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Orthodox Women Don’t Skirt a 26-Mile Challenge

LA Jewish Journal

At 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 20, four cars headed from Los Angeles to the 2012 Pasadena Marathon filled with members of the Skirts for SOLA team. Despite training for weeks, many of these newly minted runners still could not fully grasp that the day truly had come.

“There were moments when I thought, ‘It’s not going to happen,’ ” said Sarah Chin, captain of the Skirts team, which is made up of a group of Orthodox women from the Chabad-Lubavitch community of South La Cienega (SOLA) who would be testing their abilities in the marathon or its accompanying shorter runs.

“The beginning was very slow,” Chin said. “My very first run was just me and another girl, and the next week it was just me. I was really trying hard, and my initial goal was to get 10 women. We got 10, then we got 11, and then we needed to get to 25 and people started to join. One of our community members signed up her newborn baby to the kids’ race the same day he was born! We ended up with 38 registrations.”

Chin herself is not a newcomer to marathon running: “I started doing it when I lived in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “Everyone does running out there. There are races every weekend, and the majority of my friends did endurance sports. I didn’t like the way I looked anymore, and one day I saw this sign on the Metro that said, ‘Remember the time when running used to be fun?’ and I just couldn’t remember. I never thought running was fun. I went to the Web site of the marathon training program and thought to myself, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ That was the first one. And then I got hooked.”

An Orthodox all-women’s team is not something you see every day. For one, they face some very particular challenges: First and foremost, running in pants, covered by a skirt, while also wearing a long-sleeved shirt is hot, and Chin reports that some women stopped training because they were uncomfortable. In addition, most of the team members are married and have children, so training during the week was not really an option. Jewish holidays also presented an issue; during Passover, for example, the team missed a weekend of training.

Asked whether their spouses were supportive, all of the women agreed the responses were amazing. Their husbands had to give up much of their own free time and their hobbies to sit home with the kids while the team members participated in long practice runs. Yet, the team members said, all of them are very proud of their wives.

Chin said she also received mostly positive responses from the rest of her community. “I’m sure some people think that us running outside is inappropriate, but there are always going to be critics of something. Most people thought it’s really great and were very supportive.”

By 6:30 a.m., the half- and full-marathon teams had started their run. A short time after, the 10K, 5K and kids’ runs were on their way as well. Thousands of onlookers and supporters were cheering from the start line, which became the finish line. In the meantime, in the Skirts for SOLA tent, Rabbi Avraham Zajac, the Chabad SOLA rabbi, was giving a Tanya lesson to family members and friends who had come to cheer the runners.

“When people achieve a goal, it gives them a special power,” the rabbi said, while waiting for his own wife to cross the finish line, “The body is tired, but the spirit is full with energy, and not only for those who run, but those around them as well. This power is contagious. The power of finishing something is awesome.

“When the idea of starting an Orthodox women’s team first came up, I thought it was so important for Orthodox people,” Zajac said, “The Orthodox community is sometimes missing a healthy kosher outlet, so I thought this idea will be a great inspiration for the community. It showed you can do all this without breaking any rules.”

Zajac believes in a healthy balance in life and ends every morning’s minyan with a physical exercise class at Chabad SOLA. “The soul really needs the body. The spiritual aspect is important, but you shouldn’t neglect the physical. This concept is not promoted enough within the Jewish community, because people feel there is a contradiction between religion and exercise, but one complements the other.”

At noon, all of the group’s members have passed the finish line after a long and hot run. The temperature outside is about 90 degrees, but the heat doesn’t seem to affect the general mood, and in the Skirts’ tent the party has just begun.

“It feels incredible,” said Dina Forer, who had just completed her first full marathon. “It was such a challenge and is such an accomplishment. I had my doubts, but I thought, ‘When am I going to get another chance to do it again?’ And I just knew I’m going to do it.”

