Published on: SunSentinel
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By: Sergio Carmona

The rainy weather conditions on a recent Sunday morning couldn’t deter approximately 387 people from participating in the inaugural Shoah 5K Holocaust Family Run/Walk at Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach.

“I think it was a tremendous success given the gloomy weather forecast leading up to the event as the rain stopped only at 7:05 a.m.,” said Lior Levy-Minkowitz, Shoah 5K chair. “The fact that 387 participants still came out to show their support, their compassion and care for the survivors despite the weather conditions is tremendous.”

Overall, approximately 400 people, including the participants and Holocaust survivors, attended the event. The purpose of the event was to remember the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust and pay tribute to survivors. A majority of the proceeds from the event goes to Jewish Community Services of South Florida to help Holocaust survivors in need by giving them access to health aides, housekeeping, counseling, food, care management and financial assistance. The event also included a mini-race, fitness for children, post awards, honoring of survivors, speakers and silent auction.

Levy-Minkowitz, whose grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, said the Shoah was a big part of her upbringing. She got the idea for this race after learning that approximately 600 of the 2,000 Holocaust survivors in South Florida live below the poverty line and that those statistics are reflected across the country.

“I learned that statistic 11 weeks ago, so literally days after, I decided to create a 5K in order to raise awareness of that statistic, but at the same time also appeal to the younger demographic because that is really the key here – to get children and millennials involved because we do have to engage them to the importance that the Holocaust has on humanity,” she noted.

Levy-Minkowitz said this race would not be able to materialize without her team and committee. Helping her out were her two-chairs, Sabine Sharon and Shena Dominitz, and the Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside, which collaborated with event organizers to put it together.

Marian Mendelsohn, JCS’ director of special projects, expressed the organization’s gratitude.

“The event raised more than $40,000 for Holocaust survivors in need, but the true impact of the day was the faces of the survivors watching children and their parents draped in Israeli flags, crossing the finish line,” Mendelsohn noted. “JCS thanks the Shoah 5K Event chairs Lior Minkowitz, Sabine Sharon and Shena Dominitz, their entire team of volunteers, the Shul of Bal Harbour, partnering agencies and generous corporate sponsors for creating a meaningful way to commemorate Yom HaShoah.”

One of the participating runners was Lior Haiat, the consul general of Israel in Miami, who said, “I think the main message behind this is there are so many ways to carry the memory of the Holocaust and while we are fortunate in a way to hear stories directly from survivors, our grandkids won’t have this opportunity, but they do have the responsibility to carry on the torch of memory, so this is a way to raise awareness to their responsibility.”

Another runner was 12-year-old Akiva Itzkowitz of Miami, who said, “It’s such an important event because so many people are forgetting about the Holocaust and we have to acknowledge the Holocaust to everyone who doesn’t know about it.”

Sarah Herzlich of Margate, who, at the age of 65, ran in honor of her parents who are Holocaust survivors, felt amazed to be able to do this at her age.

“This shows people that age is just a number,” she said.

Herzlich’s daughter Bianca Senker of Surfside, who also ran, said, “This run inspires because of my grandparents’ spirit and I loved listening to the names that were called while I was running and it gave me the strength to keep on going.”

Runner Richard Jenkins of Palm Beach Gardens said, “I believe strongly in preserving life and anything I can do to support Holocaust survivors, they have my blessing.”

Holocaust Survivors Svetlana and Boris Nayman of Sunny Isles Beach attended the event and felt proud and touched by the community support.

“Seeing so many Jewish people together brings me to tears. I love to see this,” Svetlana said.