First off, a big and heartfelt mazal tov to my friend and running partner for the past two to three years, Yehudah Perlowitz of Teaneck, upon reaching a real milestone in his running career. This past Sunday, in Anchorage, Alaska, Yehudah, with his wife, Rivky, and his parents, Sherry and Bernie Perlowitz (also Teaneckers), in attendance, completed his 51st half marathon in his 30th U.S. state. This is something that Yehudah has been aiming for since he began running half marathons seriously in late 2018. I am really happy for him. Although he had originally hoped to hit this milestone in 2020, COVID set him back temporarily. But he persevered.
(Just FYI, this piece about Yehudah running in his 30th state—and also finishing first out of all runners from Teaneck, New Jersey—is exclusive to The Jewish Link as Yehudah promised me that our paper would be the only one allowed to cover him. When reporters in other states like Kentucky would approach him after a race and ask for a quote, he gleefully told them that he had an exclusive with The Jewish Link and could not give them a quote. Of course, I certainly appreciated this beautiful and loyal gesture while I am sure these other reporters shook their heads. I doubt any had ever heard of our paper.)
This column is now nearly 3+ years in the making as I have also been alternately cajoling, threatening and promising to write about Yehudah’s running career and achievements for a while and I am happy that I can finally write about him in our paper. He deserves it and it’s certainly about time.
Yehudah and I go back nearly three decades when he and I were counselors at Camp HASC. His older brother, Avi (now Rabbi Avi Perlowitz of Reishit, who lives in Beit Shemesh) and I were co-counselors by day and chavrusas at night. Yehudah and I became friendly then and even back then he was a big guy, even relative to me—another big guy, so to speak. He was one of the few guys at HASC who was bigger than me and probably stronger than me as well, although I didn’t like to admit that too often. He is funny, yet humble; self-effacing; incredibly devoted to his parents, in-laws and extended family; and a true mensch who is always fun to be around.
After our HASC summers we didn’t see each other all that often but we were always friendly whenever we did see each other. My wife always likes to make fun of the fact that I consider myself good friends with people I haven’t spoken to in years…I guess it’s a male thing.
Yehudah moved to Teaneck about 15 years ago as his parents had moved here. His sister and brother-in-law, Chaya and Yoel Fuld, have been living here for decades. When he first moved to Teaneck, Yehudah was even bigger than me, but that would change.
In the summer of 2017, Yehudah started walking regularly and the walking soon turned to running. He ran his first 10K in the fall of 2017 and the weight also came off in spades. Always looking to push and go further, Yehudah ran his first half marathon a few months later in January 2018 and he was hooked on running, although he still claims to only be an amatuer runner.
After not seeing Yehudah for a good few months, I had heard from mutual friends that he had slimmed down and taken up running. When I saw him at the home of Joey and Ruth Bodner for the planning meeting of the inaugural Yad Leah Dash For Dignity 5K in July of 2018, I was blown away by how great he looked. I couldn’t believe it when he told me how he did it.
Inspired by what Yehudah had done and also recognizing that I had to become more active as occasional dieting and starvation periods would never be adequate—unfortunately, I am still up about 30 pounds since I started the paper—I asked Yehudah if he needed a running partner and if he would be willing to run some mornings with me. He said yes and it’s been nearly three years since we got started. We run in the early mornings most weekdays year-round, and while I usually only run between 3 and 5 miles, Yehudah usually runs at least 3 to 6 miles more than me. He says he likes that I, the far weaker runner, slow him down significantly as he tends to run “too fast,” or so he tells me. I am still not sure if he is serious when he says that. I may never really know.
When we started running, he shared with me his goal to run half marathons in all 50 states. On many Sundays we wouldn’t run together because he was off traveling to another state for a Sunday half marathon. When he got engaged two years ago to his wife, Rivky, I assumed that the engagement and marriage might deter him from his goal of training for and running in the NYC Marathon but I was wrong on that. Despite not running and training as often as he wanted, he completed the 2019 marathon and got married only a few weeks later. Although COVID restrictions have slowed his traveling ambitions somewhat, as many races were canceled, he is now traveling again, with Rivky by his side, to different states, sometimes for a full weekend, sometimes for a day trip, to run in the states he still has to reach.
When we run together, we talk about life, old friends, camp connections, our families, and a bit of business also. I have learned the hard way not to give him too much marital advice, despite me being married 20+ years more than him, and he has taught me a lot about running in return. One of his best sayings that I will share here is the useful yet odd phrase “Let gravity pull you up!” that he invokes whenever we are going up a difficult hill I am having trouble with. I am still not sure what that means or how it makes any sense whatsoever (it doesn’t), but it certainly seems to help Yehudah chug up the hill, less so for me, unfortunately.
Yehudah: Mazal Tov on making it to Alaska and reaching your 30th state! Keep on running and being the special husband, uncle and great-uncle you are. Looking forward to your return.
By Moshe Kinderlehrer,
Co-Publisher/The Jewish Link