Meet the 2014 AJWS New York City Marathon Team

On November 2nd, AJWS’s mighty marathon team will embark on a journey that will test their physical and mental strength: 26.2 miles! Inspired by the Jewish commitment to justice, these 15 runners have already spent months tirelessly training to run the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. In addition to training for the race, the team is dedicating its efforts to raising money—more than $45,000—to support AJWS’s work in the developing world. You can support the team here. We hope you’ll cheer on Team AJWS as they race through all five boroughs to build a more just and equitable world. Learn why these runners are seizing this challenge: 


Rabbi Douglas Alpert
Kansas City, Missouri
I am presently the rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, a small, urban, non-affiliated synagogue in Kansas City, where I am a proud, life-long resident. I was ordained at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY. I have been an avid runner for over 35 years, but did not run my first marathon until 2000 in London. I ran London and other marathons as a member of Team-In-Training through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My other marathons include Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and three marathons in the Kansas City area. I am thrilled and gratified to be part of the American Jewish World Service team for the New York City Marathon. I have admired the vital work of AJWS for many years. It is an amazing opportunity to combine my passion for running with the opportunity to support the work of AJWS in its tireless pursuit of global justice.

TBockTalya Bock
Washington, D.C.
I live in Washington, D.C., where I work as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. Running a marathon has been on my “bucket list,” and doing so on behalf of AJWS will provide even more motivation as I train and run in New York this November. I’m excited to tell my community about AJWS’s work to apply the Jewish commitment to justice toward realizing human rights and ending poverty in the developing world.

KConroyKevin Conroy
Cincinnati, Ohio
My running career began in high school, when I ran track and cross country for four years. Following high school, I took a ten-year hiatus from running until I caught the marathon bug and signed up for the Cincinnati Marathon (The Flying Pig). I loved the experience and decided to try it again, this time running the Chicago Marathon; I lived in Chicago for most of my childhood. Now the bug has got me again, so I figured if I’m going to run another marathon, what better race than the New York City Marathon! My sister-in-law works for AJWS and has always talked about the amazing things that the organization accomplishes. The more I talked with her about it and the more I researched the organization online, the more I knew that this was an incredible charity to be a part of, if only in a small way.

LElkinLiza Elkin
New York, New York
I am so grateful for the opportunity to run the NYC marathon for AJWS! I am passionate about the way in which AJWS approaches service in the developing world, from a Jewish perspective. It’s an honor to represent such a special organization. Running has been a part of my life for a while now, and after a handful of distance races, including one marathon, I knew I wanted to run another marathon and that I wanted it to be an awesome one! I’m so excited to run my second 26.2 miles in NYC and to fundraise for such an important cause. 

MKatzMarc Katz
Brooklyn, New York
I am the assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I have served for two years. Growing up in Barrington, Rhode Island, running has always been a part of my life. While I ran in high school, I took a brief hiatus during college at Tufts University to swim competitively. Now I have rediscovered running and am excited to participate in my first marathon (just a month after my 30th birthday). I am also overjoyed to run with the AJWS team, as I have been engaged with the organization both personally and professionally for many years, especially through what used to be called the Pursue program.

EKaufmanEleanor Kaufman
Cambridge, Massachusetts
My passion for running is rooted in my desire to run forward toward something great. I joined the cross country team in middle school and quickly became addicted to the high of running. I loved competing against myself, setting my own pace, and I lived for that last sprint towards the finish line. I can still remember the smell of those races: nothing but sneakers, bananas, outhouses and the crisp fall air. As I got older and moved to Boston, running remained a big part of my life—it became a lot more than just finishing a race. Running was my alone time, a time to explore a new part of town, train for bigger races and practice endurance of the mind and body. I ran in a slew of themed 5K races, then graduated to half marathons. I will never forget the feeling of finishing my first half marathon in Portland, ME in the pouring rain—the incredible rush of running alongside so many other runners, the feeling like I had found a community that I belonged to. I am proud to bring my drive and passion for running to the AJWS marathon team. This year, when I run the NYC Marathon, I’ll be inspired by the notion that changing the world is really quite similar to running a marathon: you start somewhere, you find a pace, you jog, you sprint, you give and take encouragement, you hurt, you lose sight of the finish. Then you gain it back, you eat some bananas and you keep moving forward…one step at a time.

JKomisarJoe Komisar
Washington, D.C.
I am originally from Milwaukee (Go Badgers!), but moved to Washington, D.C. from London three years ago. I try to spend as much time as possible outdoors—running, biking, hiking and skiing—but I find nothing more exciting than getting on a plane and heading abroad. I have traveled to over 80 countries across five continents. I ran my first marathon in June 2013 in Minneapolis. I had been running here and there a few years before, nothing longer than five miles, but always wanted to complete a marathon. I got on a training program a friend had recommended and a set schedule that really kept me motivated. I found the entire race to be an amazing experience…the crowd, the runners pushing each other, the agony and, of course, the finishing! After finishing my first marathon, I decided that I wanted to do another one, but only if I had a specific cause to run for.  AJWS really intrigued me as a great organization doing very impactful work all around the globe and with a strong mission that I wanted help raise money for and be a part of during the race and afterwards. I’m looking forward to the experience and being part of the team.

