Inspirational Thoughts on Running 10k for Shira Pransky

[Editor’s note: For several reasons, not least of which is the difficulty of expressing the strong emotional connection many of those involved in The Shira Pransky Project feel for its namesake, this blog and website does not contain many personal notes about her legacy. For this reason we are supremely thankful for Chaim Goldberg’s following touching thoughts containing many sentiments that we all share.]

Who Was Shira Pransky

By Chaim Goldberg

I very nearly didn’t run in the Jerusalem Marathon. A few weeks prior, I had heard that the Shira Pransky Project (SPP) had a group running in the marathon, but for better or for worse, there was a shabbaton I had previously committed to which precluded my participation in the marathon.

However, one day, it suddenly became clear that plans for the shabbaton were changing, and it would no longer be that week. Immediately, I thought of the marathon and SPP, and gave the group coordinator, Syma Davidovich, a call and found out I was within 24 hours of the registration deadline. (That’s hashgacha pratis [Divine Providence] , isn’t it?)

Aside from my preliminary interest however, I actually had no idea what the project was—not its mission, accomplishments, nor vision. As we spoke though, that spark of interest I had grew stronger and stronger, and by the time the conversation finished, I had committed to running 10K for SPP and raising money towards its cause, with all of two weeks left until March 1st (the marathon).

Raising $500 in two weeks as a yeshiva student away from home struck me as being a bit formidable of a task, but certainly within reason, and something I would just have to put the effort into.

Most daunting though, was the running. You see, I hadn’t done any rigorous exercise in over 3 months! Beyond that, even at times that I have had a regular exercise routine, I’d never run longer than about 3 ½ miles (5K). So why would I commit to something that in all probability I wouldn’t be able to do?

Because past performance was no longer relevant. Exercise, for me, had always been a decision about personal benefit, whether for health, fitness, social, or any other number of considerations.

This was entirely different. I wasn’t running for myself; I was running for Shira. And I knew, quite clearly, that the body running selflessly could reach exponentially higher heights than the one running selfishly. So with two weeks to train, I did my hishtadlus (personal effort), putting in a couple of training runs, even running longer than I ever had before – 6 ½ K!

Of course, that was still well short of what I was going to do a couple days later, but it was abundantly clear to me that my body was capable; the only question was how long my mind would be able to motivate my body. Truth be told though, that too was not a question. Here I was honoring Shira Pransky’s memory—was it at all possible that my ratzon (will) could be lacking?

Shira was a woman of unfathomable strength and ratzon. Through 9 years of incalculable hardship, both physical and emotional, she remained a beacon of light to those around her. Visitors were never denied her trademark smile, and the will to keep fighting stayed strong. Those who came to strengthen, left strengthened, and those who came to encourage, left encouraged. When there were simchas of family and close friends to attend, at times when most anyone else in her position simply would have excused themselves—justifiably so, mind you—she put forth every effort she could to be together with them.

With an angel-like figure like that driving me, is it any wonder that I finished the 10K with ease? As I neared the finish line and digested what I just accomplished, I was overtaken by emotion. My realization of having transcended all previous limits—albeit ones most physical in nature—and for whom I was doing this, connected me to the Ribbono Shel Olam in a way I had never experienced before.

So is it any wonder that I didn’t actually stop at 10K, unable to let go of the experience which characterized Shira, that of rising above one’s physical boundaries for a greater mission? For me at least, it was truly a metaphysical experience.

Notwithstanding the awe-inspiring event the marathon was, allow me to let you in on an open secret of mine: I never knew Shira Pransky. In fact, I didn’t even know who she was until nearly 4 years after her passing, just a couple months prior to this Jerusalem Marathon.

How then, you ask, could I have written all this? Perhaps—inasmuch as you don’t doubt my sincerity—I have a penchant for exaggeration, you wonder?

The answer, quite honestly, is no, there was no embellishment in this story. As to the first question, the answer for me personally is grounded in the privilege I have had of getting to know Shira’s special family and friends. They themselves are each individual towers of strength, and through them all, Shira’s presence shines through.

Authenticity, genuineness, and heartfelt emotion cannot be artificially manufactured; when talking to Shira’s close ones, that’s no obstacle, as everything is utterly sincere.

What’s important though is the reality that you need not have known Shira to become a part of the Shira Pransky Project. You need not even get to know her family or friends, though simply for your benefit, it is worthwhile do so. Beyond their own unique qualities, they will certainly open a window for you into the person Shira was and the persona she represented. But what’s important is the recognition that you can honor Shira’s memory, commit to improving the transition for Anglo olim, and support the Shira Pransky Project even as someone not personally connected to Shira.