“There were hard moments,” admits Yumi Abigail Levine, a half-marathoner, “but all these great women were doing it, and they inspired me to keep going.” Dina Shallman, a full marathoner, said, “The toughest moment for me was when we hit the 13-mile mark. What kept me going was talking to my team members. That and the coffee goo [gel] shots,” she said, laughing.

Hudy Lipskier said her toughest marathon moment also came at mile 13. “What got me through,” she said, “was knowing that I trained long and hard for this, and that it’s my will that will enable me to finish the marathon.”

“You really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” said Rebecca Green, who had just completed her first full marathon. “You think you can do it, and along the way you gradually see how difficult it gets, and then in a day like this, when it ends up 90 degrees, you find you have no choice. You’ve trained for it for so long, and you just have to do it.

“Training with this team was amazing. Seeing people who aren’t necessarily fit or into sports all coming together and joining forces to do this, I think it’s amazing. I have blisters, but it was totally worth it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

“This team is amazing,” said Stery Zajac, the rabbi’s wife. “Very strong, determined, amazing women. I’m so inspired. I feel like I can do anything with this community.” Asked whether there will be a SOLA team next year, she replied: “There is a chance it’ll become a trend; people are already talking about the next marathon. This community doesn’t stop.”

“Hot, sodium-deficient, exhausted, hungry and still, everyone just kept going,” team captain Chin said. She is already training for her next adventure race. “I did the ‘Tough Mudder’ last year, and it was a crazy-difficult adventure race. Running 10 miles on a mountain, jumping into an ice bath, swimming under tubes, climbing on 20-foot walls, crawling through tunnels when it’s pitch black following only the sound of the aluminum foil of the person in front of you. Just one more thing to check off my bucket list,” she said, laughing.

“My ultimate goal is Iron Man,” Chin added. “Who knows? Maybe this will become the Skirts’ next challenge.”

63 Comments

  • 1. JUST A QUESTION wrote:

    1. Can someone tell me if any respected chassidishe Rov has found this to be ok with tznius conduct and has given a haskama to this event?

    2. Why are Lubavitchers the only chassidic group doing this and not the others??

  • 4. MICHELLE wrote:

    AMAZING..I WISH WE COULD DO THE SAME IN BROOKLYN …
    THE ORTHODOX CROWD WILL PROBABLY BE SIGNIFICANT…

  • 5. Laughable wrote:

    Did you really photoshop a skirt onto the woman, second from left. I’m sorry, but that’s just a terrible photoshop job. That skirt, while she is posing for a picture, has two perfect 90-degree angles on it.

  • 6. LA MORAH wrote:

    to #5,don’t worry because SOLA isn’t really a chabad shul.it’s more modern orthodox and some of the guys happen to wear kapotas.

  • 7. Sola Member wrote:

    To #5- the rov’s name is rabbi Avraham Zajac. He’s extremely respected and certainly “chassidish”.

  • 9. Way to go SOLA wrote:

    my haters are my motivaters!!!!
    for all you lazily sitting on ur comp posting comments about what people should and should’nt do before nay saying other peoples achievements

    take a look in the mirror itz people like u that are causeing lubvitch to crubble

    “live and let live”
    focus or ur family and not on what other should or shouldn’t be doing

  • 10. Leah wrote:

    To #4, in the original article, that women is the writer and not part of the group. Due to her being dressed inappropriately for the website, CHinfo covered her up.

  • 11. To #6 wrote:

    If you are an LA morah, I really hope you aren’t teaching my children. These women accomplished an amazing thing and all you can do is be negative? This is fully k’halacha and SOLA is actually the only Chabad shul in LA city! The rest aren’t chabad and aren’t under the auspices of the Rebbe. So stop with lashan horah and matzie Shem ra.

  • 12. amazing wrote:

    Stop with the negative, just stop it! These women are amazing and tznius and are allowed to challenge themselves in this wonderful healthy manner.

  • 13. PRIORITIES??? wrote:

    SO SAD…these women dress more tznius for the marathon then they do for shul!

