Teaneck Teen to Compete in NYC Triathlon for Charity
Jeffrey Berger seeks pledges for OneFamily Fund, a nonprofit that supports terror victims in Israel
At a time when recent high school graduates may be sweating over finding a summer job, 17-year-old Jeffrey Berger is perspiring for a whole different reason.
The Teaneck teen is swimming, biking and running constantly in preparation for the Aug. 7 Nautica New York City Triathlon.
Berger, who recently graduated from Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC), said he and his friend Binyamin Muller, who’s also 17, are the youngest competitors in the race – a detail verified by triathlon event organizer John Korff.
The “Olympic-distance race” consists of a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilomter run, and each year the event draws more than 3,000 athletes, according to the event’s website.
Berger has set a personal goal of raising $3,000 for OneFamily Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports victims of terror in Israel both emotionally and financially. He’s participating in the triathlon as part of Team OneFamily, which is the multi-sports training and fundraising program that oversees participation in athletic events while at the same time raises funds for OneFamily Fund.
“OneFamily Fund collects not only money but also human resources, bringing together people who have suffered through terror attacks, along with caring for people who thankfully haven't,” said Berger. “They connect people in Israel with people in almost every country around the world. They volunteer time and money in order to help families of terror victims in every way. OneFamily works directly with the families every day of the year.”
BUILDING UP HIS STAMINA
Berger said since September he’s been working out with a friend from his synagogue named David Roher. The pair would bike and run together.
“He thought I might have the potential to do a triathlon,” said Berger, who added that Roher has competed in a triathlon before. “So, he talked about it with me, and we kind of came to the agreement that I’d start biking with him and running with him occasionally and see how it goes. And, in October, I decided I was going to start preparing for the triathlon.”
Berger said he stepped up his bike rides and runs to build up his stamina and that Roher gave him athletic and nutritional tips along the way.
As of May, Berger and Muller – as part of Team OneFamily – now train at a facility called Asphalt Green Tri Club with a professional coach that leads group clinics for swimming, biking and running.
The team swims on Sundays and Mondays, bikes on Sundays, and runs on Thursdays.
“I wake up at 4:45 on Sunday morning and bike from Teaneck across the bridge to the Upper East Side where Asphalt Green is located, so I can be at swim practice by 7,” Berger said. “I swim from 7 to 8 a.m., and then I bike from 8 to 10:30 a.m. On Monday nights, I go swimming; Thursday nights I go running. I occasionally run, bike or swim more depending on how much free time I have.”
Berger said he’s always been active and played all kinds of sports, but he’s never done anything as competitively grueling as a triathlon. He said thanks to his training, he can swim a mile much better now, and he said he’s almost where he needs to be at for the running portion of the race.
COMMITTED TO HELPING OTHERS
During his time at TABC, Berger said he volunteered at OneFamily Fund through a work-study program.
“I heard of them before, but they came to our school to raise money, and I thought they were an amazing organization,” he said. “I was in 100 percent support of their cause and what they do.”
On Aug. 29, Berger will leave for a year of Judaic studies at Torat Shraga in Jerusalem, where OneFamily Fund has one of their offices.
“I’m hoping to speak to them about any volunteer work I can do over the course of the year because I really have no intention of removing my connection with them,” Berger said. “Any opportunity I have – I like to help others if I can.”
Berger said through his participation with the triathlon, he’s been able to tell inquisitive friends and family more about OneFamily Fund and the work they do.
Michelle Napell, events and special projects coordinator for OneFamily Fund, said Berger has gone above and beyond the duties of raising money and spreading awareness for the organization.
“He’s one of our youngest members, and from the start, he’s been selling hundreds of bracelets to kids at school and going to area businesses to ask them to sponsor him,” she said. “There are a lot of athletes on Team OneFamily who are dedicating their race to victims of terror. It gives the race that much more meaning, and it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
To pledge your support specifically for Jeffrey Berger, visit his donation page here.