Israeli marathon runner Beatie Deutsch is set to compete in the 2020 Fitbit Miami Half Marathon
Israeli marathon runner Beatie Deutsch is breaking records just four years after taking up the sport. But that isn’t what makes her so remarkable. It’s the stereotypes and cultural barriers she shatters every time she crosses a finish line in a long skirt, long sleeves and a head scarf.
The 30-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish mother of five, who was raised in New Jersey and moved to Israel in 2008, broke the course record for Israeli women at the 2018 Jerusalem Marathon, and has since won the Tiberias Marathon, the Israeli half marathon and marathon national championship. Her personal best marathon time of 2:32 is just shy of the Olympic qualifying standard.
Last May, she won a half marathon in Latvia, becoming the first known Orthodox Jewish woman to win an international race. This Sunday, she is running in the LIfe Time Miami Marathon, her first race in the United States. She is competing in the half marathon, and will be rooted on by Jewish fans in South Florida and all over the world, many of whom follow her on Facebook and Instagram (@marathonmother).
“Speedy Beatie,” as she has been nicknamed, is inspiring Orthodox Jewish women to take up running, women like Brocha Lipkind, a 45-year-old mother of five from North Miami Beach, who is participating in the Miami Marathon with a 54-member team called “Run4Yitzi.”
The group is raising funds for ALS-stricken Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz of Los Angeles, 47, who cannot move, talk or eat on his own but writes a weekly blog using eye movements to direct his computer.
“I think the stereotypical view people have of a religious Jewish woman is a woman with a million kids hanging on her, not working, not caring about herself and her individuality and we don’t always represent so well because maybe sometimes we look haggard,” Lipkind said. “Beatie is out there changing the face of what religious mothers and women look like. Even more so, she’s changing the face of what people think Jewish people are all about. She is out there surrounded by runners from all over, even Palestinian runners. She’s representing a culture of love and kindness, support for everybody.”
Deutsch grew up in Passaic, New Jersey., and though she was always tiny — she is barely over 5 feet now — she was athletic and coordinated. She didn’t watch sports because her deeply religious family didn’t own a television, but she was a talented gymnast. She stopped training at age 12 for modesty reasons because the coaches were men. She took taekwondo lessons and played basketball every Sunday with other girls at her school. She never considered running until four years ago, when she finished last in family races on the beach and vowed to get back in shape.
Her husband, Michael, an avid cyclist, fully supported her new hobby and even bought her a runner’s watch. She never imagined running marathons would result in becoming an international role model.
“Sports has such an important power to break down barriers,” she said by phone from Jerusalem. “Through the running community in Israel, I have come in contact with so many people, not just Jewish but also non-Jewish. In Israel, there are a lot of stereotypes about religious Jews and people have misconceptions about what we are able to do and how oppressed we are. I have been able to break down some of those barriers.”
Living in a “Haredi” community of strictly Orthodox Jews, Deutsch said “being different is not always accepted,” but she is slowly changing attitudes. She is proving that she can be a doting mother to five children under the age of 10, a devoted wife and a professional athlete.
posted Friday February 7th
by Michelle Kaufman