Miami-Dade County

Miami Marathon runners raise money for South Florida Holocaust survivors

Rachel Schapiro, executive board member of Jewish Community Services of South Florida and runner for the JCS and Blue Card's Miami Marathon team, holds her medal after the race.
Rachel Schapiro, executive board member of Jewish Community Services of South Florida and runner for the JCS and Blue Card's Miami Marathon team, holds her medal after the race. crandle@miamiherald.com

A team of runners in the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon pressed through the rain in last Sunday’s race to raise money for local Holocaust survivors, two days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The 21 runners partnered with The Blue Card and Jewish Community Services of South Florida, two nonprofit organizations that provide financial support for survivors. They raised more than $22,000 for local Holocaust survivors, surpassing their original goal of $15,000.

The captain and founder of the team, Adam Schwartzbaum, said he was inspired to start the team after learning about the financial obstacles survivors face while working on cases for them at his previous law firm.

“In the course of that work, I came to learn that many of them were living just on Social Security,” Schwartzbaum said. “And the only other source of income that many of them had was The Blue Card.”

One-third of Holocaust survivors are living at or below the poverty line, with about 600 living in poverty in Miami-Dade County.

“This money makes a really big difference in their lives,” Schwartzbaum said.

Another runner on the team, Rachel Schapiro, said she wanted to participate because of her personal connection to the Holocaust.

Schapiro, who is also on the executive board of JCS in South Florida, said her mother’s family fled from persecution.

“My grandma and my grandpa from my mom’s side came from Germany,” Schapiro said. “My mom’s father was taken in Kristallnacht.”

Kristallnacht, or Crystal Night, refers to Nov. 9 and 10 of 1938, when thousands of Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps and a large number of Jewish businesses and synagogues were vandalized and burned. Kristallnacht is often referred to as the “Night of Broken Glass.”

Schapiro said her great-grandfather was sent to Dachau concentration camp, but he managed to escape and get fake documentation for himself and his family so they could flee to Switzerland.

Schapiro said she was running to honor not just her family, but all the survivors in the community.

“If we can make their lives a little easier today, I would do anything to do that,” she said.

One hundred percent of the donations collected will go toward helping Holocaust survivors in need in Miami-Dade, according to Izabella Safiyeva, senior program director of The Blue Card.

Safiyeva said many survivors are living in poverty because they had trouble finding jobs that paid well when they first immigrated to the U.S.

“When they came here in the ’50s or ’60s, English was not their first language,” Safiyeva said. “They took any jobs they could find to make ends meet and weren’t able to build safety nets.”

The Blue Card is a national organizatoin that provides a monthly stipend to Holocaust survivors in need, as well as medical and dental assistance, money in case of emergencies and emergency response systems for those living alone to be able to call for help.

They also cover the costs of kosher food on Jewish holidays and send birthday cards with added financial assistance on survivors’ birthdays.

Additionally, they cover copays and transportation costs for survivors receiving cancer treatments, because cancer rates are higher among Holocaust survivors, according to Safiyeva.

Last Sunday’s race was the fifth time runners for The Blue Card and JCS participated in the Miami Marathon.

“As long as there are survivors that need our help, we’ll be running this race,” Schwartzbaum said.

The team is continuing to raise money on their fundraising page, http://bit.ly/bluecardjcs, for the next few weeks.

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