  • 14. dgfdf wrote:

    @ 6 – u try running a marathon. and at least they wont be 50 kg over wright by their 5th child.

    and good on you! what an accomplishment – dunno about its newsowrthyiness but what a nice idea. :)

  • 15. health and tznius wrote:

    Endurance running is actually NOT healthy for the body, research it yourself if you dont believe me
    Women running like this in public, plus often not dressed the way they are supposed according o the shulchan aruch, is NOT healthy for the soul, and in turn NOT healthy for the body either

  • 16. Chaim Tovim to #5 wrote:

    Why do Lubavitchers do lots of things (mitzvoyim, shlichus, not wear white and black, and lots more) that hareidim don’t? If you know the answer to that, you’ll have an answer to your question

  • 18. Opportunities wrote:

    No matter how you twist it, this is simply unkosher. Girls are running through the streets attracting attention to themselves. Not tznius, not kosher. There are MANY other ways a girl can contribute to the good of the community and the planet than this way. Hashem has implanted in our generation a taavah to be untznius just as He did before we entered eretz Yisroel and just like He implanted a taavah for avodah zara during the 1st Beis HaMikdash. Strengthen yourselves against this LAST TEST OF GALUS. Let’s WIN!!

  • 20. From NJ To #15 wrote:

    “SOLA is only Chabad Shul in LA…”

    There is just sooooo much wrong with that statement. Do all the congregants believe that, or just you?

  • 21. CALIFORNIA wrote:

    AND THIS IS ANOTHER REASON WHY I DON’T LIVE IN CH. PATHETIC PEOPLE.

  • 22. Concerned Mother wrote:

    #1, 5 and 10 are right completely right. These women should have treadmills in their basements and run in the privacy of their homes. Kol kevuda bas melech PENIMAH! There is a lot of pritzus at these races and this shouldn’t be the example for our daughters. They should see their mothers cooking wonderful shabbos meals, organizing chesed and taking care of their families.

  • 23. Gezhe? I think not! wrote:

    I’m guessing these women are all BT’s. They probably need an outlet for their pent up energy. I don’t think you will find any lubavitch from birth women engaged in such narishe zachen.

  • 24. to #9 and #15 wrote:

    #6 didn’t make any judgement she just stated the facts. They are also not having 5 kids. Still a great accomplishment. #9 and #15 just be proud of who you are nothing wrong with being Modern…just keep your newfound religion to yourself.

  • 25. Wow...Some serious hatered here wrote:

    1) Levi Yitzchak is not a Chabad shul. (They did, however, assist M.YomTov is his trials…so thats nice).
    2) Beis Betzalel is not a Chabad shul. (They do spread themselves around really well though).
    3) No wonder young lubabs hate the older lubabs who are close-minded, judgmental morons
    4) All these amazing women are frum from birth and several are gehze. They are amazing, powerful women.
    5) Dont put down others accomplishements.

  • 27. To #23 wrote:

    To number 23.
    I love how a lubavitcher like your self writes so derogatory towards BTs. I am sure you make the rebbe and all his schluchim who he sent out to make BTs so proud.

  • 28. yaakov shallman wrote:

    many of the women have 3-5 kids, including my amazing wife who has 5 kids and ran the entire 26.2 miles in a skirt, shaitel, hat, and long sleeves….
    #22 – ok to go to israeli fairs with kids and family to do mivtzoim where ppl are dressed less than tznius but not go to a marathon to do mivtzoim ? it was a tremendous kiddish hashem and positive mivtzoim of learning and tefillin…any criticsm here is simply ignorance of what or how this event was conducted.

  • 29. Kayla wrote:

    What an accomplishment these woman did. Raising money for a shul and keeping healthy so they can raise healthy children, b’ruchnius and gashmius!
    Go girls go!

  • 31. Kaya wrote:

    Woooohooooo!!! Go rebecca green!!!!! 1st place ;)

    No need to be jealous peoples!

