NJ Orthodox Jewish athlete Beatie Deutsch is the face of new Adidas ad
At first glance, Beatie Deutsch seems an unlikely celebrity athlete.
The Passaic native is an ultra-Orthodox mother of five who speaks openly about her Jewish faith, prays daily, and dresses modestly with a headscarf and knee-length skirt, even in competition.
Other professional athletes might avoid such outfits for fear of slowing their pace. But the self-proclaimed “Marathon Mother” – now the face of an international advertising campaign for Adidas – has won races and broken records since joining the running circuit five years ago.
The 31-year-old is also a powerful voice representing ultra-Orthodox women, a group that has traditionally avoided publicity. Deutsch, who grew up as “Speedy Beatie” in the gyms of Passaic, openly shares his spiritual ideas as well as his triumphs and struggles with thousands of followers on social media.
She ran her second race when she was seven months pregnant with her fifth child, placed first in the Jerusalem Marathon in 2018 and won the Israel National Championship in 2019. She won half marathons in Latvia and Tel Aviv in 2019 and Miami last year.
His journey to athletic stardom has seen many turning points: Deutsch has battled leg injuries and health issues including anemia and celiac disease. She had long dreamed of competing in the Tokyo Olympics and, as a champion on three continents, was ready to compete until disappointment struck – twice.
First, matches were postponed last summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. When the marathon, one of the flagship events of the Olympics, was postponed to a Saturday in August, Deutsch felt “like he had been punched in the stomach,” she said. in an interview.
For Orthodox Jews, Saturday is the Sabbath, a day reserved for prayer, family and spiritual reflection. The execution of work of any kind – including, for Deutsch, training and competition – is prohibited.
Deutsch hired a lawyer and lobbied the International Olympic Committee to move the race, but to no avail.
An unthinkable loss
Then, in an April 24 marathon in Britain, the unthinkable happened: after a winning streak, Deutsch lost a qualifying race that would have made her eligible for the Olympics. It was a big blow to the little 4-foot-11 runner.
Still, her dramatic story caught the attention of Israel Holy-Land Productions, which is recording a documentary about her trip.
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Adidas, meanwhile, included Deutsch among a multi-ethnic group of athletes for a global advertising campaign this year called “Impossible is Nothing.”
“Where some see an Orthodox runner, I see my belief push me forward,” she proclaims on advertisements and billboards seen around the world.
The campaign also includes Russian figure skater Alexandra Trusova, Indian track and field gold medalist Hima Das, South African rugby captain Siya Kolisi and NBA star Damian Lillard.
Deutsch’s more reserved look is not the usual training gear of competitive racers, who tend to favor lighter gear optimized for speed. But Adidas “saw it as a value that I dress modestly and be religious,” said Deutsch, who once had Nike endorsement. “Dressing modestly reminds me that my strength is not mine,” she said.
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Even with his Olympic dream postponed, Deutsch is an inspiration to fans. She frequently reminds her 25,000 Instagram and Facebook followers that everyone has “goodies” they are supposed to use to make the world a better place. His, she said, runs.
“If there is anything that I have learned while running, it is to stay strong and positive, to stifle the voices of self-defeat and to keep the faith,” she posted in line. “I want to make the most of this precious life that has been given to me.”
After losing Olympic qualification in Wales, Deutsch spoke to The Record and NorthJersey.com from the airport, looking exhausted but determined to keep moving forward. She lost despite setting a new personal best of 2:31:39.
At the finish line, she said, she felt at peace. “Everything that is happening is for the best and is part of Hashem’s plan for me,” she said, using a Hebrew term for God.
She is more determined than ever to pursue her dream of reaching the Olympics, she said. In three years, the 2024 Games will be held in Paris.
Religious athletes “face a choice”
Deutsch’s scheduling conflict with the Olympics puts her in a long list of religious athletes forced to choose between spiritual observance and competitive activities.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and Hall of Fame member Sandy Koufax became an iconic figure among Jews when he signed up for Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Day. Yom Kippur, the holiest day of religion. Koufax performed so well in the rest of the Series, he was named MVP.
Last year Estee Ackerman, a 19-year-old Long Island player among the nation’s top table tennis players, missed the US Olympic Trials because her tournament matches were also scheduled on the Sabbath.
At least one Orthodox athlete is on track to compete in Tokyo this year: Pitcher DJ Sharabi, of Millbrae, Calif., Is on the Israeli baseball team. He keeps kosher and prays daily with tefillin, prayer accessories worn by observant Jews.
Deutsch’s story also recalls the struggles of Eric Liddell, the British Olympian immortalized in the 1981 film “Chariots of Fire”. A Christian missionary, he abandoned the 100-meter race at the 1924 Olympics because a qualifying was scheduled for a Sunday, eliciting both praise and anger.
Yet the IOC has recently shown signs of more flexibility.
When the 2012 London Games fell on Ramadan, arrangements were made for Muslim athletes, including pre-dawn and post-sunset meals at venues and halal food. Muslim fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, originally from Maplewood, was allowed to wear a hijab as she competed in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for the United States
Most observer athletes are often faced with a choice when they reach the highest levels of competition, said Jeffrey Gurock, professor of history at Yeshiva University and author of “Judaism’s Encounter with American Sports”.
“The clock and calendar of Judaism frequently clashes with sports schedules,” he said. While there have been examples of Orthodox and Mormon teams receiving accommodations, “the problem is much more difficult for those who play individual sports.”
Growing up Orthodox in Passaic, Deutsch was always athletic, earning a black belt in taekwondo and studying gymnastics. In her girls’ school, she hit the basketball court, earning her the nickname “Speedy Beatie”.
After high school, she attended a women’s seminary in Israel before settling there permanently at the age of 19. She married her husband, Michael, avid cyclist and professor of Judaic studies.
After four pregnancies in six years, Deutsch said she was no longer in good shape. Instead, she focused on educating her family and working full-time for non-profit organizations.
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About five years ago, after finishing last in a family race, she decided it was time for a change.
Deutsch started running for exercise and quickly fell in love with the sport. She had a natural talent for it and quickly started working with a professional trainer. For Deutsch, the days begin with a wake-up call at 5 a.m. followed by a 12-mile (20-kilometer) run, strength training and swimming, before heading home to take care of her. family.
On the starting line, elite runners towered over it. But as the races progressed, Deutsch was ahead of the pack. In 2019, she won the Israel Marathon Championship in 2:42:18, 3 minutes faster than the current Olympic qualifying time.
“Her story illustrates that it is never too late to pursue her dreams, and that athletes can do so while balancing motherhood and staying true to their values,” wrote her lawyer, Akiva Shapiro of Gibson, Dunn. & Crutcher in New York, in his appeal to the IOC.
Next year’s world championships offer another opportunity – and are not scheduled for the Sabbath. “We will continue to raise awareness and fight for the rights of religious athletes at the Olympics and in all sporting forums around the world, who need to do a much better job in considering and responding to religious needs,” Shapiro said.
Deutsch, meanwhile, resumed training, waking up every day at 5 a.m. with Paris 2024 in his sights.
“I believe that I can achieve my goal with the help of Hashem,” she wrote on Facebook. “But at the end of the day, I want to know that I have achieved something above the Olympic standard. I want to know that I have made a difference.”
Deena Yellin covers religion for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to his work covering how the spiritual intersects with our daily lives, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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