by Sharon Udasin
As flocks of runners flew off the Pulaski Bridge and made their way up to Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City last Sunday, Nachum and Chaya Mushka Wineberg juggled hundreds of bottles of POWERade, handing them off to their mother and father.
Rabbi Zev Wineberg, 30, the spiritual leader of the Jewish Community Center – Chabad of Long Island City, organized a makeshift stop along the New York City Marathon route, where he and his wife Rivka passed batons of the electrolytic sports drink to thirsty runners.
While official stops along the 26.2-mile trail provided rival beverage Gatorade, POWERade bears the kosher certification that Gatorade lacks. Wineberg wanted to provide observant marathoners with the nourishment that they could not otherwise obtain.
“I think it’s a tremendous thing that people push themselves to that limit,” said Wineberg, who began running last year and hopes one day to run the New York City Marathon. “It was really inspiring to see everyone running by yesterday.”
Wineberg first heard about the sports drink problem from friend and marathoner Jascha Preuss, 42, whose wife was bringing POWERade to fellow runner and kashrut observer Dovid Yehoshua Schachner, after mile six.
“I definitely need to have the carbs in order to run the 26.2 miles,” said Schachner, 45, running his fourth marathon.
With donations from community members, the Wineberg family distributed 300 bottles of POWERade between miles 13 and 14, attracting marathoners to their station with a neon green sign that read “kosher energy drink one block ahead on right side of street.”
“As the runners were coming down Vernon they all saw the sign. It was amazing how many people yelled ‘Shalom’ to us,” he said, happy about the appreciative reaction among Jews and non-Jews alike. “We were throwing bottles to them across the street,” he added.
Next year, Wineberg wants to make Chabad of Long Island City an official Marathon station, and he hopes that kosher beverages will be available throughout the entire route.
“Since there is a contingent of kashrut observant Jews, I think it would be great if there was a kosher electrolyte beverage because water just isn’t quite the same,” Preuss agreed, adding that there is always a sizeable minyan at the starting line in Fort Wadsworth.
But Schachner fears that this will not work out because as an official sponsor, Gatorade would need to grant a waiver for POWERade distribution, he said. Though not optimistic, he hopes that the rabbi will be successful.
“We need bar mitzvah stops: 13,” Wineberg said jokingly. “And then we’ll try to make bar mitzvahs along the way and see if people will put on tefillin.”