Beatie Deustch is a charedi marathon runner and mother of five children. Originally from New Jersey, Beatie now lives in Israel and is trying to qualify to represent Israel at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Q: When did you realize that running was more than a hobby for you?
A: I realized that running was more than a hobby when I won the national marathon championship in Tiveria last year, January 2018. I had been training seriously for a few months, but it was still something I did on the side as an amateur. When I exceeded my wildest expectation for the time I ran and was offered an opportunity to run for Israel and be a candidate for the Olympics, I decided to turn it into something of a profession.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you’ve had as a charedi runner?
A: To be honest, I think running is totally compatible with a frum lifestyle and there aren’t that many challenges that come up, even as a frum runner. Obviously the biggest one for me is running modestly, which can be somewhat difficult in the heat, and I know that it does impact my times and I’ll be losing a minute or two in the long run because of my clothing, but it’s not something I’ve ever questioned, so I don’t necessarily even view it as a challenge.
Q: What kind of halachic issues come up?
A: I haven’t faced too many halachic issues. I do consult with rabbis whenever there is something that may be a sort of a shaila. I did ask about running on Shabbos, and even though technically if someone is running out of pure enjoyment it’s okay, I was advised not to run on Shabbos because it’s something I do professionally and some of that could be my motivation when I run.
Q: There have been rumors that you have different sponsors and that one of them is even making you a special running skirt. Is that true?
A: I don’t have any sponsors making any special running skirts right now. I did speak to Nike about getting them to market a running skirt. I think I’m making some progress actually, but I don’t know when it will happen. I myself have designed my own skirts out of men’s dri-fit shirts. I’ve just cut them to size and taken them to someone who knows how to sew and have made my own skirts, and wear compression shorts of leggings underneath, and I find them super comfortable and light.
Q: What’s your biggest goal in the running world?
A: Currently the goal that I’m chasing is to qualify for the Olympics and represent Israel at Tokyo 2020. I almost feel like I’m really at the beginning of my career, so I don’t know what other goals I’ll have down the line. It’s important for me to do this because I really want to show religious women around the world that you can pursue sport at the highest level and not have to compromise on your goals and also as a mom and someone who started running later in life, that it’s never too late to go after your dreams.
Q: What’s the weirdest or funniest story that happened to you?
A: When I ran the Tel Aviv marathon seven month’s pregnant (Beatie’s father is a doctor who gave her the go-ahead), I had difficulty getting to the start line. I had ordered a taxi the night before but then the taxi driver couldn’t take me because all the roads were closed. I ended up having to bike to the start line, but I was so flustered that I couldn’t figure out how to get the bike out and someone else had to help me with that, so I started running the marathon about a half hour late.
Q: You are also an inspirational speaker, I understand. What is the message that you are trying to get out to those you speak to?
A: The biggest message I like to share when I speak is that we all have something unique, a gift we were given as way to make a difference in the world. It’s not just about fulfilling our potential, it’s about being part of the bigger picture as the role we play as part of Am Yisrael and reflecting Hashem’s presence in the world. If we aren’t tapping into the gifts we’re given, it’s not just a personal tragedy, is a collective loss for all of the Jewish people. So many times we can go through our whole life without realizing what those gifts are. For me, discovering running—if I hadn’t taken certain risks and pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I would never have discovered the gift that Hashem had given me, which is a tool I can use to make a difference for the Jewish people.
Q: Have you gotten any criticism or flack for being a charedi female runner?
A: I’m very careful about this question because I never want to bring any negativity about Judaism or charedi society. I would say that whenever you are doing something that is not the norm or is a little bit different, you’re going to receive criticism automatically, because there is definitely a certain amount of conformity that is emphasized in charedi society, so yes, I have gotten some flack. However, really it’s only been from the most extreme people. For the most part, everyone that I know and are close to me, for example my friends, have been totally supportive and I’ve gotten a lot more positive feedback than negative. That’s really what I focus on.
Q: How do you balance being a frum mother and a professional mother?
A: I think this question about balance is relevant for any woman who’s working in any profession. There’s always a constant juggling aspect between being a mom and pursuing something you are passionate about or supporting your family through your work. I think the biggest thing is to prioritize and to figure out “what’s the most important thing to me?” Get rid of any other distractions in your life. I say the faster I run, the more I want to slow down in life and simplify things. I’m laser focused on what my goals are. I have big running goals, but obviously I have goals as a mom and for my kids. So those are my big priorities and that’s what I really focus on.
Writer’s Note: Between the end of this interview and it going to print, Beatie was notified that the marathon event she is currently trying to qualify for in the upcoming Olympics was moved to Shabbat. She will not run on Shabbat, and will forfeit the right to represent Israel in the Olympics if the situation stays the same. She is currently trying to appeal the decision to move that race to Shabbat in order to let her compete. We at The Jewish Link wish her the best of luck! You can follow Beatie’s journey on her Facebook page.
Doni Cohen, 24, made aliyah from Bergenfield to Efrat in July 2013. He did hesder in Yeshivat HaKotel, serving in Tzahal as a commander in the Military Rabbinate, and did a year of shlichut through “Torah MiTzion” in Melbourne, Australia. He’s currently studying political science, Jewish history and contemporary Jewry at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. He has written for and his aliyah story has been featured in various tri-state area papers. He can be contacted at [email protected].