has run three times a week on distance outings ranging from 5 to 10 miles.  On Jan. 29, he’ll run 13.1 miles.

“Everyone can create a little bit of good each day,” he said. “It’s just like training for a marathon. You can’t run 50 miles per day or you would kill yourself. You have to add a little each day. Always add every day a little bit more good.

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