It is my hope and prayer for those, like myself, who were not fortunate enough to know Shira, that this piece here can give you a glimpse into her world and her community. There were hundreds or thousands of people she impacted in her lifetime. But there is a growing community of those people she never knew, yet has still profoundly impacted upon them. Count me among this community, and we hope to welcome you as well.



New survey: Millions of Israelis struggle with language limitations

According to information released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, nearly 1.7 million Israelis ages 20 and above, do not consider their Hebrew to be “Very Good”. The ramifications this has on access to healthcare and government services cannot be emphasized enough. According to the statistics, which were taken from the 2011 Social Survey, about 210,000 Israelis avoid utilizing government services of one form or another due to language restrictions, and 17% of them have difficulties when they require medical services.

These statistics underscore the importance of increasing accessibility for English speakers and all non-native Hebrew speakers in the Israeli healthcare system and regarding all public services. The Shira Pransky Project is continuing our fight to help English speakers know their rights and navigate the Israeli healthcare system.

To view “Selected Data from the 2011 Social Survey on Difficulties with the Hebrew Language” on the Central Bureau of Statistics website, click here (in Hebrew).

To view an article in English on the survey’s finding from Israel Hayom, click here.

To view an article in English on the survey’s finding from Ynet, click here.

10k for 10k: Thoughts after the Jerusalem Marathon

The following thoughts were penned by Syma Davidovich, the main organizer of the SPP Jerusalem Marathon Team:

Left to right: Nechama Selig, Avital Netzer, Nechama Rausman, Syma Davidovich, Joani Davidovich, Noach Davidovich, Zecharya Davidovich (baby), Gabe Pransky, Chaim Goldberg and Amihai, Chaya Bracha and Anava (baby) Zippor in the background.

Left to right: Nechama Selig, Avital Netzer, Nechama Rausman, Syma Davidovich, Joani Davidovich, Noach Davidovich, Zecharya Davidovich (baby), Gabe Pransky, Chaim Goldberg and Amihai, Chaya Bracha and Anava (baby) Zippor in the background.

I keep wondering how many biblical cubits there are in a 10k? I googled it, but the most promising site asks me to push a button that says “convert me” and I’m just not comfortable with that.

I do not have any athletic goals. I did not participate in this year’s Jerusalem Marathon because I love to exercise, need to break a record, or want to loose weight. The Jerusalem Marathon has options of full, half or 10k routes. I chose to sign up for the 10k, and prepared myself for the worst. I joined SPP team to help raise money and awareness for a cause I believe in. I think its nothing short of incredible that my little family (my husband and I switched off pushing our toddler in the stroller) participated in our first ever marathon and it was in Israel’s capitol.

The Talmud says “one who walks 4 cubits in the Land of Israel is assured of being an heir to The World to Come.” Because of the intrinsic Holiness of the Land of Israel, a person gains spiritual merit by walking here. This is just another one of those great Talmudic passages that make an Oleh like myself walk a little taller…..and keeps a mathematically challenged person like myself, totally flummoxed. (If 4 cubits are aprox 6-8 feet, and there are 5280 feet in a mile, and one mile is 1.609344 kilometers………how many cubits are in a 10k?!? My brain hurts.

The point, for me, was not the 10k. It was the 10k. Let me explain. This year, each participant in the SPP team, had a personal goal to raise 500$. I hoped our team could raise 10,000$. A worthy challenge, as last year’s team managed to raise 1,667$ for SPP’s Marathon participation. This was yet another first for me. I have never fundraised before (unless you count selling girl scout cookies or chocolate bars for my elementary school.) I think the idea of raising money seems difficult at first, but I think what made our team so successful is that we had a core group of people who are passionate about the Shira Pransky Project (and its namesake) and the fundraising somehow took on a life of its own.

When I reached my goal, I felt amazing. When I exceeded my goal I felt even better. And when my teammates did the same, I was thrilled. I am so proud. Proud to be a part of this team, this journey, this nation. Every time the walk got tough- and I tell you, some of those hills can make you want to hail a cab- every time my son declared he wanted “to walk also!” I thought about why I dragged myself (and my family) into this. I did it for the love of a city and state like no other. I did it for Shira. I did it to advocate for rights and education in healthcare. I did it to raise money for the Shira Pransky Project.

The newspapers and internet blogs may all report that Abrham Kabeto Ketler achieved the gold or that Mihiret Anamo Antonios broke records, but it sure feels like The Shira Pransky Project won the Jerusalem Marathon last Friday.