  • 32. Yitzchak Abehsera wrote:

    Chabad of Sola is a chabad shul(u should be able to tell from the name #6)…stop pointing out small details like the skirt is photoshop,and its not tznius blahblahblah..and look at the positive :) Good Shabous

  • 33. MSL wrote:

    Those who can, do… those who can’t, sit at home and write disparaging comments on Crownheights.info in an attempt to bring everyone else down to the depths of their own poor self-image. Way to go SOLA! And take heart, the angry comments just prove that you are actually accomplishing something!

  • 34. #25, are u bi-polar (Ch v)? wrote:

    First u knock every anash shul in LA, and then u end with “Dont put down others accomplishments”.

    i’ve seen hypocricy and contadiction everywhere, but in the same paragraph?

    Please have a heart to heart talk with RAMZ, I’m sure he can help u with your ahavas yisroel challenge.

  • 35. Rebecca-s #1 fan wrote:

    Anyone who can find something negative about the article or the event has to go get help. This was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem. All the women who ran are frum and were dressed tzniusly. They are role models to the Orthodox Jewish Community and you have no right to judge.

    Saying things like “SO SAD…these women dress more tznius for the marathon then they do for shul!” or “I’m guessing these women are all BT’s… I don’t think you will find any lubavitch from birth women engaged in such narishe zachen.” just demonstrate your unintelligence and sinus chinum. You judge people without even knowing them and if you think that running as a healthy outlet is “narishe zachen” then I feel bad for you (you’re probably over 300 lbs and have nothing better to do then sit on your computer and leave uneducated comments)

    These women represent more than just the Chabad of Sola as they came together in a show of unity from more than just the Sola community so enough with the hatred within LA. Anyone who has something negative to say is just jealous.

  • 36. LA MORAH wrote:

    to #15,listen my dear sister,i’m going to tell you like it is.i or another morah or rebbi can only do so much any way.i know you want the best for your children but that starts with dressing tzneeus and continues with the mommies and the tatties not mixing.this is the yesod mamesh.

  • 37. Complaint Department wrote:

    1) In response to a husbands complaint that his wife was not up to par (no details of what the problem was) b’ruchnius. The Rebbe told him that he was the problem and that his wife’s ruchnius was a reflection of his own.
    2) If these individual women had chosen to participate in the marathon it would be a private matter. Once, on the other hand, the event was endorsed and sponsored by a Shaliach who is the Rov of their community questions and comments should be to addressed to him.
    3) If in fact he is a Shliach mitaam Hamerkaz l’Inyonie Chinuch as all Shluchim who are under The Head Shliach of California are, your questions should be directed to
    a) Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin
    b) Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky
    c) Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky
    These women are just doing their thing and they are who they are. This event is not about them its about their husbands and Rabbis. Leave them out of it.

  • 38. Hertzel and Reuvan Gollian wrote:

    Not only do we have the smartest and most capable Rabbi in town, but he is also the most ripped and in shape Rabbi i know.

    To the mora #5- How many bags of cornchips have you eaten over the keyboard today? Get off your lazy tuches and start running the basement treadmill and make your husband happy.

  • 39. Benny Forer wrote:

    My wonderful wife has 3 children. She is wonderful, frum, chassidishe and gehze. She ran with long sleeves and a long skirt. I took all my kids to watch and saw no pritzus. What I did see was inspiration to others. They saw amazing women accomplish an amazing goal. Those locals who are negative, I encourage you to notify me personally of your issues. We can hash out our differences. Thanx.

  • 40. Tova shallman wrote:

    It is these women than epitomize strength,dignity, grace and unity… a true light unto the nations. Thank you for being my heros and inspiration.

  • 42. RUBIE MINKOWITZ wrote:

    KOL HAKAVOD SOLA !!!

    TO ALL LUBAVITCHER S IN LA

    Did you ever want to brag about going cross country on a bike?
    Here is your chance to say that you started with a group that did the whole thing!

    The cyclists who are going cross country are with the Chabad Bike 4 Friendship organization and they are going from CA to NY this year!

    I would like to invite YOU on Sunday, July 1 to ride along for the FIRST 20 miles!
    All you need is a bike and a little endurance while feeling good that you are bringing awareness and support to the Friendship circle.