JLapidusJodi Lapidus
Portland, Oregon
I live and work in Portland, Oregon. I enjoy traveling and all kinds of sports, including running, kite-surfing, hiking, skiing and stand-up paddling. Having grown up in New York, watching and running the New York City marathons are special memories. I last ran the New York City Marathon way back in 1989, and I look forward to taking part again in 2014 with American Jewish World Service.

DMessingerDaniel Messinger
Miami, Florida
I have been involved in learning about AJWS’s work to empower local activists in their struggle for global justice for more than a decade. Now I am excited by AJWS’s engagement in the struggle for women’s rights and the rights of LGBT people in those communities. Both these themes came to the fore for me when I heard about my daughter’s description of her experiences on an AJWS trip to Guatemala, where she spoke with women who had organized a midwife’s association—which, in turn, is advocating broadly for mother and baby health in Mayan communities. I’ve been running for even longer than my family has been involved with AJWS—but now I get to bind the two together and run with more purpose. I’m very excited to join the AJWS NYC Marathon team and put my miles to work supporting global human rights!

MMunroTechnical Sergeant Monique Munro-Harris 
Bethesda, Maryland
Running the New York Marathon has been a dream of mine since I was little. As an army brat, I grew up on Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Every year, I could see marathon runners on the Verrazano Bridge from my bedroom window, dreaming of the day I would get to do the same. After high school, I joined the Air Force, and I have traveled all over the world, including South Korea, England, Germany, France, Iraq and many other places. Being a part of the New York City Marathon will allow me to represent not only AJWS, but also our country, as a veteran and as a mother. I look forward to making history with Team AJWS!

LShafirLilach Shafir
Brooklyn, NY
I’ve had the opportunity to see our organization’s incredible work around the world, traveling with AJWS in Latin America, Africa and Asia. However, I’ve yet to experience all five NYC boroughs, on foot that is! I can’t wait to take on this challenge and I look forward to seeing familiar faces along the route. I’ll be sporting the bright Team AJWS shirt and thinking of our collective pursuits towards global justice during this journey. I’ll also be running in memory of my father Shlomi who first instilled this value in me.

AShugarmanAndy Shugerman
Brooklyn, New York
I am excited to be running my first marathon alongside my older brother, Jed Shugerman, on the AJWS team. Our family has been involved with this amazing organization since I took part in the 2002 International Jewish College Corps in Honduras and Ukraine, as well as the first Rabbinical Students’ Delegation in El Salvador. After four years of teaching and fundraising for the Jewish Theological Seminary as its rabbinic fellow in the Florida Region Office, I moved to Brooklyn last summer to become the first director of major gifts for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and its lead fundraiser for the United Synagogue Youth programs. Aside from some cross-country team running in middle and high school, I had been an off-and-on runner until I began my training for the 2013 Miami Half-Marathon. With my regular travel for a work over the past two years, I have jogged in 12 states, the District of Columbia and Israel—and by this November, I expect to grow that list some more!

JShugarmanJed Shugerman
Newton, Massachusetts
I am a professor at Fordham Law School and the author of a book on the history of judicial politics, The People’s Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America. I met my wife while I was on a fellowship in Israel working on human rights issues, and we now have three kids (12, 10 and 8 years old).  I am running on the team with my brother, Andrew, and both of us have been inspired by our mother’s work with AJWS.  I have run in two half-marathons, but this is my first marathon, and I am excited to be running for such an important organization.

BSilverBrian Silver
Sharon, Massachusetts
I live in Sharon, Massachusetts with my wife and two daughters, and I work as a stroke neurologist at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University. I have run about 70 marathons, five ultramarathons and four Ironman triathlons.  I have been a strong supporter of AJWS since 2008 because of the grassroots work the organization does and its ability to empower those who need help. It is what tikkun olam is all about.

MZellMichael Zell
Miami, Florida
I am a classical musician currently residing in Miami, Florida. I’m very excited to be preparing for the 2014 NYC Marathon! My first two marathons both took place, strangely enough, on the island of Oahu in Hawaii: the 2012 North Shore Marathon and the 2013 Honolulu Marathon. I say “strangely” because I was only in Hawaii twice for just a few months at a time, playing with the Honolulu Opera Theater, and really had no intention of doing something like a marathon while I was there. I was never very serious as a runner (or at least I will never admit to being so), but I’ve always enjoyed the physical and mental challenges of running long distances. The 2014 NYC Marathon will be particularly meaningful to me because I will be running for such an important cause. It’s an honor to be able to contribute, even if in a small way, toward all the great work done by American Jewish World Service.