May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Olami Unites Jewish Communities in Collective Walk to Israel

Limitations on travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted Jewish communities around the world. Many summer trips to Israel have been canceled. Those who would have been on those trips had to find other paths to deepen their connections to Judaism and Israel.

In addition, social distancing orders and gym closings eliminated opportunities for physical fitness training for many, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from it.

These limitations, and the resulting needs of Jewish communities for both spiritual and physical exercise, are addressed by Olami’s global Walk to Israel initiative. Olami developed Walk to Israel as a fundraising challenge to unite the international Jewish community and raise critical funds for Jewish organizations across the globe. Participants take on the challenge of walking 100 miles within a chosen time period, and symbolically walking to Israel. Some teams have even taken on the challenge of covering the real distance from their home town or city to Israel. This global challenge is inspiring walkers to stay both mentally and physically fit by working toward personal fitness goals and providing them with a fun and unique way to show pride in their Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

Walk to Israel is one of several global Olami initiatives to connect young Jews across the world with the richness of their heritage. Olami’s network includes 320 Jewish organizations in 32 countries, each working to reach more than 100,000 Jewish young adults. Olami inspires them to explore their Jewish identities, culture and history through its diverse programming, including networking events, summits, summer programs and internships in Israel.

Michal Nordmann, Olami’s director of marketing and strategic planning, emphasized how the Walk to Israel initiative is unifying the Jewish community in a time of physical and emotional challenges, where schools, synagogues and sports centers are closed and Israel feels like “a distant dream.”

To join the challenge, participants can create a team page or sign up with an existing team on Olami’s Walk to Israel website and set their fundraising goals. Sponsors can track the participant’s progress toward completing their 100-mile target.

Olami’s online Walk to Israel platform allows sponsors to donate throughout the walker’s journey and enables each team to customize the timeframe for completing its fundraising goals.

Nordmann explained how Walk to Israel encourages a “team-oriented effort” by motivating participants to collectively amass the best distance and improve their team’s ranking. While the initial few days may seem easily accomplishable, she explained, each day brings new challenges. Having a system where others can track and support one’s progress “cements each team’s commitment” and inspires them to overcome obstacles.

The Walk to Israel initiative was kickstarted with an online “WorldWide Warm-Up” on August 2. This online event brought together teams from communities around the world and motivated individuals and member organizations, including schools, synagogues and youth groups, from 24 countries to take on the challenge. Held via Zoom and livestreamed on social media, the event featured a variety of high-profile guests, including Lior Suchard, the renowned Israeli entertainer and “mentalist”; Brian Bradley, the celebrity fitness trainer; and host Beatie Deutsch, the Israeli “marathon mom” training to represent Israel at the next Olympic games.

Deutsch is an inspirational role model for the hundreds of Walk to Israel runners and walkers taking on the challenge. A proud religious Jew and a world-class athlete, Deutsch has shared a number of motivational videos for participants. She explained how she consistently stays motivated with new obstacles in life. “Every step of what you do is part of the process, even if you don’t see the progress all the time,” she said.

Deutsch then emphasized how exercise serves as a tool for determination. “When you learn to push yourself physically and endure the challenges, it gives you the strength to handle everyday mental challenges,” she said. “When people become a person attuned to thinking that they can push through a little bit longer on a run, they say the same thing to themselves during other spiritual, emotional and physical hurdles.”

The MEOR Rutgers Jewish eXperience, under the Olami umbrella, is among the more than 148 worldwide organizations and five New Jersey-based teams participating in the challenge. MEOR Rutgers is a central support system for Jewish life on the Rutgers campus. It provides learning programs, international trips to Israel and Poland and Shabbat experiences.

Rabbi Meir Goldberg, director of MEOR Rutgers, described why the community joined Walk to Israel. “Maintaining a relationship with Israel is a core value of ours,” he said. “We go multiple times a year and we try to create a really strong connection.”

Since the program was unable to host its summer trip to Israel due to the coronavirus pandemic, MEOR Rutgers was excited to learn about Walk to Israel as an alternative opportunity.

“This virtual walk to Israel is a great way to stay connected to Israel and create a healthy body and mind for Torah engagement and learning,” he said.

The MEOR Rutgers team is aiming to cover 1,690 miles and raise $75,000 by September.

Teams worldwide have already raised more than $2 million through the Walk to Israel platform, with local New Jersey teams raising more than $50,000 to support Jewish community life. You can support the MEOR Rutgers team at and all the other worldwide teams at

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