    The plan is to have a tire dipping ceremony on the beach near S. Monica, ride on to Studio City where we will end up with The Friendship circle of Studio City and a party.

    For details or to help out and support please go to http://www.valleyfriendship

  • 44. Team Captain wrote:

    to #40, we had some women from the “La Brea area”, look out for the next race! to all those who are writing negative comments: we were a beautiful mix of mommies, marrieds, singles, BTs and FFBs and your negativity will NOT bring us down. This is a group of truly amazing incredible women! I am immensely proud of my team and incredibly proud to be part of the SOLA community!

  • 45. shliach should be recalled wrote:

    if this was endorsed by the rabbi of the shul, and he is a shliach, he needs to be recalled. the women and the men may have had the best of intentions and think that this was a kidush Hashem, hafatzah etc. This is not their fault, since apparently the rabbi okayed it.
    the difference between this and going to israel day to do mivtzoim: there you are in the presesnce of lack of tznius; here YOU are the lack of tznius. Kudos to these women for doing something they thought was good, and probably there is some positive in it. But they should direct their good intentions towards efforts that the Rebbe would have approved of…

  • 46. LA wrote:

    This event in wonderful, and Im glad that its agitating all you CHers and La Brea folks (Morahs) who really would like to live elsewhere but your harshness compensates for all that your missing in life-good for you. It’s a blessing that CH.info is here for you.

    Although Benny Forer’s comment is just meaningless drivel.

  • 47. Curious.. wrote:

    Did Benny, Daniel & Yakov all talk about it and decide to write their comments at the same time? Wow, they must be real busy…

  • 48. in shape and chasidish wrote:

    it’s interesting to note that many sola members respond by attacking those who disagree with them as surely being fat,out of shape and lazy.physical fitness is important but not the epitome of exhistence.that’s the hellinists who thought that way,not lubavitchers.

  • 49. To 46 wrote:

    Not sure which part of Benny Forer’s comments are meaningless drivel. I assume you either don’t understand what wa written or you have a proble
    with me due to my occupation. I ncourage you to discuss this with me personally.

  • 50. proud of sola wrote:

    For all of you that have negative things to say about these ambitious, accomplished women…. you are just so jealous! You would love to be one of them! They are frum, fit and fabulous! You are all sitting on your bums, making babies and taking shit from your husbands. You are all on leashes and wish you can get out of your “locked” up life. Anytime people are negative is because it makes you feel better to put someone else down. SHAME ON YOU!

  • 51. for shame wrote:

    #49-could you make your point with out being vulgar? it certainly deos not promote the pro sola position.

  • 52. to #34, COMPLAINTS DEPARTMENT wrote:

    ITEM #1: I guess you mean to say that all issues involving a wife’s ruchnios are always a reflection of the husband defiencies. Problem solved!! Bravo, chacham.

    ITEM #2: With all due respect, is the Shaliach (I do not know him) an actual Rov who paskens halachos? Being a “rabbi” or shaliach does not make one a Rov. As we all know, many smichos are just a certification of one ignorance in halacha. After saying this, I hope that the Rabbi is indeed a competent ROV.

    ITEM #3: I concede that the shaliach actions are indeed a reflection of the Rebbe’s shlichus and as such, the proper higher ups should be in charge of taking the appropriate actions, assuming they have an interest in the matter.

  • 53. Please explain wrote:

    How can we successful in kiruv by lowering our standards?

    I am myself a BT who came to Chabad looking for Ruchnyios. Sadly, the ta’ava for gashmius in Lubavitch already matches the gashmius of the non-frum world

  • 54. AMK wrote:

    I can’t believe it you will even dare/waist your time to potoshopet badly skirt to the woman just to cover her legs as she did have pretty long shorts already.
    I’m full of understanding a lot but this is just not intelligent.

  • 55. Ad Masai! wrote:

    Chasidishe women running a marathon???? Even Misnagdim don’t behave so vulgar, let alone Chassidim. Terrible.

