More than 300 Yachad Participants Participated in 12th Annual Event
It’s been almost a week since 19-year-old Micah Pickett of Fair Lawn, N.J., ran in the Jerusalem Marathon to fundraise for Yachad Israel, and he’s still on a tremendous high.
The Shana Aleph student at Jerusalem’s Yeshivat Hakotel was among more than 300 North American yeshiva and seminary students, Yachad members, and their families, who raised $200,000 for Yachad Israel last Friday at the 12th annual marathon, which drew about 30,000 participants. Pickett completed the full 10K race with Daron Weizman, a Yachad Israel member who has autism.
“When I decided to participate in the Jerusalem Marathon, I knew I wouldn’t run for any organization other than Yachad,” said Pickett. “I’ve been working with Yachad for over two years, and it has changed my life. The organization has such a large influence on the greater community; it doesn’t just impact members and their families, but everyone who sees inclusion in action.”
With chapters in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Modi’in, and weekly programming in Efrat, Yachad Israel offers its 100-plus participants meaningful weekly and seasonal programming. Since most activities are mostly conducted in English, Hebrew-speaking advisors help Israeli Yachad members with translation. Programs are both social and educational, and center on topics such as life skills, parashat hashavua and current events. Members also participate in engaging Shabbatonim and holiday-related events, and even travel to Cyprus annually on a cruise.
“This is the eighth time that we’re going to Cyprus,” said Yoel Sterman, Yachad’s director of development at OU Israel. “We’re bringing 80 Yachad members and the ship has 1,000 passengers. Every year, everyone on the cruise is blown away by seeing inclusion in practice.”
The Jerusalem Marathon is one of Yachad Israel’s biggest fundraisers and the $200,000 will go toward general operations and programming, including the cruise. The organization has been participating in the marathon since 2012, and both Yachad members and fundraisers eagerly anticipate the annual event, which kicks off with fun warm-up exercises and culminates with a Yachad-sponsored barbecue.
Pickett said he fell in love with Yachad’s mission in high school. The summer before his senior year, he worked as a counselor in training at camp Morasha in Pennsylvania as part of the Yachad High School Fellowship Program. During the year he continued to be heavily involved with Yachad New Jersey and New York, and participated in a summer internship at Yachad in Teaneck and Passaic, before returning to Morasha as a Yachad advisor. He now directs “Slice of Torah”, a unique program in which Yachad Israel members learn with Yeshivat Hakotel students. Pickett runs Shabbatonim for Yachad Israel as well.
Pickett said the most significant part of the marathon was the inclusion he helped facilitate. “Fellow participants noticed us and they remarked how amazing it was that we were running together,” he said. “Seeing inclusion in action encouraged them to consider, ‘How can I look out for and include a person in my community that has a special need and is a little different than me?’”
International Director of Yachad Avromie Adler flew in from New York to cheer on Yachad Israel marathon participants and said he was especially moved by their dedication to the organization.
“There are many options of who to run with,” Adler said. “To have 300 runners at this year’s marathon representing Yachad and our mission of inclusion is a tremendous chizuk to all of us and a testament to our youth and their values.”