by Cantor David Rosen

Long weeks: We’ve have all been there. As a cantor, mine are often filled with 10-hour days of endless meetings, 12 hours of b’nai mitzvah tutoring, and four funerals – not to mention the fact that Tot Shabbat and Grade 4 Shabbat fall on the same date… and let’s not forget that I am also reading Torah on Saturday morning…. Oy! When do I get a break? When can I do something for myself?

And then an opportunity presents itself. It’s a lovely Friday night oneg sponsored by the Sisterhood, and among the usual staples like the home-baked challah, the sprinkle cookies, and the kugel, there is an array of delicious dessert delicacies that no one can resist – and so indulgence ensues. I crawl into bed shortly after 11pm and wake up the next morning to do it all over again.

One Day the Cantor Went Running

Cantors Randall Schloss, Mo Glazman and David Rosen run in the NYC Marathon in 2011.

Statistics continue to show that members of the clergy persons among the professions with the highest rates of obesity, stress levels, and heart disease. For members of the clergy, our lives sometimes seem to move at a faster pace than that of an ER doctor. With such hectic schedules, coupled with worrying about the lives of everyone else around me, it is not easy to find the time to take care of ourselves both physically and emotionally. And of course, such feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed are not unique to clergy; nearly all of us can relate.

I grew up with obesity in my family and was a “fat kid” throughout my adolescence, so I am well acquainted with the issues associated with being overweight and unhealthy. Aside from being looked down upon and being teased by classmates, I watched many family members suffer from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression. While trying to live a healthy lifestyle was something I struggled with for many years, it was not until my mother became quite ill with kidney disease that everything began to click. It was at that point that my mother and I made a brit, an agreement: I would give her one of my healthy kidneys in exchange for her promise to live a healthy lifestyle – and I vowed to join my mom on her healthy journey. I am happy to report that my mother’s transplanted kidney loves its home and we just celebrated our five-year kidney anniversary… and as for me, well, I started running.

Running had never been my strength. In fact, prior to taking running more seriously, I was lucky if I could run for 15 minutes without feeling like I was going to collapse. I made the mistake the majority of novice runners make in that I simply tried to run too quickly.  Slowly, I began to challenge myself and work up to longer runs. A 5k, 10k and eventually a half-marathon became a reality. With the encouragement of friends and family, I completed my first marathon in New York City with my colleague, Cantor Mo Glazman, in November 2010. We ran with The Running Rabbis and, in the process, raised $6,000 for Achilles International, an organization that supports disabled adults and children in their efforts to play sports. What can I say, except that I was hooked? There is nothing like the high one gets from finishing a four-hour marathon with two million spectators encouraging your every step.

Last year, cantors Mo Glazman and Randy Schloss and I ran a marathon (New York City again!) under the banner “Cantors Who Care,” raising more than $10,000 for The Children’s Tumor Foundation. It was so much fun to run with colleagues and to raise money for such a great cause! This month, I’ll be running in the Niagara Falls Marathon and raising funds for the ACC and the Kidney Foundation of Canada in honor of my mom’s and my five-year kidney anniversary.

At the American Conference of Cantors recent convention in Portland, OR, we launched our Campaign for the Healthy Cantorate and “Cantors for a Cure.” Our goals are to:

  • Educate and promote a healthy lifestyle within the ACC so that we can be our best selves for others – family, friends, and community
  • Establish a network of cantors, Jewish professionals, lay leaders, and members of the community who are supporting local charity runs and other endurance events
  • Raise funds for the ACC and charitable organizations, which are in desperate need of funding for research, support, and growth
  • Support cantors as they establish local running groups in their congregations and/or communities

Whether you’re a member of the clergy or not, now is the time to take steps to better yourself and to become a healthier person. If we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we be there for others? Get your laces on!

Cantor David Rosen is the cantor and Director of Youth Education at Beth Radom Congregation in Toronto. A graduate of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR, he serves as an executive board member of the American Conference of Cantors and is president of the Toronto Council of Hazzanim. In his spare time, he loves to run, cook and spend time with his beautiful wife, Rabbi Ilyse Glickman, their delicious son Joel, and their adorable shih-tzu, Molly.

Originally posted on the American Conference of Cantors’ website