  • 56. Lubavitch Daas Torah wrote:

    I think this needs to brought before a true rov and the rebbe’s schliach rabbi Cunin. His wisdon and leadership would certainly shed light on this matter.

  • 58. I feel bad for your kids wrote:

    Wow I feel bad for the children of those posting against this, if you are finding a way to make a completely kosher activity like exercise done in a completely kosher way and making it assur, I can only imagine the how suffocating your are making Judisim to your children. I hope your able to keep them confinied to the sheltered world you pretend to live in because otherwise they are perfect candidates for “kids at risk”. I know I was one, and I had over bearing parents just like you!

  • 59. #51 COMPLAINTS DEPARTMENT wrote:

    1) The Maiseh is of the Rebbe Rashab and there is a biyur. Host ah Kashe of ah maiseh, I heard it from Rabbi Chaim Sholom Daitch.

  • 60. boaz-running4pizza wrote:

    1-the “skirts for sola” women should be congratulated on their accomplishment. completing 26.2 miles in the heat is challenge enough. they ran in sheitl, hat, long sleeves, longer skirts, and leggings. their challenge was much greater than any other runners.

    2-there are valid points being argued by many of the bloggers. i’m very disappointed in the nastiness of the tone of some of the comments. the Rebbe always taught to look at the positive in any situation. certainly, we are forbidden to judge as well as to think or talk negatively about another.

    3-a jew is put in this world to be a shaliach. shlichus comes in many different forms. we can be a positive influence by the way we dress, the way we speak, and the way we act. of course it can go the other way, but that’s not our shlichus.

    4-i have run thousands of miles on the streets in the los angeles area dressed in a hat, long pants, and beged (not just tzistzis) outside, over my undershirt. runners, walkers, and bikers all know that i’m jewish. as a result i get countless greetings of shalom, boker tov, shavua tov, “i’ve never seen a running rabbi” (i’m not), etc. this connection with another yid is made only because i’m dressed the way i am. i’m sure the women of “skirts for sola” can relate similar experiences.

    5-when each of us evaluate each day, we can all find we could have learned more Torah or dressed or acted with more tznius. Hashem created a big world, with room for Torah virtually everywhere. we learn in many places in “hayom yom”, (and this is my paraphrase and interpretation) that if a man or woman chooses to jog (or even run a marathon) they should at least think, and preferably speak, words of Torah. that is their shlichus while out on the road. i personally invite anyone to run with me and learn chassidus.

    6-finally, with gimmel tammuz approaching, it’s seems appropriate to request a hachlata from all of us to turn off the nasty, negative rhetoric.

  • 61. To all u idiots... wrote:

    Seriously it’s just a marathon,,,, don’t freak out just bc all these women r untznius

  • 62. We Love LA wrote:

    It’s imperative that we reveal who “LA Morah” is, being that in Los Angeles we for the most part, are a community that are “Sheves Achim Gam Yochad” and feel the “Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkainu” we all try to get along and try not to be judgmental, we do have some rotten apples (in Chasidus it explains for a tree to grow it needs to have a seed that rots first, so there is hope!). After due research and investigation her initials are C. T.
    To LA Morah (C.T.): It would be a good idea for you to take on a therapeutic resolution for the next 6 months: Try very hard to find the positive in the people around you, when you feel or see something negative in another, try to find something positive (our Rebbe has taught us and has exemplified this). Try not to be envious what others have or due, be happy with your lot, you will feel better after 6 months. If this therapy does not work, maybe you need to move from Los Angeles to Kan Tziva Hashem Es Habroch, and there you can “Missonen Rah” (complain) with others that feel the same feelings as you.

  • 63. LA Parent wrote:

    If my deduction is correct, LA Morah doesnt even teach in a Chabad school. You can basically say she is litvish anyway (which would explain her attitude). And, her family are notorious for negative, disparging reviews of others. I say, LA Morah, look at your sister, then your mom, then your dad. Only then talk to us lubavitchers.

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