In Rabbi Eric Ertel’s pursuit to help Israel, it was P. Diddy who jogged his mind on how he should do it.
The rabbi, educational director at Aish NY, wasn’t quite sure how to get started in his efforts to assist the country he had lived and studied in for several years. Then he read about the rap star running the New York City Marathon last year to raise money for local educational programs.
So Rabbi Ertel, a high school track and cross country athlete in his native Stamford, Conn., who had virtually stopped his exercise routine 10 years ago when he went to Israel, will be among the 35,000 participants at the Staten Island starting line Nov. 7.
His quest is to raise $1 million for a group he started called Running for Israel, which in recent months has brought in what Rabbi Ertel called a “decent amount” for four charities: One Family, Keren Y&Y, Hasbara Fellowships and Honest Reporting.
At least 10 “teammates” who have assisted Rabbi Ertel in his cause will join him at the marathon’s start.
“We’re all going to run the first mile together,” said the 27-year-old rabbi, who will be participating in his first 26.2-mile event though he has considered the idea for a few years.
Rabbi Ertel has spread the word on Running for Israel via Web site, e-mails, newspaper articles and synagogue announcements. He has asked contributors for lump sum payments in advance instead of pledges per mile.
Running for Israel, which is selling T-shirts as part of its campaign, is supported by Aish NY, but it’s Rabbi Ertel’s program. The rabbi, who was inspired by the death of a Jerusalem neighbor’s son in a terrorist attack, said he is the first supporter of Israel to mount such a marathon-related drive.
Rabbi Ertel began training after Passover, a few miles a day inside on a treadmill, longer routes on Sundays in Central Park near his Upper West Side home. Since April he has dropped 10 pounds, to 130, off his 5-foot-6 frame. In recent weeks, after peaking with an 18-mile training run, he started tapering his distance, as most marathoners do.
You may be able to watch the rabbi in future New York City Marathons, he said — depending if he reaches his financial goal this year.
“If I don’t get the million dollars this time,” he said, “I’ll keep going till I get it.”
Those who want to check out Rabbi Ertel next Sunday, he’ll be wearing a kipa and blue bandana on his head and a Running for Israel T-shirt on his chest with entry number 52,636.
Contact Running For Israel at (212) 579-1388; Web site, www.runningforisrael.com.